“6 Sure-Fire Ways to Lose Patients”

It seems to me that instead of always fixating on how to build our patient base, we need to pause, take some time and consider reasons why patients are prone to leave a practice. Here are six ways to assure their sendoff. Oh, in case you’re wondering on what facts I am basing this information...it’s simple. 1) I am a patient. 2) I actually ask other patients for their opinions. 3) Numerous patient satisfaction survey results; and 4) 40 years as a podiatry eye-witness.

Method #1.

Whatever you do, do NOT value their time. It helps if you rush them through their visit; that sends a clear message that your time is much more valuable than theirs. Also, asking if they have any questions is just another reason for the day to back up, so, if questions absolutely cannot be avoided, be as brief as possible (retreating, hand on the doorknob the entire time) and move on, explaining that you’d love to stay and chat but “time is money”.

Method #2.

Communicate as ineffectively as possible when explaining their diagnosis, treatment plans, fees and alternative care options. Mumbling and using lots of clinical words is effective. This allows you to call all the shots and prevents them from getting personally involved in their care. They probably won’t understand what you’re trying to say anyway which, if you want to chuckle, take note of their blank stares. Especially avoid active listening. Don’t make eye contact or give them a chance to speak without abruptly interrupting them when you have something (more important) to say.

Method #3.

Do not show empathy or compassion. Any attempts at emotional concern or patient engagement will make you appear interested and caring; a real attraction for some and definitely a time waster for you.

Method #4.

Try not to be too genuine. Patients might actually respect, trust (or even like) you if they knew the real you which only tends to build the doctor-patient relationship. Honestly? It’s just another reason for them to stick around.

Method #5.

Make them wait weeks (at least) for an appointment. After all, if you try to accommodate them too soon, they will think you are not busy. And really, who wants to be appointed right away? (Think Comcast!) While we’re on the subject, once they get to the office, keep them waiting in the reception room. A crowded reception room only validates that you must be worth waiting for.

Method #6.

Reign in that customer service. Focusing on patient satisfaction can be very time consuming and mentally exhausting. Patients need to understand that medical offices are not spas so keep words like "delighted" "absolutely" "pleasure" "happy" "sorry" and "yes" to a minimum to avoid those troublesome positive expectations.

Well, those are some good starters. Can you come up with others?

PS – Well to note – these guidelines have a similar “exit” effect on staff as they do on patients.