Well, hello, my friend, this is episode 27 of The Clinical Entrepreneur podcast. I’m your host, Ronda Nelson. I’m so glad you’re back. Today we’re going to be talking about making connections with your patients. I am a connector and I love to create relationships. I’m passionate about having a community and being in relationships with each other. This particular topic is one I love because I think that we sometimes forget to consider the community that we have with our patients. It’s that doctor-patient relationship.
We think about community in our social networks, in our peer-to-peer networks, colleagues, etc., but I’m telling you, my friend, I’m a firm believer in creating and building community with your patients. Let’s think about this from a different perspective. Imagine for a moment that you are a patient walking into a brand-new clinic, whether it’s an alternative healthcare clinic or a medical clinic, not knowing what to expect. You’ve probably filled out some paperwork prior, you get into the clinic, and the receptionist just looks up at you and says, “Can I help you?”
Well, timeout. That is a huge pet peeve of mine. “Well, of course, you can help me, I’m here, aren’t I?” Don’t ever let your staff say that. Anyway, that’s a subject for another day. So, imagine you’re sitting there waiting, and the person behind the counter says, “Can I help you?” And you say, “Well, yeah, I’m here for my appointment.” They say, “Well, what’s your name?” And you tell them your name. So far, it’s not jiving very well. Like, the feeling of love is not there.
Then, they walk you to the back and take your weight, height, vitals, and dah, dah, dah. You go back, sit in a room, and you’re just waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. The practitioner walks in and says, “Hello, John. I see that you’re here today for hypertension. Let me ask you a couple of questions.” “Okay, great, I’m going to give you a prescription, or I’m going to give you supplements or I’m going to prescribe an exercise regimen or help you with your stress,” whatever it is, and the doctor leaves.
So, all you did as a patient is go to a practitioner, so that they can basically check off a box, “I went in, got this prescription, supplement, exercise or whatever. I’ve got this to do or have to go in for another test or whatever it is,” they just checked off a box. How satisfying is that? Anyone can do that. What you and I want to do is build connections and create a community within our patients.
Now that can feel a little scary because, for some, it’s, “Oh, I don’t know about that, I don’t think I want to get that close.” I’m not asking you to get close. I am though, going to say, “How about you start being a real human?” Not just the person who comes in and, “yep, yep, yep,” and then out the door you go. We need to connect. Some are better than others, but for those of you who are not so great at it, I’m going to help you.
The first thing I want you to think about when you meet that person coming in asking for your help is, how does that connection feel to you? Do you kind of feel like you’ve got the vibe and you really like them or are they rubbing you the wrong way? “Ooh, this isn’t working for me, I don’t think I’m the right fit for this person. It doesn’t make them wrong. It just means that my energy, their energy are not compatible. We’ve all had patients like that.
The first thing is you don’t need to make connections with every single patient because some of them are just not going to be your perfect people, but for the ones that are, you want to make sure that you’re leaning into that relationship a little bit. What does your body language say? Are you like this when you’re talking to them? Is your body language closed off or are your arms down, shoulders are back, and you’re really genuinely looking at them with the intent to hear what they have to say?
What are your facial expressions saying, your tone, your posture? And the same on their part as well. We are looking for people that are like us. We always are looking for what’s called like-kind. On The Clinical Entrepreneur podcast episode 1, you can find it at rondanelson.com/1, my friend, Michael Liebowitz was on the podcast with me and he talked about how we want to find people. We’re always looking for things in people that we identify with.
When your patient walks in the door, they’re looking for someone they feel is like them, kind of how zebras hang with zebras, lions hang with lions. But in all of humanity and all of the humans, some people just prefer some over others and there isn’t anything wrong with that. Your patients are looking for a person they can connect with. So, if your body language, arms are crossed, you’re leaning back in the chair, you have defensive posture, the patient is not going to feel warm, welcomed, included, or that you want them to be part of your community.
If you don’t have enough patients, maybe this is the reason, my friend. You may just find that your body language is giving away that you really don’t care and don’t want them to be around. I hope that’s not true, but let’s keep going. So, again, patients want to be with someone who gets them. In my latest podcast, I talked about how to get to know your patient, finding those 10-plus key questions that allow you to really get to know your ideal patient. This is where that comes in handy. Genuine conversations with that patient while they’re sitting there in front of you.
Another piece I think we’ve often overlooked is our “why.” Each one of us has a story to tell “our why,” and your story should be very well-spoken on your website. Your about page should not be about you, newsflash, uh-uh, it should be about your story. It should be about your “why.” Why are you where you are? Why did you end up doing the profession that you’re doing, whether you’re an optometrist, DO, chiropractor, health coach, whatever it is, why did you end up there? What was it that drove you there? What situations, circumstances, and life events have put you where you are, today? Patients want to know these things because it makes you human, and humans relate to humans, not robots. They really want to connect with a real person. So, don’t be afraid to tell them your story. “I got into this because I wanted to help people just like you. My mom struggled with the same issues you’re struggling with. So, I’m really committed to helping you get through this menopausal period, when the hot flashes can be such a challenge. Let’s get this going.”
The patient is going to breathe a big sigh of relief, like, “Oh, finally, I found someone who gets me and knows exactly how to help me.” Think about a dinner party. When you’re at a dinner party, you aren’t just standing off in the corner with your arms crossed. You are chatting it up with people and you’re asking genuine questions like, “How long have you done that? What do you do for work? How many children do you have? Where do you live? What are you doing this weekend? What brought you here?” You’re just really engaging in conversation. It doesn’t take more than just a few minutes in an appointment to get to know the patient just a little bit.
And each time, ask a few more questions, make notes about it. If their dog’s name is Roxy, then the next time they come in, you can say, “Hey, how’s Roxy doing? I was thinking about Roxy this morning.” These people will be your patients forever. They’ll never go away because you remembered something important to them. Because guess what? Newsflash again. It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about them and what’s important to them.
Keep your body language open. Don’t be afraid to shake hands, make that really genuine eye contact with them. Don’t be distracted thinking about a sports game or a fight you had with your spouse or something going on with a child. Leave all of that at the door and make sure that when you walk into that room, you are 100% present for that patient at that moment. You can pick up and drag around that other baggage once you get out in the hallway, but when you’re in the room with that patient, all of that stays outside and you are completely 100% just one on one with that person, learning about them. What do they love? What are they afraid of? What’s their big concern and how you can best help them? Allow them the ability to talk about themselves.
You’re not going to want to hear this, but I’m going to tell you anyway. One of the best ways you can really connect with your patients, outside of just that time that you have in that treatment or exam room is on video. Patients really do love to connect with their practitioners, and the best way that you can do that is by doing live videos.
In last week’s episode, I talked about how you want to make sure you’ve got that really good connection, but you know your patient well. This is exactly where that comes in handy because when you get on a video, let’s say, you know that your patients hang out on Facebook. So, you are going to grab your phone and do a quick Facebook Live talking about how you found X because of your experience with Y and you know that they are experiencing Y, too. But you want to make sure that you are being relatable. You want to convey that you get them and that you know them, but they also want to know that you’re a real person just like them.
Remember back to the example I gave you in the beginning when you walk into that doctor’s office and you’re treated like a number. “Can I help you? Okay. Sit down, be right with you. Take your vitals. What do you need? Here’s a pill, here’s a supplement, here’s an exercise, here’s a prescription for a test or bloodwork. Okay, I’ll see you in a month.” You can’t build a practice like that. If you’re an insurance practice and you want to remain a slave to insurance, go for it, my friend. I’m not your person because I’m advocating that you have a profitable cash practice, that is not at the mercy of these insurance companies and what they’re willing to pay and not willing to pay. You get to have life on your terms, you get to have a business on your terms, but the way that you do that, you have to change the way you think about your practice.
No more of this, patient run-through every five minutes and on to the next. You can’t do that. We have to play this game completely differently. I don’t mean game as in that it’s a game. We have the board game and the rules of the board game completely change. Having lasting, long-term relationships begin inside those four walls. Start within your clinic and then they’ll start to grow when you share who you are outside the walls of your clinic.
So, whenever you have an opportunity, you want to make sure that you are taking time to go live, and don’t hold back. Don’t let there be that place where you just come in and do your doctor thing and then you check out, don’t do that. Be relatable. Build connection. Create community. And don’t be afraid to share a little bit more about who you are, what you do, and why you are so passionate about being a practitioner and loving your patients because that’s what they want to hear.
Well, my friend, I hope you’ve enjoyed that podcast episode. I got a little “ranty,” but I’m so passionate about creating community and really making patients feel like they’re important. There’s so much disconnect in the world today. At the time of this recording, we’re still wearing masks and we’re still supposed to be social distancing, and people are not connecting. Now medical practices, and even some of our alternative practices, are now doing everything virtually. We’re doing Zooms and Skypes and patients feel like they have this computer screen between them and the practitioner. I don’t like that. I want to do whatever I can to help them build relationships so that they stay and achieve results. Then they can go and be a great referral source for me and you down the road because that’s really what it’s all about.
So, if you are feeling stuck and you’re feeling like you’re not sure where to go, you’re not sure what 2021 looks like, and this whole conversation about community and marketing and even getting on social media, good grief, that’s a panic mode for some people, I would be more than happy to help you. All you have to do is go to rondanelson.com/practicegrowth and get signed up for a weekly email of “Practice Growth Strategies.” Every single week, I will drop a little nugget with you, to say, “Okay, here’s your to-do for the week.” That way, you don’t have to do this on your own.
I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to have a practice, almost lose it, have it again, and almost lose it again, because that was my journey, and that’s why I’m so passionate about helping you grow the profitable practice that you love, and allows you to live a life that you want to live, rather than being stuck inside your practice, trading time for money. I’d love to have you join me. Go to rondanelson.com/practicegrowth and sign up for my weekly email. I promise I won’t spam you and I would be happy to be able to jump in your inbox and give you that little tip that will help you take one more step forward to having a practice that you love. All right, my friend, have a great week. See you soon.
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