First and foremost, the psychology paradigm comes into bedside manner. You have to want good bedside manner. There are way too many people that think the government is forcing this bedside manner movement upon us. “I shouldn’t have to do that; I should just practice good medicine.”
If you think that way, you’re going to forever struggle. What I hear at conferences is, “Well, I’m just not going to prescribe hydrocodone for everybody.” I get all of that. Of course you’re not going to prescribe hydrocodone for everybody, but if you have the psychology of extraordinary patient care, your life is going to get better.
The people who know this best are people who worked in the restaurant industry. Past waiters and waitresses know they can provide extraordinary service because they got immediate positive feedback in the form of tips.
If you think enhancing your patient care experience by increasing patient satisfaction scores is crap, then don’t listen to this. I mean, good luck to you. You’re going to struggle. I’m speaking from experience.
I’m going to leave you five points to increase your patient experience. When patients like you, every part of your job is better. They’re more compliant, you don’t get complaint letters and you experience fewer medical malpractice claims.
1. Shake Hands
Always shake hands. Exchange an enthusiastic greeting with every single person in the room, age appropriately.
There was a study done in a metropolitan library where everybody who left the library got a book. The even numbered people just got the book and the odd numbered people received a book and a handshake. Right outside the library, they had someone doing a survey about how clean the library was, how quiet the library was and the lighting quality. The people who got a handshake ranked the library higher in every category.
Shaking hands immediately gets you on your patient’s good side. Shake everybody’s hands when you walk in the room.
2. Listen with Your Eyes
Your body language says more than your words, so you have to listen with your eyes. Look at your patients when they’re talking to you. As a guy who does a lot of presentations and video, I know how important that is. You don’t want to stare at them and creep them out, but you want to engage them with your eyes. There’s a lot of intimacy that occurs through body language and through your eyes.
Visual Dominance Ratio
If you are a dominant personality type, you will look at your patient more when you’re speaking. When they’re talking to you, you have a tendency of looking away or looking at your chart like you’re putting in information. You have to look at your patient when they’re talking to you.
As often as you can, sit down. This makes patients feel like you listen to them longer; that’s actually been studied. Patients estimate that you spend more time with them if you sit down. Sitting creates a more casual, intimate environment.
4. Find Something in Common
The fourth point in extraordinary patient care is finding something you have in common. You do that by asking questions. If you can find something you have in common with your patient, talk to them about it. Highlight these incidental similarities. It is one of the greatest ways to bond with people.
“Hey your kid plays soccer; my kid plays soccer too. What team does he play for?” If you have something in common, try to highlight that.
5. Address Patient Complaints
Understand that the two biggest complaints patients have are poor communication and time delays. To a large degree, you can’t control time because of a lot of limiting factors outside of your control. But you can control the perception of time.
Always overestimate time. Always overestimate how long things are going to take. Be very transparent about this. “We have to do a CT scan and some labs; it’s going to take about three hours to get everything back.” Initially, the patient’s mildly agitated because we are in a credit card society and we want things right now. So when you say three hours they’re like, “Don’t you understand how important I am?” And then they’re good with it. If all the tests come back in two hours and 15 minutes, you are an absolute genius.
When I teach board review courses, I used to teach right until 6:30 but I was always crunching time a little bit. If I went until 6:45, people were agitated. They wanted to leave. Guess what I did. I increased my time to 7:30. People are expecting to get out at 7:30. When I 6:45 or 7:00, they love it. Always overestimate time.
For a big part of my career, I thought, “I don’t care if you like me. I’m going to prescribe the way I want to prescribe. I’m going to behave how I feel is good for you, even though you don’t know it.” That is the wrong paradigm. It got me into a lot of hot water with nursing staff, docs and patient complaints.
Once I finally said, “You know what? I really want to embrace this patient satisfaction model,” every part of my job got better. Bedside manner was not a hurdle, it was a lubricant.