“Just Be Nice” – Medical Dealer Magazine June 2009 by MRI Optimize Consultants
One of the first things a baby hears from his mother (right after “No!”) is “Be nice”. This phrase is uttered with various intonations, volumes and intensities depending on the situation. This lesson is given to us early in life, repeated frequently and it still pays to be reminded of it every now and then. Being nice is better known as customer service in the medical imaging world. It seems to be a most popular topic in various media outlets as well as in Radiology magazines and seminars and conferences.
It seems that there are reminders to be nice everywhere, no matter what the business. The Los Angeles Times ran an article in October 2008 written by actor Josh Radnor that was titled “Hollywood Rules: Kind Over Matter”. The basic message he was sending out concentrated on being successful by being kind – kind to everyone from fellow actors, producers, agents, support staff and reporters all the way to the checkout clerk at the grocery store. The article is thought provoking and the ideas can be applied to the medical imaging world.
Customer service is no more than simply being nice to our patients, who are really our customers. Customer Service is more important now, than ever. People have a choice as to where they will go to receive care and imaging services. Because the majority of patients are not technically able to evaluate the skills of your staff, they will define their experience at your facility by how they were made to feel while they were there. You want to give them a story to tell, and you want it to be a positively remarkable one. This impression of remarkable kindness and caring should begin before the patient ever arrives at your facility. What was their experience when scheduling the exam? Was their arrival immediately acknowledged and were they greeted with eye contact and a welcoming smile? Were their questions answered in terms they could understand?
This is an opportunity to shine for your profession. Your credibility begins when you greet your patient and when typically, you have only minutes to build a rapport and establish a sense of trust with that patient. Introduce yourself, smile and make eye contact. Use the minutes you are in a public area with your patient to begin this process and wait to discuss private details when you are in an area conducive to HIPPA compliance. Be kind to your patient by showing respect by dressing neatly, wearing your name tag and slowing down. How you dress is a reflection on your professionalism and the accountability of the facility for which you work. If possible, sit down and speak with your patient at eye level and refrain from using body language that implies impatience such as rolling your eyes or standing with both hands on your hips. Put the face of a loved one – mother, grandmother, child – on your patient and treat them with the kindness you would expect your loved one to receive. Be nice to your patient by explaining everything to them. Beeping machines and not being able to see what you are doing to them because they are lying down are a couple of examples of things we take for granted but can cause anxiety for our patients. When explaining the procedure, speak slowly and use layman terms. Most patients don’t have a medical background and don’t understand the technical terms or acronyms that we use routinely and because no one wants to appear uneducated or dumb, they won’t ask clarifying questions either.
One of the most effective gestures you can make is to touch your patient. Coming from the MRI world, the power of a touch on the ankle or hand while you are sliding the patient inside the machine is very effective and can bring the calm and assurance that patient will need to have a successful MRI exam. By using your fingertips and telling a patient in advance, a slight touch on the shoulder can do a lot to relieve the anxiety that the patient may or may not be outwardly expressing. Use the patient’s proper name and use it often. Asking them how they would like to be addressed is a show of respect and will let the patient know that they do have your attention and that you do indeed have time for them.
Being nice – and doing a remarkable job of being nice – is a powerful way to generate a competitive advantage over other facilities in your area. Make every interaction with a patient count. You will never know if something you said or something you did may have changed the life of your patient. Be grateful for your co-workers, grateful for your job and grateful that the patients choose your facility and being nice will be easy. How the patient leaves your hands will be the story they will tell others a remarkable number of times. For return business and a patient positive experience, remember the words of your mother and mine… Be Nice.