One of the top struggles clinicians face with patients is getting them to commit to their care plan and see it through.
In fact, only 40% or less of patients graduate from their treatment plans.
How many of your patients are graduating? Do you even know this number? Or, is it more common to see patients leave and never come back after their first or second appointment?
I’ve coached and consulted with many clinicians in my Clinic Accelerator Program. I’ve got clinic operational experience in managing over 200 physiotherapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors over the past 10 years.
I help clinicians learn healthcare marketing techniques and apply them to the treatment rooms to get better results with patients and in business.
And here’s the thing…
What separates a good clinician and a great clinician is what happens when you do your initial assessment on day 1. It’s all about how you approach this first assessment, what happens during, and how you frame what’s going to happen in future.
Patients shop like consumers. Consumers don't buy on what's logical / rational, they buy on emotions and how they feel. Spend the time and make it an emotional and amazing first experience - this is where you’ll see your outcomes skyrocket.
So what I’d like to do is share with you today is an all star system that will make your patients more compliant, stick with the plan of care and get better results - ultimately leading to more patient referrals.
1) Create a VIP line for your new patients
First impressions of your clinic are everything!
Your clinic team - admin, clinicians, staff - dictate how many times patients come back in future. And the initial experience of your new patient establishes their future expectations.
Let’s say you spend over $100 on marketing with google adwords to get this new patient to book an appointment. They arrive at your clinic and it’s super busy and chaotic - they don’t know who to talk to or where they should be directed. It leaves them feeling uncomfortable and like they don’t want to come back again!
What you need to do is create a VIP line with a VIP welcome process that makes all new patients feel welcomed and special.
When a person first comes into your clinic, extra effort needs to be made to make them feel comfortable and welcome. Extra attention needs to be made to make them feel special. This means giving them celebrity treatment. Your staff needs to be ready to identify new patients early so they can get a red carpet experience, making a ‘new patients’ special area at reception for a VIP welcome experience.
2) Get your patient to fill out a pain score questionnaire
When the patient comes in for their very first visit, get them to fill out a pain score questionnaire BEFORE they see you for treatment. Add this to their current new patient paperwork.
The purpose of the questionnaire is to benchmark their current physical function and show them how much their pain is impacting their everyday activities, their quality of life and their overall happiness.
It also serves as a point of future reference. Once patients start feeling better, they only take their current feelings as a point of reference. They often forget how much pain and discomfort they were in previously.
3) Develop rapport and find something in common
People like people who are like them. When reviewing a new patient’s paperwork, find something in common with them such as hobbies, sports, kids, recreation activities, upcoming holidays, education, school, friends, work, etc.
Develop and connect with them in a sense of community.
You most likely already know this, but at the end of your SOAP notes, always make note of any personal topics you should talk to them about on their next visit - to help build a stronger relationship.
4) Give your patient a destination postcard
The purpose of a destination postcard is to show them what life would look like if they were better. It gives the patient optimism and hope and gets them excited and committed to treatment.
The front of the destination postcard should be your business branding, with your team. The back should be text with the below question and an area for them to fill it out.
“If you could wake up tomorrow morning and your pain was gone, what would you do tomorrow that you’re not doing today?”
Get them to fill out the destination postcard with you right then and there. Then; place the postcard in your charts and save for later.
When the patient graduates from your treatment of care, give them this postcard and it will create an everlasting connection. This patient will be a big fan and one of the biggest promoters of your clinic.
If the patient self discharges or goes MIA, put a stamp on the destination postcard and send it to them with a quick note on how you want to help them, and provide an incentive to give you a call.
5) Review pain score questionnaire
Repeat the patient's problem to them and explain what life will look like if they get better.
This is very important!
For example, say:
“Here are the 3 biggest problems you told me today - pain standing, pain walking, pain in your back and this is what successful treatment looks like [explain it to them]...”
6) Show proof that you can make them feel better
Show the patient proof that you are the expert and want to serve them by being their most trusted health advisor. Tell them you have seen their condition before, and this is what I did to aid recovery. Show them how common this injury is and assure them that it is something you treat all the time.
Don’t tell them you’re different. Just show them. Show them what you can do and aim for a meaningful improvement on day 1.
Ideally you want to show them a quick fix you can do on the very 1st day and show them some kind of instant progress. Do some range of motion to show how limited they are, then do a quick treatment and do the same range of motion. Explain how this is a good indication of how they are going to feel better.
To help boost your professional profile and show patient’s more proof, write an editorial in the local newspaper on a range of topics. Photocopy a bunch of your publications and give them to patients.
Make it easy for them and circle the topics relevant to the patient and give it to them to take home. This is a very powerful tool and builds your case as an expert. Your patient will likely go home and show their spouse or give this to a friend (another referral).
It’s all about gaining their trust and helping them believe things can change.
7) Pat the patient lightly on the their upper arm
Embrace the power of touch.
Touch can influence behavior, increase the chances of compliance, and make the person doing the touching seem more attractive and friendly.
Go easy, of course, you don’t want to interfere in people’s personal space. Make it casual, caring and non-threatening.
8) Show the patient how 'WE' are going to get there
Show the patient what successful treatment looks like. Get specific with it as an integrated approach with massage therapy, chiropractics and what it will look like for the next XX weeks.
Emphasize the ‘together’ approach - how together you can make a difference to how they feel.
Put your treatment plan on this "Informed Consent For Treatment" and get the patient to read, agree and commit to the plan and to sign at the bottom - acknowledging their side of the commitment.
Your goal should be to over perform and get them graduated from your care plan BEFORE the end of the recommend plan. Always be aiming to exceed their expectations.
9) Walk the patient to the front desk
Yes, walk them to the front even if you are super busy.
Small, trivial actions like this go a very long way!
Treat your patient like how you would treat your grandma if they were to come to your clinic.
When you walk with them, tell your patient to pre book 6 appointments for the next 3 weeks BECAUSE YOUR SCHEDULE FILLS UP QUICKLY. Explain how on our 6th visit, we will reevaluate and measure progress and see how many more visits you need to reach your treatment goal and feel better.
The goal is to get them committed to 6 treatments, which means you have 6 sessions to show you are making them better and then to ask them to book another 6 if necessary.
10) Call your patient the next day
After the first appointment, call your patient the next day to see how they are doing.
If they are in pain because you did some treatment on day one or they are unsure about therapy, this would be a great phone call to provide reassurance and to show that you care. It gives you a chance to explain that post treatment pain and flare ups are common but they are a good sign that healing is occurring, that within a few days they will start seeing a noticeable difference. And reassure them of the treatment goals.
Once again, what would you do if your patient was your grandma, would you call?
Look, if you want to see your patient performance and outcomes change, along with the financial state of your business, these all star patient engagement strategies really do work.
Put them to the test and see for yourself.
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