We often think of first impressions of being when we come face-to-face with our clients for the first time. It usually goes something like this…a new evaluation appears on our schedules, we glance at the chart before we open the door, we greet the new patient by name and introduce ourselves. Perhaps we smile and shake their hand before we sit down on a stool to take their medical history.
The first impression right?
All of us want to create a good first impression with our patients. The rest of the treatment experience goes better if we get off to a good start. Unfortunately, we don’t know where first impressions come from nor do we know exactly when they happen. Somewhere in the patient experience, an impression is made about your practice that sticks with your patient long after they leave your clinic.
Influencing patients’ first impressions will go a long way in determining outcomes, loyalty and what they share with others. To probe a little deeper into creating positive first impressions and simple ways we might influence them I’ve invited someone that I admire that does this very well. He naturally and consistently forms good impressions on most of the people he encounters.
I’d like to introduce you to a guest author and good friend, Tom Kruse. Not the movie star but a physical therapist who is a rock star to those who know him well. I thought you all would benefit from hearing from therapists who are making an impact like yourself in your own quiet way. I’m blessed to interact with change makers on a weekly basis. Periodically I will provide them this platform to share their stories.
Probably like you, Tom is a therapy entrepreneur who wants to make a difference in the world. He successfully launched his practice in 2015 which has been growing steadily ever since.
Tom felt called to leave corporate therapy after 15 years to start his own practice. Even though highly successful at his previous employer, he found the pace difficult to sustain and less rewarding. He was getting home late for family dinners, shouldering more administrative responsibilities and had a gnawing feeling he wasn’t providing the best care he could.
His new practice, Tom Kruse PT has steadily grown from word of mouth referrals because Tom intentionally cultivated a strong provider/patient relationship. Because of this one factor, Tom is experiencing professional, personal and financial freedom he never thought possible. In short, Tom is living out his dream practice.
Tom has leveraged technology to enhance patient engagement without taking time away from patients or increasing overhead. He will share how he has used a cool app called IntakeQ, to create remarkable first impressions and build his practice.
How To Create Remarkable First Impressions
As a physical therapist, we often think of our first impression is being when we first come face-to-face with our client. We are trained to create an experience for our patients that is rewarding for both the provider and the recipient. Most of our clients have done their homework ahead of time, and already know a lot about us.
When Does A First Impression Happen?
According to Pew Research, 47% of Internet users search for information about doctors or other health professionals. Consumers have become serious researchers and they form opinions long before they make contact with your office.
The Internet is a busy place in terms of different sources of information. Have you ever looked at your “professional” self up on Google? Chances are, you will find your practice location AND a host of other websites such as Health Grades, Yelp, or Facebook competing for your potential patient’s attention.
Trying to manage, let alone control this information something we are not equipped to do and is expensive to hire out. This leads to the obvious question: How do we focus on what we can control?
The patient on boarding experience is something we do have control of and is often the first impression a patient has with us. I’m going to share my experiences with you below, and please realize nearly all of this is something the patient has the opportunity to experience before they have a chance to meet us face-to-face. I feel as though they come into my office already having experienced a seamless on boarding experience, giving them a great first impression.
First of all, a little about myself. I’ve been a physical therapist for the past 17 years. Most of my time was spent at an outpatient clinic that was fairly typical in terms of standard practices around the country. Gradually I found myself taking on more administrative responsibilities which pulled me away from what I felt best equipped to do–provide excellent one-on-one patient care.
I certainly did not want to spend the majority of my day with administrative work. That is when I began to think about…
“What would my ideal practice look like?”
My vision for my ideal practice would be a much scaled-back setting, investing one hour per patient. I had enough business experience to know practices don’t manage themselves. I knew I would have to pick the duties that my partners had done so well for me and the corporation. Marketing, billing, selecting and EMR etc now would all be my responsibility.
One of the things that scare people away from owning their own practice is the demands of administrative work. No doubt I wear a lot of hats since starting my own practice, but automating as many of them as possible has allowed me to reach my goal of spending adequate time with clients while handling the administrative side of the practice. Let’s take a look at a few of the systems of my practice.
Automated Systems Save Time and Money
One of the hurdles to overcome starting a business is controlling the expenses. Having a receptionist felt like a luxury I could not afford, especially seeing one client per hour. I started looking into electronic medical records and different ways of scheduling as well as onboarding a client. This led me to a variety of systems ranging from freebies to Cadillac styles of EMR’s that were geared for high-volume practices.
Eventually, I found IntakeQ, a system that automated several important tasks: simple scheduling, a widget for my website (see below), appointment reminders, a paperless way to sign forms (consent, financial policies, etc), and a simple/secure way to receive demographic information. Oh, and wouldn’t it be great if this was a seamless, even enjoyable experience for the patient? (Spoiler Alert: It is!) Here is a link to my website to see a demo of 3 major features I use.
How I Use IntakeQ For Remarkable Patient Onboarding
Let’s take a look at some of these key features. First of all, scheduling needs to be simple for the user, whether you do have a receptionist or doing it yourself. With IntakeQ, simply click on the time on the day you wish to schedule someone, and enter 3 pieces of information: client name, email and phone number. From that screen, you can decide what form you would like to send them (see demo here). After clicking Save, their email inbox contains a link taking them to a secure page.
The website widget has proved to be extremely useful, especially for some of my tech savvy clients. It allows them to schedule an appointment by visiting my website. Obviously, this saves a phone call and time on my end. Another benefit is it drives traffic to my website, ultimately helping with search engine optimization. Here is what it looks like on my website.
Appointment reminders are a real lifesaver for my practice. Because I feel I can accomplish more per visit when I spend an hour of one-on-one time, I tend to space my visits out more over time. When somebody is scheduled out at three or four weeks, it does tend to slip their mind. Appointment reminders can be set to go out 1,2 or 3 days before. In addition, they can go out in the form of text message, automated phone call, or email.
Online Intake Forms
IntakeQ was actually built around the platform of paperless intake forms. I mentioned a little bit about this earlier, but it is worth looking into this a little deeper. Essentially, there is no end of possibilities for intake forms, questionnaires, surveys or even outcome measurement tools.
For a fee, you can send a paper version of the form you’d like to have as part of your inventory. If you are a little more adventurous, you can create your own forms with a variety of settings and formats. I keep mine fairly simple and have a basic demographic worksheet containing the essential piece of information I need. Attached to this, I have my financial policy and informed consent to treat forms. You can see a video on what these look like here.
Real Time Connections
The time I have spent working with the nuances of IntakeQ has been well worth it. One of the perks I enjoy is notifications. I can choose to receive notifications when clients book an appointment, begin to fill out their paperwork or respond to appointment reminders.
I can set up notifications to access them directly from my iPhone. If I want to answer the phone and I’m out of the office, all I do is take a call, and pull up my schedule on the phone as I am speaking to a client/referral source. This allows me to do all of the things I mentioned above in terms of scheduling and sending an intake form.
For those of you who have a side therapy gig going while working a full-time job automating scheduling and forms is a must. Your prospective patients can schedule their own appointments while you are working somewhere else. They fill their intake forms online and they will be available prior to the patient’s first appointment.
Notifications allow you to monitor the activity of your practice and are personally involves when necessary. Automated systems shouldn’t prevent you from personally engaging with patients. Automating repetitive impersonal tasks like filling out forms and scheduling free you to provide a personal touch without raising your overhead.
Again, the time spent learning the system has paid off in terms of first impressions. I hear time and time again from clients how easy it was to enter their information and sign the forms. I hope you found some of this information helpful. If you have any questions, please respond below and I will do best to answer as many as possible.
Tom Kruse is a practicing Physical Therapist in Lincoln, Nebraska, for 17 years and I am truly blessed to be part of a profession that seeks to maximize the well-being of others.
In 2015, I opened my own practice, Tom Kruse Physical Therapy, to focus on treating the whole person by using a manual therapy based approach to understanding pain. My goal is to use my time wisely as I understand the needs and conditions of my patients. It has been a dream of mine to practice in a way that I believe benefits patients the most, without the constraints of a volume-driven, insurance-base model.