A five-star practice is a few quick fixes away

August 1, 2008

One's own practice has a lot in common with the standards of a 5 star service. A patient should leave feeling better than when they came in and that it was an overall good experience from the front desk, to the tech, to the doctor. It is a lot to ask to be just like the Four Seasons but little things like displaying flowers or greeting guests warmly can do the trick.

An ophthalmology practice has a lot in common with those standards of service. A patient should leave feeling better than when he or she came in and knowing that it was an overall good experience from the front desk, to the technician, to the physician.

Lew McBee used his experience as a former administrator at Silverstein Eye Centers, Kansas City, MO, as the basis of a recent presentation, "Turn the medical practice into a five-star service organization."

"I am not an expert on the hospitality industry but I have found that delivering five-star service is the same regardless of the business," he said. "I don't care if you are the Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons, the two standard bearers in the hospitality industry."

The guidelines

"The Ritz-Carlton hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission," quoted McBee. "Isn't that our mission in ophthalmology? We want to give the utmost care to our patients and we pledge as the Ritz-Carlton does to offer the finest personal service and facilities to our guests."

McBee acknowledges that not everyone can afford to be like the Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons. However, he said, little things can be done around the office to improve the quality and appearance of a practice. He suggests displaying flowers, keeping up with small maintenance issues by painting a well-worn wall, or training front desk employees to greet patients warmly.

"It's amazing how much just a smile and a gentle greeting really matter to a patient. It makes all the difference in the world," McBee said. "The one complaint, as an administrator, that I hate to get is when I hear a customer complain that somebody at the front desk or one of the techs was rude."

Not only do patients deserve a warm hello but also a warm goodbye. McBee refers to his visits to Sam's Club in which someone greets him at the door and then thanks him for shopping there when he leaves.

"It's a good gesture," McBee said. "It shows that they care about you as an individual."

Some of the Ritz-Carlton's guidelines for their employees are to be proud to be Ritz-Carlton, build strong relationships, and build Ritz-Carlton guests for life.

"We want to build patients for life, we want these repeat patients, and we want these patients to tell their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers to come see us because it's that important," McBee added.

Make it memorable

Another Ritz-Carlton guideline is to always be responsive to the expressed and unexpressed needs of their guests. McBee said that helping a patient even when they don't ask is important.