One term that our industry likes to throw around is “wow factor.” It’s used to convey the importance of implementing the latest product or service to set yourself apart from the competition and impress your patients. While having the most efficient technology to better treat patients is very important, we have a tendency to overlook the fact these high-tech elements can’t provide the desired “wow factor” effect without one essential component: compassionate care.
Compassion is an integral part of a patient encounter. Recently, the medical community has even acknowledged its importance by distributing the Patients’ Choice annual Compassionate Doctor recognition program, honoring only those physicians who exhibit outstanding patient care and expertise in their field. The basis of this award is particularly important because it conveys the level of comfort a patient feels.
One essential way you can demonstrate compassionate care is not to rush through exams. Some optometrists feel the need to fill their schedules to see as many patients as possible to be more profitable. But patients can sense when they are being treated like another nameless face and for many the deciding factor on whether they refer a practice depends on the level of comfort they feel with the doctor.
As we all know, referrals can prove to be very profitable. In fact, the 2012 Americans’ Attitudes and Perceptions About Vision Care Survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of VISTAKON Division Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., showed that nearly 80% of respondents indicated they sought a referral when selecting their current ECP, with a family member, friend, or co-worker serving as the single greatest referral source (40%).
So in order to be more attentive during your time with patients, take the time to clearly explain visual conditions and the possible treatments in laypeople’s terms. When using diagnostic instrumentation, make sure patients understand why you are performing these procedures and leave time for them to ask any questions. See “Diagnostic Discussion,” page 18, for some helpful hints on how to present tests to patients.
Compassionate care means relating to the patient and not appearing as the intimating “doctor.” You can’t rely on other staff members to provide the level of friendliness and helpfulness patients require—it’s not the name of your assistant that you want patients referring to family and friends. Patients place a high value on an attentive doctor. When it comes down do it, you might find the least expensive and most profitable “wow factor” to implement in your practice is compassionate care.
Marian Zboraj, Editor-in-chief