I would like to thank Julie Bissett who is a freelance journalist and editor of Practice Management Magazine for her guest post
Make someone happy
Julie Bissett asks what better way to improve your patients’ day than with a smile and some good humour
‘Smile if you’ve had it lately’ – these were the words on a bumper sticker my father slapped onto the back of our Ford Escort during the 1970s. I believe it was promotional merchandise for a local garage advertising their servicing provisions. Not a man given to crude innuendo, I was mortified at dad – and the sticker’s – suggestive tone. Dad, meanwhile, thought this even funnier than the cheeky message it conveyed to car drivers behind us.
We may have missed a trick here – what a fabulous tagline for a GP practice! Or maybe not…
But the real point is that, firstly, we all love a laugh and, secondly, we all welcome a smile, especially when stressed. On a bad day, the meeting of patient and GP receptionist can seem like the paradox of immovable object versus an unstoppable force – and, surely, something’s got to give?
It may be tough to do – but a smile really does conquer the toughest of customers’ attitudes. We all need something to positively trigger our thoughts, senses and actions when we’re feeling fraught, ill or worried – and nowhere is this more relevant than at the reception desk of a GP practice.
In the increasingly competitive world of healthcare, a practice now needs to promote itself in the same sassy style as an advertising campaign might, for it cannot afford to get left behind, remain staid and prescriptive, or, indeed, come under fire in an increasingly ‘TripAdvisor’-esque world of online healthcare feedback forums.
A front desk team is a GP practice’s shop window that needs to welcome its audience – the patients – with a massive desire for them to be on side in an environment hugely pressurised. It’s you, the receptionist, often taking the brunt of the day-to-day demands on a practice. Many people demand your time – from GPs and practice nurses to pharmacists, specialists and hospital consultant PAs.
There are equipment suppliers to consider, recruitment agencies on your tail and protocols to adhere to and to remind everyone else about, also. You handle referral letters, prescription requests, and doctors’ letters. Patients –whether on the phone, in an email or face to face – should live up to their name while you juggle all this and more, shouldn’t they?
The KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) – the acronym used by designers and engineers – translates well into the medical arena. Without meaning to offend, we should all strive to reach the lowest common denominator when communicating; not because we consider our patients incapable of understanding the science behind the mechanics of their care but because we all lead busy lives and bullet-point information is the perfect way to ensure we convey – and they retain – knowledge we expect to be squeezed into brains already jam-packed with ‘stuff’.
Look at life around us and consider what works and what we now instantly recognise – and why:
• Golden arches means ‘fast food here’
• A flashing SLOW DOWN sign means that: slow down in a built-up area
• And a beautifully shot retro TV ad of a truck ploughing through the snow with Coca Cola on its side can only mean that the Christmas ‘Holidays are coming’.
A smile could be YOUR practice’s very own marketing icon – it’s very difficult to remain angry when anyone smiles at you. It’s a reminder that we’re all human – even tricky patients and much-maligned doctors’ receptionists. It’s simple idea; it may also prove great marketing – but, most importantly, it’s a healthy option for us all.