6 Steps to Educating and Closing the Patient
Having a steady flow of consultations and potential new patients is the goal for every practice, but how do you get those patients to convert to, and comply with, a treatment plan?
Patient education and acceptance of a care plan are essential for increased and maintained practice volume. The word “closing” may seem strange in discussing this process, but healthcare is very much a business. In this sense, “closing” the patient means achieving the desired outcome; the patient commits to care. A strong Business Report of Findings and financial protocol in your practice calls for a soft sales process to ensure growth. Learning the proper approach to this process is vital in practice success.
I’d like to share with you the 6 Steps to Educating and Closing the Patient. These steps are to be implemented throughout your Report of Findings, and reinforced constantly and consistently throughout your practice to ensure a higher percentage conversion rate, greater retention and improved patient outcomes.
- Dress for Success
An inappropriate outward appearance has the power to change a person’s perception of your office and your practice. The image of your staff, your office, and the individual departments must be evaluated with an objective eye. Try to observe everything through the eyes of your patients.
The Entire Office Staff
Because each staff member may have a different idea of what “business/professional” attire entails, a uniform will remove any confusion. It is my philosophy that a uniform creates a congruent, professional appearance that enhances productivity and accountability. Additionally, when care is taken to be clean, well-pressed, and well-groomed, it shows others that you care about them as well. An appropriate uniform includes name tags and matching scrubs for all staff members, providers and administrative positions. Doctors and case managers/patient care coordinators may also consider a white blazer or lab coat to set themselves apart.
In the office, as a whole, strive to keep the décor clean and appropriate. Choose decorations and designs that fit with the services you provide and the demographic that you want to attract. Organization is paramount and clutter needs to be eliminated in every way possible.
- Be Proactive
Being proactive is one of the most important elements of effective communication. In educating and closing patients, a proactive approach will allow you to be prepared for any situation that may occur. You want to avoid the reactive approach that has you running around, putting out fires, and trying to fix problems or explain situations on the fly.
As you will see, when you are proactive, you are an expert in the products and services offered in your practice, and you are skilled in guiding and leading your patients through their treatment plans as you match your patient’s needs and wants with the products and services you offer. It all starts with proactively being prepared and educating yourself.
- Understand the Patient’s Needs and Wants
Patients may always know what they want, but it is up to you and your team to know what they need. Everyone in the office should know the needs and wants of the patient so that everyone can guide and lead the patient to what is best for them. This needs to be done from the clinical perspective, and most importantly, from an emotional perspective.
In order to accomplish this knowledge, you must be able to answer several questions about each patient:
First, what important aspect of life motivates the patient to feel his/her best? Does the patient have children or grandchildren to attend to? Do they love their active job? Are they looking forward to participating in the city’s annual marathon?
Second, what brought the patient into your office? Is the patient in pain? Are they unable to perform a certain duty? Are they experiencing headaches? Did they see an advertisement that sparked their curiosity?
And third, how is this problem or condition affecting his/her life? Are they missing work? Are they missing out on playing with, or even lifting their children or grandchildren? Is their sleep affected?
In asking these questions you will learn the patient’s wants based on who the patient is, why they are in your office, how they are being affected, and their goals – even their goals beyond reaching a functional outcome. Now you can discern the patient’s needs based on the clinical exam, the treatment plan, and the Report of Findings.
You must be able to empathize with the patient in order to best help them receive the proper treatment. You need to understand his/her emotional reasons for getting well. If the patient loves to golf, or run, or wants to get back to their job, use this desire to motivate them to stay on course in their treatment plan.
- Be an Expert on Your Products and Services
As an expert on your products and services you can guide the patient to the right healthcare decisions. Everyone on your team needs to be an expert as well; they must also present as an expert. People perceive what you present. If you or your staff are sending mixed messages, or are unsure in your descriptions of treatments or services, you will create an unsure or uneasy feeling in the patient.
Create a fact sheet, or a glossary of terms, that includes every service and product that you provide with an explanation of what the product or service involves. This ensures that everyone in the office is speaking the same language and describing things in that same way.
Without taking this step, you run the risk of confusion for both your patient and your staff. Imagine telling a patient that they will be receiving a specific treatment protocol, yet when they arrive at the front desk and ask a question, no one can describe the treatment or even reinforce how important it is in the care plan. This lack of staff education leads to lack of patient education, as well as a lack of patient confidence in your practice, and inevitable patient fall out.
- Match the Patient to the Product or Service that Best Meets Their Needs and Wants
Now that you have established the needs and wants of your patient, and you are an expert on all the products and services provided by your office, it’s time to put it all together. What products or services offered in your office match the needs and wants of the patient? Be specific! Remember: Your convenient prescheduling protocol, ensuring that the patient always has a future, reserved appointment, is an invaluable service…Your spinal decompression treatment can help bring the swing back into their golf game…Your new scoliosis brace can be worn under clothing and is ideal for teenagers.
You know their wants, now you can SPECIFICALLY meet their needs through your products and services.
As you are aligning these two elements, you are now demonstrating the value and benefit of what treatment in your practice will provide to the patient, but value and benefit does not stop here!
- Demonstrate Value and Benefit
The value and benefit of the services you and your staff provide extends to every aspect of your practice, and everyone in your office should be able to identify this for each patient.
Value and benefit may seem obvious in clinical situations. For instance, a patient receiving therapy for a knee injury will quickly see the decrease in pain and swelling, and increase in mobility as value and benefits. But, does the patient see the particular value and benefit specific to your practice? Does the patient realize that the prescheduling and treatment plan laid out for them is of intrinsic value and benefit providing them with the convenience of a reserved treatment schedule and a plan for the path to wellness? As an expert on your products and services, you must be able to demonstrate the value and benefit to each and every patient, and do this with specificity to the needs and want of each patient.
As you can see, these steps are not simply a checklist or a plan to follow. When implemented correctly, these steps become a philosophy for your practice leading you to greater success, a higher close rate and greater retention. Why would the patient choose to go anywhere else?