A client is coming to you for the first time. They’re probably a little nervous, entering an unknown environment to see an unfamiliar service provider. As a team member, you have a jam-packed day and want to race through an initial assessment as quickly as possible.
Rushing through an assessment would be a mistake…one that could be costly to the practice in client satisfaction and retention, and to the health of the patient.
We say health, but the same issue is critically important whether you’re in a physician practice or clinic, a legal office or other service provider. That first assessment visit, done right, sets the tone for your future relationship and ultimately what you can do for them.
No matter what information you can get from intake forms, it’s what you glean from the human interaction of a one-on-one assessment appointment. And it’s the tone of the appointment that sets the stage for what’s hopefully a long and productive relationship…on both sides.
The beginning of a healthy relationship
Health assessments in particular can take some time, and you don’t want a new patient to feel rushed through it. On the other hand, you need as much detail as possible to set a benchmark for delivering informed care recommendations from that first visit forward.
Kind of like a first date, think of it as an investment in your practice’s future relationship as well as that of the new patient. And if you don’t start out with a solid foundation — and document it well, within the patient’s electronic health record — how can you or a colleague who sees the patient a month or a year down the road discern changes that could indicate a developing problem, such as a cognitive mental decline in an older patient?
We get it. We’re all human and have personal lives. You may be thinking of how you’ll be able to leave in time to cheer on your son at his soccer match after work. But patients will pick up on your rushed attitude and may choose never to return, thinking that’s the norm. In most cases, there’s a lot of competition out there for their business, and they know it. So if you have too many comments on your website about the hurried (and perhaps harried) nature of another patient’s visit, others are unlikely to follow.
Set the tone by greeting a new patient, welcoming them and telling them your name and role. Then set clear expectations for the visit. Hopefully by setting the appointment, they’ll have some sense of what to expect and the length of the visit, but it’s good to reinforce information they may have partially forgotten. Let them know what you’ll be asking them and why it’s important. Ensure they know that they are encouraged to ask questions as well.
Let the patient know you’ll be performing a health history, a physical examination, will document the information for future reference by you or other associates, and will discuss any initial suggestions for lifestyle changes or follow-up tests or procedures designed to address their presenting issues and optimize their health. Of course, remember the patient’s privacy and the often-sensitive nature of what they will be sharing with you.
When you’re completing the visit, again ask them if they have any other questions, and recap what you’ve discussed, including next steps and timeline.
Of course, you’ll recheck this information and do a mini-version of this assessment each time the patient returns, no matter which one of your colleagues provides services in future appointments. Like each patient, each team member is a unique person with unique insights; thus, they may have a different “take” on what they’re noticing, based on the same foundational evidence and what the patient is currently presenting with.
Communications + expectations = success
Assessment appointments can seem interminable for both the busy practice member and the nervous new patient. But if you establish a personable yet professional rapport, set clear expectations for the visit and reinforce initial recommendations, new patients will more likely become repeat customers who speak — and rate — your practice highly.
Format your assessments to help keep your charting notes on track using intakeQ. Save yourself hours every week by keeping track of your patients and their journey digitally.
Through a well-communicated and coordinated process, you’ll maximize the value of the assessment while staying on track. You may even ultimately save time in your day and make your son’s soccer match!