The old saying, “You only have one chance to make a first impression,” is important to remember each time you introduce yourself to a new patient. On any given day, you are probably very busy trying to keep track of the many demands of running your practice and caring for your existing patients, but don’t let these preoccupations keep you from putting your best foot forward with new patients.
These simple guidelines will help you make patient-centered communication a top priority so that each new patient feels informed, listened to and, most of all, valued.
1. Make it personal.
It may seem obvious, but make a good first impression by offering a handshake and greeting your patients by name the first time you meet them. This simple gesture can go a long way in establishing a rapport with patients. One study found that almost all patients want to be greeted by name when seeing a doctor for the first time. Try to get to know a little bit about your new patients as people; ask questions about their work, their family or their interests and listen to the responses.
2. Inspire confidence.
Recognize that going to a doctor’s appointment may not be everyone’s favorite activity and that your patients may be nervous, scared or reluctant to see you. Try to put them at ease with your demeanor and communication style. Be professional and confident but also approachable. Explain conditions and procedures in easy-to-understand language, and use visuals to demonstrate complex topics whenever possible.
3. Leave room for Q&A.
Invite your patients to share information about themselves by asking open-ended questions. Summarize what you hear, and ask follow-up questions for clarification. Create a comfortable environment for them to ask you questions as well, and make sure that they understand your responses before moving on. Personalizing this interaction is a key part of patient-centered communication.
4. Be aware of your body language.
What you say is important, but how you say it can be even more significant. Your body language can have a big impact on your first meeting with new patients, and you want to demonstrate that you are calm and attentive to their needs. Sit down to talk with them so that you are on the same level. Make eye contact during conversation. Avoid looking at your watch or phone, tapping your foot or any other non-verbal cues that indicate that you are impatient, distracted or in a hurry.
How do you make a good first impression when you meet with new patients?