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Want a Better Connection with Patients? Take Down the Glass


When we neglect the emotional aspects to how our patients feel, we are missing out on opportunities to connect, interact, and inspire.

In the September issue of Fast Company, there is an interesting article about a company called NeuroFocus. This company is leading a brand new wave of marketing - they help companies figure out who best to market to and with what message by gathering scientific data on consumers. They gather a group of people and then try to figure out how these people emotionally respond to visual and auditory messages by measuring brain wave responses, functional MRI data and even the caliber of palm sweating. Their aim is to understand the sub-conscious so that they can provide their clients with this "invisible" data. So far they have many big clients such as PayPal, Intel and ESPN.

While reading this article, I realized that this is the perfect type of data that we need in medical offices where we tend to neglect how the patient feels in favor on focusing on how the patient does. This sounds familiar, right? We would much rather focus our attention on helping our patients achieve a Hemoglobin A1c at goal, than pay any attention to how they might feel stepping inside our offices and exam rooms. Our goal is to help our patients achieve better health, so who cares where we conduct this transaction?

But our medical offices are essentially our "stores" and when we neglect the emotional aspects to how our patients feel, we are missing out on opportunities to connect, interact, and inspire. Yes, inspire and even motivate.

For many of us, we have resigned ourselves to the role of administrator - we write medicine prescriptions, letters, excuses, and perform countless other administrative tasks. We rarely get thanked for our work and more often than not, do not truly get reimbursed for all that we do.

But I am convinced that if we started paying attention to the sub-conscious, emotional reactions from our patients, we would conduct our medicine business differently.

You know this is true - your posture, your language, your mood is completely different depending on the atmosphere of where you are. The Ritz Carlton feels very different than Motel 6. Where would you choose to go to conduct a business meeting or presentation?

Design matters. Apple has taught the world this point. So has FedEx. Starbucks feels better than coffee at home. We emotionally connect to these companies because of the experience they provide for us. And because of this experience, we place more value and trust in these companies.

You can do the very same with your practice. You do not have to have the same look and feel as every other medical office in town. Here are some questions that can help you create an office that can connect your patients to you:

• Who answers your phone? Is it a real person or is it a voice prompt? This one decision says a ton about how you want to interact with your patients.

• Do you have a large piece of glass that separates your staff from your patients? Why has this become standard in every medical office?

• Is your office the standard layout with narrow hallways and closed feeling or is it open with high ceilings?

• Do you offer coffee or tea and have a pinball machine in your waiting room or are yours standard fare with the typical waiting room magazines and uncomfortable chairs?

• Do you wear a long white coat with stethoscope tucked neatly away or are you more casual appearing?

• Do you have boring, generic art hanging from your exam room walls or do you have local artist paintings and photos?

My point with asking you these questions is to help show you that ambiance really does matter. It matters because how your patients feel when they are sitting in front of you and changes how they feel when they leave your office. When patients feel listened to and grounded and relaxed, emotionally they will have a much easier time connecting with you.

We strive to get our patients on board with our plans for them, yet we often neglect the fact that in order for healing to truly occur, there has to be an emotional connection between the patient and the doctor. Helping your patients down this path by creating an office that feels great to them, will allow this connection to occur so much faster.

For more from Craig Koniver and our other Practice Notes bloggers, click here.

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