More than an Encounter: Relationship Building with Patients

People don’t want to trust just anyone with their health and fixing their problems. They want podiatrists who are not only good at what they do, but are likeable and clearly care about patients’ welfare and lives. It’s not enough to just tell them about how much you care when they’re leaving your office after an appointment. You have to really build a relationship with patients.

This is more than just a nice philosophy of practicing medicine, doctors. It’s an important reality for your patient care.

It’s About Going Beyond Pleasantries

Every podiatric professional already knows you need to treat your patients well. Not only is this common human curtesy, patients don’t return to offices where they felt like the doctor or his or her staff didn’t care about them. In today’s day and age, though, showing you care is more than just remembering someone’s name. It involves building a relationship with patients and demonstrating you care about them.

Building a relationship isn’t a one-time thing, either. Just like in any other relationship in life, it takes effort. It also lasts through all the stages of an encounter, from before a person sets foot in your office to well after they leave.

Before the Appointment

You actually start your relationship with a patient long before they even set foot in your office. It begins with your marketing and how they interact with your team when they make an appointment. How you market your practice provides a “face” for your office and allows you to start demonstrating both how you care and how you can fix someone’s problems before a patient meets you. It’s showing your personality and engaging with people in your integrated marketing strategy. It’s interacting with others at health fairs and volunteering in your community.

It’s also in the way your staff answers the phone, fields questions, and contacts people with reminders before an appointment happens. It’s the timely responses and going the extra mile to make sure their concerns are met. By making a person feel heard, reminding them to come to their appointment, and generally showing concern about an individual, you get your patient relationship off to a strong start.

During the Appointment

The most obvious stage of relationship building with patients is when they are in your office. Listening to people’s concerns, answering their questions, explaining things clearly, and making them feel involved in the entire appointment and treatment process are vital. However, it’s going above and beyond this that really connects with people. It takes a little time to get to know someone and their family, job, hobbies, or other random information, but by taking a few extra minutes to converse with them—and remembering the information for future encounters (which may mean taking notes)—you really build rapport with people.

After the Appointment

What many podiatry professionals don’t realize is that relationship building doesn’t end when a patient leaves. It continues long afterward, and is a crucial part of getting them to return in the future. Remember, when you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. Using your list to send out e-mail blasts, employing recall campaigns, adding people to your newsletter mailing list, and more allows you to stay connected to people long after their appointment so you continue building that relationship. This sharply increases the odds that they’ll return to you in the future, and remember to refer others to you.

Building relationships with your patients shouldn’t be a nice philosophy that doesn’t play out in real life. It should be a driving force in how you engage in your marketing and treat your patients when they come to your office. Just like any other area of your life, relationship building takes effort—but it’s well worth it.

Building relationships with patients is just one of the topics we cover in our Mastermind group on a regular basis, and it’s also a topic in our Practice Management Institute. If you’re looking to take your practice to the next level and really become the kind of doctor your patients look forward to seeing or referring others to, Top Practices might just be what you’re looking for. If you have any questions, or you’re interested in jumping in, e-mail us at [email protected], or call (717) 725-2679.