- Capitalize on nurses’ capabilities. Cross-train nurses so they can serve any of your providers. Develop formal protocols to guide them in thoroughness and accuracy. That will allow you to expand their scope and free providers to perform functions for which they are uniquely qualified. Involve nurses in reviewing daily schedules and preparing for each day’s mix of patients and procedures.
- Improve phone service. Listen to patients when they comment or complain about deficiencies in your telephone system. Unanswered lines, unreturned calls, and intolerable on-hold times and busy signals leave patients frustrated and angry. Consider requiring nurses to keep handwritten logs of phone calls including patient name and number, date and time of call(s), problems and questions raised by patients, and nurses’ responses. Keep the logs, and review them regularly.
- Offer patient-friendly scheduling. Does your clinical schedule serve the patients or the providers? Whether you use wave, modified-wave, open-access, or modified open-access scheduling, make sure you keep patient needs and demands in mind.
- Stay on top of patient information. Use your practice information system to its fullest capacity. Whether or not you’ve made the leap to EMRs, track patients with chronic conditions for timely follow-up. Maintain a routine to contact all patients (especially in primary-care and related specialties) for periodic examinations. Use paper or computers to track diagnostic test orders—diligently follow up to make sure you review test results with your patients.
- Implement clear payment guidelines. No one likes “bait-and-switch” games, but that’s how a patient sometimes feels when he or she doesn’t understand your financial policies up front. With higher deductibles and co-pays— not to mention a growing number of self-pay patients—your patients have to pay more out of pocket. Provide written guidelines that outline your creative and helpful ways a patient can settle his or her account.
- Be responsive to patients’ needs. Look at your patient base. How can you stand out from their other choices in serving their needs? Do you have a significant non-English-speaking clientele? Do you focus on conditions requiring a lot of patient education? The list goes on and on. Make your practice a patient-centered practice, and you will reap the rewards of a loyal following.
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