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Building trust with patients builds the practice


Creating a positive first impression is more than a significant factor during our patients’ first contact with our practices, which is almost always via a telephone call. During the initial conversation, our soon-to-be patients are faced with a fundamental decision-are they comfortable with what they perceive as our practices’ personality? Is it a good fit?

Creating a positive first impression is more than a significant factor during our patients’ first contact with our practices, which is almost always via a telephone call. During the initial conversation, our soon-to-be patients are faced with a fundamental decision-are they comfortable with what they perceive as our practices’ personality? Is it a good fit?

Tone of voice matters

Early in the conversation, one main element comes into play, our tone of voice. If the tone is pleasing or reassuring, it may create an effective positive first impression, encouraging confidence, and may have more influence than the words the patient hears. The tone of our voices will matter to every patient and every call, enabling our initial conversation to use the first contact as a character barometer and in constructing a positive practice personality.

Previously from Ms. Hagemeyer: How I found my mentors

It is possible to change the sound of your voice. Yes, your voice changes with facial expressions. A smile during a conversation will alter the pitch of your voice; it will sound bright, sunny, and take a tone most will understand as happy. Changing your tone of voice with a smile almost sounds too easy, but it works. Try it. 

It is important to recognize the significance of telephone etiquette and necessary to make training a priority. Consider this-When the telephone rings, we have an opportunity to positively impress our would-be patient by simply planning our conversations, or we can answer mechanically and risk a negative impression.

Practice together as a team. Encourage individual team members to listen as they rehearse telephone-answering dialogue. Listen to the tone of individual voices. Just as a smile can brighten our voices, likewise a frown or scowl will lower our tone and may sound more serious.


Practice and patient personality

Keep in mind that a practice’s personality may influence the decision for patients to become loyal to the practice and may affect team members’ ability to build patient trust. A practice is comprised of various personalities; when all are combined, we become a synergy or greater than the sum of an individual-this is the practice’s personality.

It is natural for people to gravitate toward individuals and organizations that represent beliefs that are similar to their own. In other words, if a patient senses our collective personality resembles her own, she would like to be associated with us; she may perceive us as a continuation of herself, inspiring trust. It is through trust that commitment is built.

The objective for every practice should be a resilient, self-assured team and an abundance of loyal patients. Resiliency is an achievable, albeit, ambitious goal.

We have heard the old adage, “Respect is a two-way-street.” However, I think respect is more than a two-way street; there are multiple individuals with many personalities to consider.  

Related: Help! My team is falling apart

Team interaction

As team members, we respect each other’s talents and skills; what follows is an appreciation of our specific abilities to provide additional levels of patient care. A team consists of multiple individuals, and likewise, separate thoughts and ideas. Innovative new ideas expressed require respect, complete candor, and confidence without fear of ridicule or mockery. A team that values individual thoughts will continue to grow in certainty and conviction. Treating inventive fresh ideas and viewpoints with acceptance will stimulate additional perspectives and encourage team appreciation.

Inspire the team to become adaptable-it is vital we learn to “change with change.” New concepts are almost never easy, but team adaptability may add benefits to our practice. Simple changes, such as color-identifying folders or an identifying flag system, will help streamline the patient experience without additional disruption. 

Aggressive modifications are not as easy to implement. For instance, if we change the check-in or checkout process, perhaps we will require additional patient information, which may add more time to both processes. It will take time to adjust to these changes, but remaining flexible with team input and possible modifications, will allow us to become more proficient with patient care.  

Team interaction is palpable to patients and is demonstrated best when our patient is transferred from one testing area to another. The transfer from one team member to the next is known as the patient handoff. Every patient handoff is essential to demonstrate the confidence we have in each other.

Review with the team the routine dialogue used during the patient handoff,

listen as though we are the patient, and allow yourself to hear the exchange as if for the first time. Does the conversation invoke confidence? If it does not, find an interchange that will focus on building confidence, make sure the exchange feels comfortable with every team member. With a successful patient handoff, our patients sense our positive interaction as an extension of their care.


Regaining trust

Trust is never automatic with each new patient-we must cultivate the relationship, and it must be earned. Presenting an air of confidence, but not arrogance, will invoke patient confidence and over time trust. It’s great to show off our skills; patients appreciate our abilities to service them and our products.

If trust is lost, it becomes almost impossible to regain it. Attempting to do so will require additional effort from every team member. We will need to focus our attention on rebuilding our relationship and changing the negative attitude patients may have about us. It takes many positives to counter a single negative.

Transparency is an important tool to counter most negative concerns. For instance, if a remake of a patient’s lenses is required, it is important to talk to the patient and avoid the blame game. If responsibility lies with the practice, we must take that ownership. If the liability falls with the patient, our job is to speak with him graciously and with tact. There is always a compromise to be made if we are to sustain our patient’s trust and loyalty.  

Related: Super optician to the rescue!

The road to trust

Positive first impressions are sustained with every patient interaction; consistent monitoring of patient relations through communication becomes our tool to maintain patient confidence. Utilizing social media with announcements of activities, new instruments, or new team members are exciting for our team and is a great way to continue communication between patients’ visits.

With a reliance on the integrity we demonstrate when providing our patients with improved eye health and vision, our patients understand that our goal is to enrich their lives with better-quality vision resulting in improved eye health. It is through trust that commitment will be built. It is important to remember that trust is ongoing and must never be lost. With trust comes the power to develop and maintain patient loyalty, almost always a guarantee for continued practice growth. 

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