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Advice for Young Me: Part 3


  practice profile


Advice for Young Me: Part 3

Clinical knowledge doesn’t equate to practice success

Selina R. McGee, O.D., Midwest City, Okla.

Upon finishing optometry school, I thought I had the knowledge to be the best in my field. After all, I aced every test, graduated at the top of my class and honed my clinical skills. Once I started practicing, however, I realized the true key to a successful practice is patient rapport — something touched on in optometry school yet never tested.

Rapport doesn’t come naturally to many physicians. Fortunately, growing evidence shows that clinical communication skills can be taught, learned and practiced. So, if I could go back in time, I would give my optometry school-graduate self the following advice.

1 Invest in Dale Carnegie

There is a reason more than 15 million copies have been sold of Dale Carnegie’s timeless How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book is a treasure trove on the art of handling people.

Use Mr. Carnegie’s techniques of learning to listen, taking a sincere interest in others and using people’s names several times throughout the exam. You’ll be glad you did.

2 Slow down

From the beginning of my career, patients have commented on the thoroughness of the exams I perform. Thus, I thought I was doing a great job. One patient, however, opened my eyes to the fact that thoroughness doesn’t count for much if it appears the doctor is rushing.

Specifically, she told me I performed the most meticulous exam she ever received, but that she wouldn’t be returning to my practice because, “You just seem like you’re in a hurry.”

One of the steps I’ve taken to overcome this is to actually measure and practice how many words I say per minute to ensure I’m not speaking too fast.

3 Hire a scribe

This individual enables you to keep your focus on the patient and not on entering patient data into your computer. When a doctor doesn’t face the patient, this can make the patient feel slighted — a reason to seek eye care elsewhere.

Dr. McGee (above) now understands the importance of patient rapport.

4 Make light conversation

Ask your patients, especially new ones, to walk you through their typical day. This makes them feel valued, which, in turn, translates to practice loyalty.

In addition, having this personal information enables you to make product recommendations that truly fit their lifestyle — a financial win for your practice and a personal win for patients.

5 Provide encouragement

Another way to establish a rapport with patients is to encourage them. An example: “Wow, Mrs. Jones. Your eye pressure is ideal today! You are clearly using your drops every night — good job!” The bonus here is that patient encouragement also fosters compliance to your prescribed treatments.

The ties that bind

Caring for patients comes easily for most doctors; it’s why we do what we do. However, there is a difference between feeling empathy and conveying it. Becoming a complete physician only happens when science and technique partner with the ability to have a personal relationship with each patient. OM