Thursday, May 15, 2014

Great Patient Communication is Your Basis of Success

Here are 20 tips for improving your patient communication, placebo effect, and keeping your appointment book closer to full!

1. Focus on each existing patients, communication with them, and educating them, rather than just working on attracting new patients. The new patients will happen organically at some point,
but effective patient communication and management of that communication is up to you from the day your open your door.

2. See each first patient appointment as if it were a job interview…because it is. To get a feel for real patient response, walk a friend through a first appointment at your clinic and ask them to critique everything. What did they like and what should you consider doing differently? Some things to look at… in this "audit" include phone service, ease of finding you, parking, paperwork, educational materials, smells, sights, lighting, retail displays, office accoutrements, bedside manner, check out process.)

3. If there is time, get new patients to do the required paperwork in advance. If possible, read it thoroughly PRIOR to their visit. If the appointment is same day or next day, schedule them 15-20 minutes prior to when you wish to see them so there is no rushing with your paperwork. Make sure the forms are neat, easy to read and understand. Ask if they have questions or understood everything on you forms.
Also...always at least skim each patient chart prior to a visit. They won’t believe you care if you cannot remember anything about their case each time they come in.

4. Send or give all new patients a Welcome to Our Clinic Folder. Make sure there is an information sheet about “what to expect on your first visit” for them to read. Talk about how much you look forward to helping them regain balance and health in their bodies and lives and how much you look forward to working with them. Tell them what to wear and not wear; when to eat prior to coming in. Ask them to arrive a few minutes early so that they can rest…and because the pulse and other aspects of the diagnosis will be more accurate. What else could go into your welcome folder?
    • Cover letter welcoming them
    • Brochure about your clinic services and what you can treat
    • What to expect, what to wear, what will happen
    • Basic FAQ (similar to phone scripts you wrote)
    • Map to your clinic
    • Picture of yourself treating someone
    • Referral letter from a satisfied patient?

5. If a patient must wait to be seen on the first visit, control what happens during that wait. Give them a specific checklist to do such as what did they eat that day or a 1-10 severity of their symptoms today, yesterday, the day before that. Have  some interesting retail displays that are either educational, fun, exotic, or enticing. Control the waiting time as well. 5-7 minutes can be useful, more than 10 is insulting. If you are running behind, come and tell them so in person.

6. To generate relaxation, show new patients around your clinic…patients will get a feeling for how proud you are of the clinic and your medicine. Demonstrate needling on yourself if you think they seem really nervous. Look them in the eye; nod your head; explain what you are going to do before you do it. Consider headsets with healing music or sounds while the needles are in as an option for nervous patients. Don’t keep your clinic freezing cold.

7. The practitioners with the happiest patients are the great listeners. People feel cared for and understood when you listen…even for just a few minutes. Try to ask one question that you already know the answer to but which may surprise them…it increases placebo effect. You must stay in charge of the clock, but listen as much as you can, especially this 1st time. Good listeners get more patients! Remember, you are applying for the job of being this person’s healthcare provider.

8. What patients really care about is feeling heard, feeling cared for, and feeling touched at a deep level. To foster this, do a great physical exam…wow them with its thorough nature, but learn which questions to ask or signs and symptoms to look for quickly to confirm or deny a hypothesis. Don’t waste too much time learning everything about their life. Keep it medical not personal this 1st visit. Touch and treat with confidence. Your body language should be “all about them”  and “I know what to do” even if the only thing you can think to do is needle St 36.

9. It's nice to surprise a patient when you can. For example, if you know they have spleen qi deficiency, press Sp 2, 3, and 6, and perhaps Sp 17 and say something like “I expect you may be tender on these spots.” If you know they are under stress, probably vertebrae T4 and T5 will be tender. In their minds, if you know where they hurt, what else will you magically understand about them?

10. When patients ask questions, take a moment to formulate an answer. Think clearly before you speak. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out the answer, but don’t lie or equivocate. Give hope and be reassuring without boasting or promising; our medicine can do wonders for people

11. Your office can and should have lots of relevant, interesting signage. These can be in treatment rooms, hallways, bathrooms, or inside small plexiglass photo frames. Here are a few ideas.
    “Did you know that Chinese medicine has successful treatments for: (WHO LIST)?”
    “Western and Eastern medicine can be compliments. Western medicine is usually better for acute problems such as trauma and infectious disease. Asian medicine is usually more effective for chronic conditions.”
    “If you have to wait more than 20 minutes for your treatment; it’s free!”
    “Want to take some information to a friend? Ask for a brochure or some research about your friends’ health challenges.”

12. If you feel you need to do research for a patient, then start with something simple
Acupuncture: do a simple treatment that usually produces good relaxation like Four Bars…then add ONE thing for their major complaint and do research prior to the next appointment.
Herbal med: decide on the major pattern discrimination & give a 1-2 day dose. Research the formula, review the S&S, call them the next day to hear results, and revise more accurately for a revised formula on day three.

13. Do a bonding call… Within first 24 hours at latest. This can be done by a front desk person, but it's even better if it’s you,
This allows you to do a number of things.
    • Shows you care and are on their health team
    • Allows you to find out if what you did so far was effective
    • Allows you to nip any potential problems in the bud and get patient back in quickly

14. From the first visit and even the first phone call, make sure people understand that 6-8-10 visits is usual and expected and that you need 2-3 visits just to refine the treatment plan. Reiterate this in the bonding call and in your educational materials. Patients don’t know what to expect; be reassuring and educate, educate, educate! You create the treatment plan; people are actually happier with having your guidance in most cases.

15. During those first appointments, your most powerful educational and marketing tool is to focus all your attention on your patient while with them. Never talk about yourself.
And, every time they come in, you should teach them something new about themselves and their health. These can and should be small things …about diet, about their daily routine, about feng shui, about natural cosmetics and their skin, about self-massage of points. It does not matter what, but it can keep their fascination, interest, appreciation, and buzz.

16. Send patients home with something to do to keep their health (and your services) in mind:
    • Food diary for a week
    • Breathing or other exercise (one or two only!!)
    • An article, brochure, or book to read
    • A liniment, patch, or compress to use daily
    • A handout about their treatment protocol and plan…

17. When you take antibiotics or other Western drugs, you are told to take the whole course even if the symptoms abate after 4-5 days. Make sure your patients understand that your treatment plan is similar! Without adequate treatment, they may go away saying that CM does not work. Give them a treatment plan handout with a fixed minimum number of treatments (or weeks/months of care in the case of herbal medicine). Voice and on paper increases compliance.  Especially if your Tx plan calls for 5,6,8 treatments, make as many of those appointments in advance as possible…even ok in CO to offer package discounts.

18. Always get another appointment scheduled before they leave the office if possible. Try to keep appointments at the same time of day and same days of week…helps patients remember. Also do reminder calls the day before every appointment. This will cut missed appointments by as much as half.

19. When a prospective patient calls and you have treated the condition they are experiencing, say so. If you do not, show/send/email them some research or a reference in a book. Discuss that you can help with their underlying imbalances allowing their body to heal itself no matter what the condition. Then suggest a limited tx protocol of 4 sessions and then a reassessment. However, if you think you CANNOT treat them, refer them to another practitioner who you think could and tell them you hope they appreciate your honesty and will refer others in any case.

20. Remember to say thank you every time they come in. They could be someone else’s patient, but they have chosen you. Make sure they know that they are appreciated.
Let them know you always want their referrals and that this is the highest compliment they could ever give you.

Good luck and best wishes to all my readers!
Honora Wolfe • Copyright 2014


  1. This is a great list of 20 very do-able tips! When I first started my practice I used to ask new patients if it was okay with them if I gave them a call the next day to see how they were doing. I quickly learned that this was one of the BEST ways to easily build trust. It was good for me too because I didn't have many patients and it gave me something constructive to do and it helped me hone my communication skills. There were a few rare instances where the patient was not planning on coming back because of a misconception or concern but because I was able to clear it up on the phone call, they went ahead and re-scheduled their next visit right then and there with me. All your tips are great, but the day after phone call for new practitioners is my favorite. Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Nice article! Acupuncture works for many problems. So, obviously its market will be void. When some one is about to start a new practice they should ask new patients if it was okay with them and patient should be asked to come back because of a misconception. Thanks for sharing the nice tips.
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  3. Acupuncturists insert hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points around the body. It is virtually painless when done by an experienced practitioner. Inserting the needles is thought to correct imbalances in the flow of energy in the body. Acupuncture in bradenton fl

  4. This type of medical practice may help people determine the needs of their body. Thank you for sharing such a grateful and helpful tips. You may also visit our clinic 8 Body type Medicine

  5. Awesome 20 tips to build a good relationship between patient and doctors.It is true that a good communication with patient helps to learn and find out the patients actual patient.Your writing will help people to understand about the doctors advice. Thanks for the great job

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