How do patients choose a doctor? It’s the fundamental question that practices want to figure out so they attract more new patients.
Having been writing and lecturing for over 20 years to help practices differentiate via customer experience, my own recent experience as a patient brought some of these principles front and center as a reminder of what’s important in today’s doctor-patient relationship.
During my annual physical, my doctor referred me to a specialist to get a colonoscopy. Having never had one, I tried everything I could to avoid it but eventually realized it was the right thing to do. I called the office of the GI specialist referral, only to get an answering machine saying they were closed for lunch. That was red flag #1.
I then went online and started looking at this specialist’s reviews. Google showed 38 reviews for this physician, mostly good but with a recurring theme among the negative reviews detailing issues with staff and the doctor himself. That was red flag #2.
I kept searching and quickly found another GI Specialist in the same area. I was impressed to see he had over 700 reviews. That was green flag #1. Reading some comments made it clear that this office was PX-centric, which became green flag #2. I called — also during lunchtime — and asked if I could set up an appointment to meet the doctor. Within minutes I had confirmations by text and a link to complete some paperwork online ahead of the appointment. Green flags #3, #4, and #5 were all now flying high.
Meeting the GI Specialist was a pleasure. He was warm, friendly, and sincere. He listened to my anxiety and confidently addressed it. I witnessed Insight #4 from my book – Establishing CONNECTION – right before my eyes. As a patient, the empathy and confidence from this physician gave me confidence and loyalty in just a few minutes. His attitude and approach made all the difference in the world.
He asked how I found him and I shared a bit about my line of work and how I read reviews of the referral as well as those from his patients. He shared that he had worked for that doctor early in his career and left because he knew that more could be done to make things better for staff and patients alike.
His decision to leave and start his own practice is what laid the groundwork for a huge number of reviews for a Gastro-Intestinal specialist. Those reviews led me to contact his practice. As I left that consultation, I could only smile as I now personally experienced the power of online reviews.
I’ll finish by saying the procedure went well (as advertised, with the day-before prep being the hard part) and with a saying from Dr. Vance Thompson that reminds us there is no substitute for empathy:
“Patients won’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.”