What Your Clinic Looks Like from a Patient Perspective

May 23, 2013

How do patients see your clinic? You may be surprised!

Do you know what your clinic looks and feels like from a patient perspective? You should. The only way to know for sure the impression that you are leaving on your most important assets (your patients) is to observe them.  And since it would be very difficult to “ghost” shop your own clinic and get an accurate picture, you should consider having the experience aspect evaluated, especially if you believe or have received feedback that there could be a problem.

I have written in the past about experiences I have had at clinics that I have visited myself or with my children. I had a less than stellar experience last week in our ENT’s office to have my daughters tonsils checked.  I am going to use this example to demonstrate some of the points to look at when evaluating your clinic from the patient’s perspective.  As a practice manager, provider, or owner, do you know what it’s like on the “other side of the door?”

Our appointment was at 2:30 in the afternoon, so we arrived 20 minutes early as requested. Upon entering the clinic’s waiting area, there was a large reception desk, with two reception employees and no sliding glass partition (+1 point for the clinic for no sliding glass partition).

*Tip: Unless your clinic is in a high-crime area, there is no need for a glass partition. They are outdated and unwelcoming. If you are using your glass partition as protection, make sure it is shatter proof glass and consider a drawer or other form of secure transaction device so that you are truly protected.

Neither receptionist even glanced in our direction as I entered the door directly in front them and walked up to their desk (-1 point, no greeting or smile). 

I walked up to reception desk, the receptionist said in a monotone voice (still no smile): “Patient name”  As I delivered the information to receptionist  A, receptionist  B rocked back in her chair and began slurping her soda through the straw (-1, drinking or eating directly in front of a patient). I was no less than tossed a clipboard and told “sign these.” Then the two reception employees began conversing in another language to each other while I stood there waiting on my driver’s license and insurance card to be scanned (-1 point, if something confidential needs to be discussed in any language, wait until the patient walks away).

After autographing the paperwork, I smiled and handed the clipboard back to the receptionist. Looking annoyed she took it back and told me to “have a seat.” (-1 point, un-welcoming way to dismiss the patient).

As I scanned the waiting room, I mentally checked off:

+1 for having a drink station
-1 for only coffee, and it was cold
+1 for space to move and many different seating arrangements
-1 for furniture in disarray
-1 for magazines scattered everywhere, torn pages
+1 for television
-1 for TVs out of service and not removed or replaced
 

And finally, I subtracted several points for trash on the floors, chairs, couches, the children’s play area. There were empty cups, food wrappers, and wadded up papers.

When we finally decided on a place to sit, after searching to pick a spot I didn’t have to clean first, we sat down and immediately noticed the trash on the floor under the table: a lipstick-stained coffee cup, a torn-up magazine, and someone’s folded copy of their HIPAA forms. Rather than move to another area of the waiting room yet again, I picked up the mess, as the receptionists watched, and disposed of it in the trash can.

Before we even subtract for all the trash on the floor, this clinic is at -5 out of 13 points assessed. Actual surveys or “ghost shops” are much more detailed than this; these points are to give you an idea of what to look for.

Once back with the physician herself, she was great. However, post-appointment, her staff dropped the ball by sending us to the wrong place for X-ray and then not following up “within a week” to let us know the results of the X-ray and next steps.

From my perspective as the patient/client/customer or your patient’s perspective, the issue then becomes:

Do I deal with her staff and office to see a great doctor?

Or

Do I find another doctor who is great AND has a wonderful staff and hospitable office?

If a patient’s first visit is the way I described above, or if your first impression was this way to your patients, would they come back and give you a second chance?