Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lifetime Patient Value

Dr. Peter Meinhofer, a customer sales representative for Integrated Practice Solutions has written a blog entitled "Lifetime Patient Value" about what, in his opinion, might answer what patients truly want and value. He suggests the following 5 points:
1. Improve returns on patients investment by showing them how their range of motion has increased or missed days at work has decreased, etc.
2. Solutions to their problems by showing patients how their medical issues are being addressed.
3. Provide patients with a system of reduced complexity and which is easy to use.
4. Provide an atmosphere of professionalism so that the patient builds trust with the doctor.
5. Participation with the doctor over the long haul allows for the doctor-patient relationship to evolve into a co-creator participation in the outcomes and progress by the patient.

These five points sound like the selling points that a salesman would create in order to sell something (in this case a chiropractic practice management software system).

Dr. Meinhofer does make some very good points when he points out that the doctor is responsible for everything that occurs with the office. Untrained staff can create dissatisfaction to the point that the patient-doctor relationship is permanently damaged. Some of the dissatisfiers noted are billing problems, appointment mess-ups, and clutter. As a second point he mentions that doctors can damage their credibility in the eyes of their patients by having inconsistencies in the fees, procedures, and record keeping. Finally, the doctor himself can represent an inconsistent picture through his own personal appearance (hygiene, weight, diet, etc.).

I think the article makes some excellent points about managing the image of the practice as well as the personal image of the doctor. I would suggest the most important aspect of building a lifetime patient value revolves around the concept of CARE which seems to have been overlooked by Dr. Meinhofer. Studies of patient satisfaction and loyalty have shown that a clear message of caring for the patient appears to have the greatest impact on loyalty. What used to be called "bedside manner" when doctors came to the home and to the bedside of the patient now needs to be translated into showing the patient care and concern. When the patient can believe that the actions of the doctor and his staff are there to "care" for the patient in every way will the first step toward "lifetime patient relationship" begin.

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