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Doctors need to embrace mystery shopping

Gone are the days of the one-doctor town, where a single doctor made house calls or cared for every family in a 5-mile radius. If you’re a doctor, you aren’t just running a medical practice; you’re running a business. And you need to start treating it like one. Your patients aren’t just patients; they’re your customers. And you need to keep in mind that they have choices now.

They have the Internet, and they’re connected to sometimes hundreds of friends who can share their medical experiences and provide a staggering number of options. They have cars that can drive them to neighboring towns to other practices. Your competitors — yes, you have competitors.

Among your customers’ choices: concierge medicine. For an annual fee or retainer, the most well-off patients can get unparalleled access to their medical-care providers, from home and cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses and same-day appointments with no waiting.

Compare that to many people’s experiences at the doctor’s office: a maze of telephone transfers just to make an appointment, long wait times for appointments scheduled months in advance, even longer waits for labs and test results…frustration runs high in the health-care world. When word gets around that one doctor’s office is doing things really well, and you can bet that people are going to flock to them!

(And now that people can get reviews of medical practitioners on Yelp, Angie’s List and other sources, If you’re running your own practice, you have employees: nurses, lab techs, front-desk staff, maybe even people running your records department. How often are you around to keep an eye on them? Probably not often, if you have a full patient roster.

If a patient has a run-in with a rude or checked-out receptionist, if they’re put on hold for 15 minutes just to make an appointment, if they wait an hour for a routine physical…they’re probably not going to want to return to your practice.

Your employees are a reflection of you and your practice; everything comes back to you, the doctor. You need to care about that. You are running a business, and that makes you a perfect candidate for mystery shops.