Giving patients what they want

Whenever I find myself in the role as a customer, whether it be dining at a restaurant, shopping for a computer or enjoying a great vacation, what makes me happiest and most satisfied is when I get the feeling that the business really cares, specifically that they care about my happiness and my satisfaction. Understanding this fundamental truth has helped me tremendously in the decisions that I’ve made regarding my practice over the past decade.

So when patients come to my practice feeling justly entitled to certain expectations, it is my job to make them happy. The challenge is to get them a healthy baby in a way that is balanced with convenience, peace-of-mind, savings and maybe even a few friendly smiles from me and my staff. Despite all attempts, there still might be some times in which things don’t go perfectly and that’s the reality that exists in life. However, the ultimate judge of whether we do a great job or not is not what I say or what some advertising says, but rather what the patient says, to herself and if I’ve done my job well, what she enthusiastically says to her friends and coworkers as well.

So, I approach my decisions regarding my practice with this in mind. Naturally, the next question is what exactly do patients want? Well, we could answer this question one of two ways. We could answer in an extreme ludicrous way and say that patients want to pay $20 for an unlimited stream of IUI’s and IVF cycles until they get a baby, followed by free spa treatments and facials during their first trimester, a gift-certificate for three designer maternity outfits and lifetime catered birthday parties for the children they conceive until they reach age 14. That’s what they want. It would be nice if I could give them that, but unfortunately, I can’t.

Or we could answer the question of “what do patients want” in a more reasonable manner and acknowledge first of all that different patients want different things. Some stress the cost. Some prefer convenience. Some care about how pretty the office is. Despite a vast variety of preferences from different patients, there are certainly some things that most people value and that would be to end up with a healthy baby and to have a pleasant experience while pursuing this goal. So again, the challenge in on me and my staff to provide this. With regards to the more subtle wants and needs of the patients, that’s also up to me and my staff to figure out.

One simple way is, well, simply to ask them. “Is there anything more I can do for you?” “Was there anything we could have done to make this experience better for you?” And that’s exactly what I do. Within the course of my work day, in addition to providing medical care, I’m also on the lookout for opportunities to get feedback from patients. I also train my staff to have the same philosophy. And once again at the end of the day, it’s always the patient who gets to say whether we succeeded or not. The cool thing is that we get rewarded or punished depending on the patient’s satisfaction level. If they stay with me loyally until we get them a baby and then they go out and act as my cheerleaders, passionately spreading the word to any infertile couples they encounter, then it will be great for my staff and me. If they don’t do that, then my practice will cease to thrive and flourish.

With this in mind, we can go on to have fun and discuss what we’ve learned over the years about how to give the patients what we want. Many of the posts in this blog will specifically address things that patients have told us they wanted along with how we made changes to better give them what they want. And in the next post, we’ll discuss one of the most popularly touted wants from patients - the amount of time and contact they get with the physician.

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