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Dirty diapers

May 9, 2013

By Chad Fleming, O.D., AOAExcel Business and Career coach

Think about the last dirty diaper you had to change. For some of you that first sentence was enough to make you stop reading this article. Someday you’ll understand and want to keep reading. For others, you continue to read because you know that behind a dirty diaper there is a child that depends on you 100 percent to provide them with the love, care and nourishment to keep them from feeling alone, frightened, or hungry. For that child you are everything to them, and if you don’t change the diaper, who will? You change diapers because you care.

You see, before I had children, I didn’t care to change any child’s diaper because it was just gross and they have parents for that, their own. But for my child, I’m going to make sure he is taken care of, and a little dirty diaper is nothing if it will meet his needs. I have complete ownership in my child.

Unfortunately, the parallel is more true than we would like to admit when it comes to patient care. Behind that complaining, never-get-it-right, obnoxious patient is someone who wants to be cared for and may find that the only people who will listen is your office.

The reality of practice is that some practices get this, and they are willing and even look for the “dirty diaper” to change because they know that behind a “dirty diaper” is an individual who will commit 100 percent if you give them the time and attention necessary to solve their problem. Once those individuals are heard and their needs met, they will become loyal patients who are practice advocates. The practices that understand this are the practices that continue to grow no matter what the economy is doing or no matter what insurance changes are occurring.

To keep your practice growing, consider these three things:

1. It’s all about me — We live in a society where everything is focused on you. We are in love with ourselves and love to know that people are seeing what we have to say. We love to know that we have 500+ friends on Facebook and our decorating idea was “pinned” 1,000 times on Pinterest. For us in the service industry, we must understand the majority of patients we treat and prescribe glasses for are living life in reflection of what the world and media point us to: satisfying ourselves. The optometrist office that learns to cater to the “me” in patients will be the office that leads the pack.

2. Online reviews — Every business owner is scared of the power of a bad review. A bad review can be read by hundreds of people, if not thousands, within hours of a patient leaving your office. There is not an office in America that does not have instances where patients leave upset, feeling like they have been mistreated. With this in mind, you must limit the number of “bad” experiences. This is best done by hiring of great staff and then training your staff to give great service and great service recovery. Meeting with each staff member weekly to bi-weekly is part of leading a successful staff as taught by the management experts at manager-tools.com.

3. Advocates — Find them and keep them. These are the patients who regularly refer others to your practice. They are the ones who give you the benefit of the doubt when a prescription is wrong or understand prolonged waiting periods before they see the doctor. Advocates come in one of two ways: they are either congenital (your mom, sister or best friend) or they are acquired. The acquired ones are those who have experienced your office and found it to exceed their expectations. They have complete buy-in to your philosophy of practice. Many times advocates are created by taking the time to search out those to whom no one will listen and give them the time and attention they need to solve their problem.

A dirty diaper is never fun to change, but it can reap many rewards as relationships are built and loyalty is gained. Many practices have determined they will take the collateral damage of not working with difficult patients and shrugging it off as if nothing else can be done. But practices that grow in economic downturns and poor insurance environments know the secret to patient care. Be willing to get dirty.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AOA.

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