According to Strive Labs, 20% of patients drop out within three visits and never come back again. That's a lot of new patients self discharging, patients you’re never going to see at your clinic again. And a lot of lost revenue, too!
Patient engagement is something most clinic owners need to focus on more. And one of the challenges I hear clinic owners talk about is how poor new grads are with patient engagement.
This is to be expected, after all, they are just fresh out of physiotherapy or chiropractic school. From the patient’s perspective, they often look young (in most cases), they look and act inexperienced and they may not talk in a confident professional manner.
This dramatically impacts new patients who are calling your clinic. For instance, when a caller asks, what does the front desk say? The new patient caller wants to feel confident that your service is going to help them so if you’re telling them they are seeing a new grad with less experience, might have the perception that they are getting inferior treatment at your clinic.
But, there are easy ways you can fix this so your new grad has confidence and so do your patients.
In this post we’ll cover:
- The pros and cons of hiring new grads
- Ways to improve patient engagement
- A simple script for your front desk and new grads
- One simple technique to make every new patient a raving fan
The pros and cons of hiring new grads
When I talk to clinic owners, one of their major challenges is hiring new clinicians. After owning a bunch of physiotherapy clinics and now being the founder Clinic Supplies Canada and CallHero, I’ve learned a thing or two about hiring and motivating staff. Sure, the hiring process is work, but it’s not as difficult as you think, when you have a great recruitment strategy.
Over the years I’ve hired a lot of new grads. I’ve also learned a lot about new grads and HR from Peter Ruttan, Vice President of pt Health. The reality is, depending on where you live, it’s really hard to hire more experienced clinicians. Often new grads are an easier option because there is a new batch graduating every year, that’s a great benefit to you.
New grads usually have great energy and passion, which you don't see with the more seasoned therapists who are frustrated with their job. And the best thing is new grads are trainable. They are open to opportunities and they are willing to be coached. You just need the right training program to bring them in.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to dig into now.
Ways to improve patient engagement & develop training
The following 3 points are things I consider critical to running a great clinic. If you take the time to think these through and put systems in place, you’ll be able to put any clinician into your system - even new grads.
Your systems basically form the basis of your new grad training program. Though systems do take time to develop, that time invested now saves you big in the long run - both in time, outcomes and revenue.
#1: Focus on the patient experience from start to finish
When a new patient comes into your clinic, absolutely everything counts!
What they see, how you answer the phones, the manner by which they are treated, your professionalism, your timing, how you handle the schedule, your attention to them during treatment. Every little thing counts.
You (and your clinic team) must be 100% patient-focused. The experience is all about them so it’s up to you to think about and design the patient journey so that your clinic delivers an exceptional patient experience.
Train your team to truly connect with the patient. Train your team to be your patients most trusted health advisors. Train your team to focus on getting great (and measureable) results. Train your team to communicate effectively to patients, especially about their course of treatment so they always know what to expect. Train every team member to support each other and the system you create so that your schedule is always booked ahead. Train clinicians to follow up with their patients after their treatments.
Think through the patient journey and experience, design your systems, then train your team accordingly.
#2: Don’t undertreat patients
When patients come to your clinic, they are usually in pain and have a problem. They have gone to all the effort to seek out someone who can help. So train your new grad to not undertreat patients and put together a treatment plan that requires them to tell them how many sessions and weeks it will take.
Over my years in clinic operations, I found that new patients will usually book what the clinicians prescribe - they trust their clinicians advice, after all, they are the expert.
You need to train your clinicians to let go of their stupid fears, stop ‘winging it’ with patients, and train them on how to give patients a solid treatment plan so patients completely believe they are in good hands - new grad or not.
Every clinician should be using a ‘Patient Compliance’ form.
Your goal as a clinic owner is to coach your clinicians and give them the confidence they need to offer solid treatment plans to patients that are going to get results. And more importantly, coaching them how they can communicate that message to patients effectively.
#3: Always do patient follow up
According to Bain and Company, it costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one - 6-7 times as much!
That’s why it’s so important to focus more effort on retaining the patients you already have rather than constantly trying to recruit new patients. You will immediately notice a large cost saving.
There are 2 steps to do this:
- Call back patients who have self discharged
- Reactivate past patients that may not have been into the clinic for sometime (30-60 day rotation)
The key here is the clinician’s are the ones who call, NOT the front desk.
If you implement this process into a monthly reactivation program/ system in your clinic, you are absolutely going to see your patient bookings and revenue move in an upward direction - and fast!
A simple script for your front desk and new grads
If a patient speaks to your new grads, asking: “How much experience do you have?”
The last thing you want your new grad to say is: “I just graduated 3 months ago.”
This doesn’t exactly build confidence into the patient.
Same goes when a new patient caller talks to the front desk, asking: “How much experience does your clinician have?”
Tell them YOU HAVE (clinician has) 7 years of clinical training.
This is the truth!
A new grad has years of specialized education and training, has done hours and hours and hours of clinical placements, weekend courses, workshops, reading, and professional development. A new grad is a highly trained professional!
When asked: “How much experience do you have?”
Answer: “I’ve got 7 years of clinical training and I’ve been registered since [registration date]”
Simple, effective and much more convincing than saying “I just graduated,” don’t you agree?
Give patients plenty of REASONS TO TRUST YOU
Once you confidently lay that one out on the table, the next step involves giving the patient (or caller) plenty of reasons to trust you. You need to tell them why you’re the best choice for them.
Like I pointed out before, the patient experience is all about them. What they are really thinking in the back of their mind is:
- ‘What’s in it for me?’
- ‘Can your service/ treatment fix my pain or problem?'
Therefore, it’s up to you to:
- Provide them with reasons that you are the best choice for them.
- Show them why they should come see you and not someone else.
- Give them social proof to reassure them they are at a great place.
So how do you provide proof and reasons?
You can provide proof by telling them how your clinic has fixed other clients with the same problem. It can be as simple as telling them that [clinician name] is a really awesome physiotherapist and talking about how [clinician name’s] patients end up smiling and feeling great after seeing him/her.
Use simple statements of proof such as:
“I have helped lots of other clients with your same problem.”
“You’ve come to the right place because I incorporate the most current evidence in back pain treatment.”
“I only work with athletes who have the same problem as you.”
Giving patients good reasons to trust you is one simple technique to make every new patient a raving fan.
As you can see, no matter who you employ - new grads or more experienced clinicians - it all comes down to your systems and processes. New grads are highly trained professionals, they just need to be trained well and given the confidence and support to succeed.