Leave an everlasting first impression.


Ask yourself, how does your practice score today in terms of the patient experience?

This week I had ‘fun task’ of taking my Mother to a private cardiology outpatient appointment. It’s always an interesting experience to attend such appointments when you’re not the patient or the clinician. It’s a bit like being a fly on the wall, or a medical secret shopper.

When we arrived, the environment was suitably tidy and smart, but it was a little tricky navigating registration. There was a sign saying “wait here and a member of staff will join you”, but for exactly how long should one wait, until you decide to go looking for a member of staff?

When the receptionist eventually arrived, she looked a little harassed. Understandably so, for she had been battling a server crash that had hit the entire hospital that day (I know because that I experienced it too.) She explained that she wasn’t able to complete our registration but she knew that we were expected, and we were carefully directed to a room and told to take a seat.

A lovely secretary appeared in the corridor and told us that she was going to ring the Consultant and ‘tell him to come down from the ward’. No other explanation was given about the tardy Cardiologist. Forty five minutes of clock watching, and half an Evening Standard crossword later, we were ushered in. The Consultant’s bedside manner was fabulous, and he recounted how he and I had once met at a networking event, and had talked about Hong Kong. I was impressed at his memory.

The whole experience got me thinking…

 As Clinicians, we might do a great job once we’re face to face with a patient, but how does the experience prior to entering the consultation room match up to that? Had my Mother been in a ‘one of those moods’, she might have started twitching and humming “whyyyy arrre weee waaaiting?”

In our hospital, a server crash is a very rare occurrence, and all staff obviously get my sympathy when this happens. The morning of the outage, I had a patient booked, who was running ten minutes late. Because I run a super tight ship, I decided to hang around the entrance of the clinic, to see if I could spy the LinkedIn profile look-a-like of said late patient. I spotted him, and he came in all guns blazing about ‘London’s crappy tube system’ and the ‘even crappier weather’.

I could have called him out for being late, (especially as it was adding more stress to server-stricken clinic).

Nevertheless, I decided to play it differently. I gave him a big smile, congratulated him on surviving his commute, and his frost thawed. We managed to complete the consultation at a rapid pace, and I got back on track in terms of clinic timings.

Private practice Ninja helper  First impressions are lasting impressions! If you greet your patient late, unapologetic, unexplained or even snotty, you can expect a frosty reception. Guess what, they won’t make a great word of mouth referrers, either.

Private practice Ninja helper  Secondly, it’s a no-brainer to build in sufficient time into your consultations, so that you can complete the ‘doing’ without running over as a routine. There is nothing worse than seeing patients huffing and puffing in the waiting room, when the receptionist informs them that Ms. X or Dr. Y is running an entire hour late.

Private practice Ninja helper  Thirdly, whilst emergencies are always going to crop up, try to resist squeezing a ward round or that extra patient, just before clinic starts. If there is a crisis and you are going to be some time, make sure an adequate explanation reaches the waiting patients. This is one of those times when you really need to over deliver. That way, the patient will see you as a conscientious and caring Clinician, whom they would want to send their Mum to.


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