Alternative medicine practitioners have the power to create exceptional experiences that increase patient satisfaction and improve treatment outcomes.
That is the view of Dr. East Phillips, DAOM, L.Ac, a licensed acupuncturist since 1999, a professor of Chinese medicine at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine since 2004 and a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine since 2013. She is the author of More Than A Treatment: How to Create Exceptional Experiences That Increase Patient Satisfaction and Improve Treatment Outcomes (2019, www.indiebooksintl.com).
Dr. East, as she is known to students and patients, continues to help patients, students, other practitioners, and the general public with her lectures, workshops, coaching, and well-being related products. She currently resides in Del Mar, CA with her husband and two children.
According to Dr. East, the benefits of improving patient experience include: patients get better faster with improved treatment outcomes; data and word-of-mouth will reveal a higher efficacy of your medicine, thereby attracting more patients and integration with other healthcare practitioners; practitioner job satisfaction increases; and patients are willing to pay more for your services.
In her book, Dr. East offers a variety of ways that alternative medicine practitioners can transform a treatment into an exceptional experience for their patients. Some of these strategies include:
- Give warm and genuine invitations to treatments
- Follow up throughout the treatment cycle to monitor compliance and provide support
- Begin (and maintain) a Thank-You-for-Your-Referral system
- Keep your patients within the Golden Circle
- Zen-ify your treatment space
- Adding aromatherapy, music and even gemstones to your sessions and/or waiting areas
- Healer, heal thyself and know thyself
- Align with your true purpose and passion
- Raise your own vibration and energy level
- Tangible and intangible giveaways that your patients will covet
“Punctuality shows respect for the patient as a person,” says Dr. East. “Research into what drives patient satisfaction has found that one of the most significant factors for dissatisfaction is long wait times. How do you feel when you have to wait to be seen by a practitioner? Do you like it when the scheduled treatment time goes over, and now you run late the rest of your day?”
If the nature of your practice makes timeliness nearly impossible, then at minimum, consider incorporating the following three strategies to lessen a patient’s dissatisfaction with waiting:
Adjust expectations. If you tend to run late, let your patients know this. Inform them that you sometimes run late and that the longest they will wait is [X] minutes. That way, they can be prepared and maybe even bring something productive (other than their phones) to occupy their time while they wait.
Spend more one-on-one time with the patient. Research has shown that while patients satisfaction levels decrease with extended wait times, the satisfaction levels will rise when the doctor spends more one-on-one time with the patient. Moreover, make sure that one-on-one time is spent sitting next to the patient. Research also shows that patients perceive that more time has been spent with them when the doctor sits next to them rather than stands away.
Occupy their time. Provide something in your waiting room other than, or in addition to, medical office norms such as magazines or television. Some ideas are coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, coffee table interest books and Zen gardens.
“With nearly twenty years of practice behind me, I absolutely know that when I approach my practice from a desire to create an exceptional experience for my patients, rather than just to deliver a treatment, an entirely magical world opens up to me,” says Dr. East. “I advocate that all alternative medicine practitioners provide exceptional treatment experiences because I believe the benefits are far-reaching.”