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One of the cornerstones of a successful medical practice is terrific patient service. In a nonmedical context, you would call it “customer service,” but patient service needs to go beyond simply fulfilling a patient’s demands. Here are three keys to getting it right:

1. Service design. When designing service, you’re basically asking the question: What are you trying to achieve? In other words, what do you want to provide your patient? What does your patient want from you? What can you afford to do? Identify these factors and you’re well on your way to providing excellent patient service.

2. Service delivery. This category refers to what you’re actually doing to provide service to your patients in terms of process, people and place. Process refers to protocols and procedures that relate to all aspects of your medical practice, ranging from how a patient is treated from first contact to last to whether your employees are empowered to do their jobs in the most effective manner. People refers to your staff members — the need to ensure you have appropriate employees who are well trained and understand the goals and purpose of the practice. And place encompasses all aspects of your medical practice where patient interaction occurs, which includes on the phone, via email, on the patient portal and within the practice itself.
None of this should be random. Intentionally develop all three aspects, giving thought to what exactly you want your practice to achieve and how to make that happen. Regularly query your staff and patients for feedback and suggestions.

3. Service recovery. Service recovery is required when medical care doesn’t go as planned. Mistakes happen. How do you or your staff — or the practice as a whole — respond to errors and problems? Service recovery should be quick and convenient and, ideally, occur just once.

On one level, service recovery refers to issues such as having a recovery plan in case of a disaster such as a ransomware attack. But it also applies to any aspect of patient service, and requires that you create approaches — both practical and philosophical — about how your practice will respond to difficult issues that may arise.

The highest level of patient service doesn’t occur by accident. It’s something your practice creates with intention, attention and energy. By purposefully focusing on these three factors, your medical practice can excel at providing great patient service.

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