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"Teaching business etiquette as the subtle, redefining confidence which enables people to excel and succeed in today's corporate culture."~ Cindy Grosso, Founder

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A Life Well Lived - Having Style 

Patients are customers too

By Cynthia Grosso

The concept of customer care is part of the future in the medical profession. The phrase "customer care" was chosen to focus on the fact that patients are paying customers that have a choice. In this day and age, there is more competition than ever. Many physicians are using advertising such as radio, television and print ads to broadened public awareness.As a result, the medical profession "Ain't what it used to be." This increase in competition, along with more of the pie being shared by insurance companies, coupled with the need for more staff to do the added paperwork, all contribute to a decrease in the bottom line. In an effort to help maintain and grow a practice many healthcare providers are looking harder at the professionalism of the staff and the total patient experience.

With all this being said, medical office protocol has become a hot topic. Physicians may ask, why should be concerned about proper customer etiquette. According to Research conducted by Harvard University, The Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute states success in business today is attributed; 15% technical knowledge and 85% people skills.This goes along with the saying, "No matter what the profession, we are all in the people business."

Many doctors have already realized that simply treating people is no longer enough to ensure success and the staff they hire is a reflection of their professionalism. The training of the front desk staff has played an underestimated role in the success of their practice.The correct medical office behavior is founded in the heart of manners and etiquette.It includes the proper handling of the telephone, which is the first contact a patient has with an office and can set the tone of the professionalism of the practice.This encompasses the correct way to answer and place a telephone call, the very important first ten words, forms of address, how to put someone on hold and even the tone of voice used.

A pleasant front desk experience does not make the patient feel that he is an interruption, but instead a welcomed guest.While the receptionist should not have to entertain a patient, the staff should give enough attention to the patient so that he feels important.The need to be important, according to Dr. John Dewey, a famous American philosopher, is the deepest urge we have as human beings. There is an art and etiquette to this small talk.Not only is it the polite thing to do, but it runs deeper. A courteous and caring staff that puts the patient's needs first can only enhance the success of any practice.

The most common complaint from patients is about the wait. While waiting may be inevitable, the experience does not have to be unpleasant. The receptionist and reception areas, not only help form the first impressions made by the patients, but also are an opportunity to make the wait less painful. A clean and neat reception area with chairs in good condition, walls with fresh looking paint or wallpaper, a variety of current magazines, along with soft background music, shows respect for patients.Even the position of the receptionist desk is important.

In addition, new ideas for the pre-doctor experience such as serving refreshments, offering headsets with short stories, calming music or information about procedures, etc. are already being successfully used in some practices.

Another issue dealing with manners and respect is "Respecting privacy". In this age,with the federal government drafting legislation that deals with privacy acts, many physicians are already implementing privacy policies in the office. These policies need to be followed by every person in the office. Respecting privacy has always been part of etiquette.This also extends to the staff discussing personal problems on the telephone or with another staff member for all to hear. This is a common breach of etiquette that believe it or not, some staff are unaware is inappropriate.

Doctors are realizing that too often their staff overlooks the most basic principals of etiquette.As a result, many offices are now investing in special training geared to teach proper medical office protocol.In addition to the issues already mentioned, other items include every thing from the correct way to escort a patient, to office posture and even looking the part, which extends beyond the uniform. The bottom line is to train a staff in manners and respect and let that foundation help build the way to a successful practice.

Source: Article Published in Carolina Healthcare Business Magazine

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