The trust between the patient and the physician is one that is clear in the clinic. The nature of medical care requires this trust in diagnosis, guidance and treatment for the patient experience to result in any level of success. But what about the trust between the clinical and clerical staff as it relates to the patient experience? What patients know beyond any doubt is that the majority of communications between the clinic and patient will not be with the physician. These people in clerical roles represent the first point of communication in many different circumstances for the patient before, during and after the clinic visit. So the question is, what would it take to build this trust in the clinic?
One issue involves the common problem of clerical staff retention. What toll has turnover taken on the culture in the clinic? It may be as obvious as a ‘feeling’ that people experience from the time that they arrive in the morning to start each work day. Making a transition from ‘tolerance’ to ‘trust’ among colleagues will make a difference for the entire staff and translate directly into the patient experience as well.
Another concern might be the recognition within the office between “helping the patient in any way that I can” versus “helping the patient in the way that he or she needs it.” This level of trust (or tolerance) among the clinical and clerical staff is often manifested in too many unresolved messages and inquiries from patients. If there is any question about where to begin with a measure of patient satisfaction, start here. It may be as simple as a patient saying, “I know the physician cared and my visit was a good one, but when I called to change an appointment or ask a question about my bill I just felt lost in the process.” What staff know in each of their respective roles in the clinic are the common questions that patients, both first time and ongoing, tend to ask. What every staff member needs to know is how to respond to these inquiries based on their training & skill level, and who else to engage when the question or issue is beyond their influence in the clinic.
Recognizing that patient engagement involves the entire clinic staff will make the difference in changing behaviors about what both patient and staff satisfaction represents in the clinic experience. Building trust among the clinical and clerical staff everyday will solidify the confidence every staff member has in being the “face of the clinic” in precisely the way the patient needs.