First Appointments & First Impressions

Have you ever walked into a place for the first time and felt like a fish out of water? Recently, I visited a client during the lunch hour and rather than skipping lunch altogether, my typical decision, I decided to grab a quick sandwich at a Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches on my way back to the office. Signs touting “World Class Catering” and “World’s Greatest Sandwich” caught my eye as did the red JJ logo conveying that they have been around since 1983. I had never been to JJ’s in the past so I thought this just might be worth a try. I walked in ahead of some other customers who appeared to be experienced JJ diners and the person in front of me rattled off his menu selection really fast leaving me little time to check out the menu board. When the friendly gal behind the counter asked, “May I help you?”, I was feeling a little pressure to pick something to keep the flow of the crowd behind me going. I quickly selected a number 4 and then, having observed the guy in front of me, I moved to the side looking for my next move. I was thinking, OK, where do you get the chips? Where is the beverage machine? It wasn’t a horrible feeling, but it was definitely feeling like a rookie experience.

As I was driving back to the office and thinking about this experience the thought crossed my mind, what do patients (also customers, mind you) experience the first time they walk into a medical or dental office? Do they, too, feel like a fish out of water? It would be no surprise to learn that patients aren’t real eager to go see the doctor about whatever brought them to your office. So, what if the experience could be made better by educating the patient on what to expect when they walk through the door?

Later during the week I ran across a special marketing feature by Melinda Spitek of Hycomb Marketing that addressed the matter of easing doubts and fears of a patient. Imagine this, Melinda writes: Your new patient receives your colorful, professional New Patient packet the day after they called to make the first appointment. There’s a brochure, an appointment card, health history forms, even a welcome letter – plus a complimentary copy of your newsletter. Effectively, each piece responds to a different unasked question, building confidence and commitment on the spot!

How the components work together:

  • The Welcome Letter is a conversational greeting between you and your new patient – the equivalent of eye contact and a handshake.
  • The Welcome Brochure introduces you and your office philosophy. It outlines your clinical credibility, maps your location, and lists your services. And, most importantly, it answers the unasked questions: Will you understand my fears? How do you handle an emergency? Will you accept my insurance? What other payment arrangements are available? This brochure would also point the patient to a website that might have additional frequently asked questions and answers.
  • The Appointment Card confirms the date and time – subconsciously strengthening resolve to keep the appointment.
  • The Health History forms let patients know what information must be gathered before you can provide treatment.
  • Your Practice Newsletter demonstrates your commitment to informative communication with your patients.

The above approach seems like a great start to making the patient’s first office visit a pleasant one. Today’s healthcare consumer, who is becoming more vested in their personal healthcare options, will also be more likely to tell their family and friends of the great treatment they received from your office.

How about your office? Are you doing this? Are you doing other great things for new or established patients and creating customer loyalty? Harvest your ideas today – share your  “Customer Service Ideas” in the comments below.

Mike DeVries is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™ and a Certified Healthcare Business Consultant focusing on helping healthcare professionals. If you would like to learn more about becoming a client of Mike’s, contact him at

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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