At Cosmetic Surgery Forum, we always encourage honest and open dialogue – and talking about how important patient loyalty is for practicing physicians. There is no a one-size-fits-all approach to patient satisfaction, so how does one turn patient satisfaction into patient loyalty? In this article, get a peek at the transparency you’ll see in all of our sessions as, in their own words, CSF contributors and faculty share what they’re doing in their practice to cultivate patient loyalty.
Featured Contributors: Drs. Amy Taub, Doris Day, H.L Greenberg, Joel Schlessinger and Mark Taylor
CSF: What does patient loyalty mean to you?
Mark Taylor, MD: Patient loyalty is everything. It is much easier to provide treatments to a patient who know you well and who trust you then trying to recruit new patients into your cosmetic practice. Going above and beyond to give great care to existing patients builds loyalty as well as always doing the right thing for the right reason for every patient.
H.L Greenberg, MD: The hardest thing in any practice is getting patients in the door. Once you have a patient, it is essential to make sure that their needs are met, their questions answered and that hopefully they return. Patient ambassadors can help grow your practice. We have one patient who has sent us all of her friends from one of the Vegas nightclubs. This year we sent her some skin care products as a thank you over the holiday season.
Doris Day, MD: My expectation is that patients will do what’s best for them. My goal is to always provide the best service and experience so they will choose to return to my practice. They don’t owe me loyalty; I owe my patients great results and outstanding service.
CSF: What are you doing in your practice to make patients feel important
when they arrive?
Doris Day, MD: We start with a smile and personal greeting. We have a calm and inviting office and have soft music in the reception area. We offer them an iPad which has lots of interesting information about treatments and products including videos and articles. They have the option to view it and they can save anything they like for later viewing. This makes the waiting a part of the office experience rather than just waiting. We also do our best to keep the waiting time down to 5-15 minutes max.
Mark Taylor, MD: It is extremely important to see patients on time, tell them the truth and only do what is in their best interest.
Amy Taub, MD: We take photos of them so that our client services representatives can greet them by name. We also have water and coffee and redesigned our waiting room to have a lot of light and many places to sit to not feel crowded or like they don’t have any personal space.
CSF: How do you respond to criticism in online reviews or surveys?
H.L Greenberg, MD: I respond to all criticism and praise on line. If someone takes the time to make a comment, I respond back in kind. Everyone has their version of the truth and their vision of the way things should be. Just today, I had a patient ask me how do I know that they have eczema, to which I responded, “The same way I know that when there is a group of 7 footers walking around that they are most likely part of a basketball team and not soccer players.” People don’t know what they don’t know- a lot of the criticism on line is unfounded, mean spirited and wrong. Some of the criticism is legitimate and it would be worth your while to accept the growing opportunity rather than being sour over it.
Mark Taylor, MD: In my opinion there are many bogus reviews and also people who just like to trash you here as competitors or just because they are nasty people. It is always best to answer in a simple and professional manner.
Amy Taub, MD: We politely reply that we would like to speak with them in person or by phone to discuss. If there is something we can address we will. Unfortunately, there is little else we can do with current HIPAA. I try not to dwell on them and if there are constructive concerns to see what we can’t do to make sure we close that loophole.
CSF: Do you have any tips for staying on track (in terms of time)
when you’re seeing patients?
Mark Taylor, MD: It is impossible to completely anticipate every patient’s needs and how much time it will take to meet those needs, especially when you see patients from out of town and long distances. It is important to try to do as much as possible. If you do get behind, it’s extremely important to communicate with your patients about what you’re dealing with and how you were going to accommodate them as well.
Joel Schlessinger, MD: I am the worst person to ask about this because I see and do everything on the day of the visit. If someone comes in for a nevus removal we take care of it on the spot. While that usually puts us a little behind, it engenders positive feeling. We try to not be too late, but that is a reality when you do what is necessary at the time of an appointment.
Amy Taub, MD: Nope. I am the worst when it comes to that. I block out everything and try to be 100% present. I find when I feel pressured by time then I am prone to mistakes or not being my authentic self. I try to schedule things realistically and work on issues that come up to interfere with this. For instance getting consent and giving quotes we are trying to identify better methods for getting these things accomplished before the visit.
CSF: How did you get started on building your brand when you first opened your practice?
H.L Greenberg, MD: I introduced myself to every physician practice in my medical office building; I went to Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce events and Vegas Young Professionals meetings. I hired someone to do our logo, and came up with a mission statement, “For a Healthier & More Beautiful Life”. We put our logos on our pens, medicine bags, headbands, scrubs and ice packs.
Doris Day, MD: I didn’t consciously think about it, I was too busy trying to build the practice and figure out how to manage staff, computers and EMR (I have been paperless for 18 years). My goal was always to be great at what I do and to take the best care of my patients. Ultimately, that became my brand. I have never had PR or consciously thought about my brand in a public way, it is always about the patient and making sure I’m the best doctor I can be.
Joel Schlessinger, MD: There were so many things we did to build the brand, but the most important was to ‘introduce’ myself to the people of my city via ads in the paper (this was in 1993 when newspapers and magazines were still relevant!). Now, the name of the game is TV and social media, where personal appearances and videos can connect you to the people who haven’t met you to allow them to determine if you are someone they want to see as a doctor. It is getting harder and harder to get the attention of consumers, however.
CSF: How do you show appreciation to your patients for choosing your practice?
Doris Day, MD: I try to be on time, available, present, knowledgeable and skilled. I try to have a staff that is kind and helpful. We offer written recaps of their visit, which they can also view on line. We say thank you before they leave the office and end the visit with a smile as they leave.
Joel Schlessinger, MD: We try to show it via kindness at the front desk and throughout the appointment. We do give samples at check-in for the new patients who have filled out their forms online prior to the visit as well and that seems to make folks happy. Additionally, we offer free Wi-Fi in the office, which seems to engender happiness and also keeps patients busy so small amounts of tardiness, will be forgiven.
Amy Taub, MD: Hopefully taking great care of them is enough. We really try to treat everyone with the maximum respect and consideration. We send an informative newsletter 3 times per year, we provide a rewards program and we also give prizes for referral of family and friends. We do have an appreciation week where we have food and drink and samples and have specials as well. We send out evaluation emails after every patient encounter and we get a lot of feedback and we try to correct any of our shortcomings. We find that patients do notice that we have acted in things because they will say things in these evaluations like “love the more friendly receptionists” or great job with the new redesign much better than before, etc.
CSF: According to psychologist and researcher, Brene Brown, being authentic in your interactions with others is crucial for developing meaningful relationships. Can you recall a time your authenticity has led to patient loyalty?
H.L Greenberg, MD: I called a patient on a Saturday because his platelet count was exceedingly low- he said, “Why did you call me today”, I said, “Because I couldn’t stop thinking about you, and wanted to make sure you were okay.” As it turns out, the patient already had a known thrombocytopenia. That said, this patient is not going anywhere, and has told all his friends and Facebook friends that his doctor calls him on the weekends because he cares.
Joel Schlessinger, MD: Usually, it is humor that allows me to show my authenticity. Of course, it has to be respectful and appropriate (most of the time it is a close call!). I try to use humor to make patients feel more comfortable, but oftentimes they are happier that I try to make them laugh and it defuses most anxieties.
Amy Taub, MD: Oh yes so many times. Just recently a man came in for a consult for an incredible deep crevice on his glabella. One of the other doctors in the practice with less experience did his consult and recommended fillers or toxin or both. He was reluctant to do filler after the potential for occlusion was described. But his crease was too deep for toxin. She did the treatment and he didn’t think it worked so she added a significant amount more 2 weeks later and still he only got a 15% improvement. He wrote me a respectful letter about his disappointment and how he needed to look better to be able to compete and work and couldn’t really afford that kind of money. So I fully refunded him and I told him we didn’t want to take his money for something that didn’t work. He gushed about how he was going to refer everyone he knew to us. I did this because I felt it was a faulty consultation process. He should have been told that only filler could correct the defect and if he didn’t want to risk the procedure then do nothing. It is important to know when not to do something too.
I think if you don’t do right by the patient, you need to own it. But if they complain over things that were fully disclosed and discussed and want refunds or are unhappy, I try to go back over what was discussed calmly and explain why or how their perception may not be realistic. If they still don’t get it (we take before and after pictures) and it really is their misperception and I can’t get them to see what I am discussing then I basically tell them we aren’t a good fit as we don’t see eye to eye and maybe they need surgery or another opinion.
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