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Simple steps to enhance the patient experience can improve your experience as well.

Fam Pract Manag. 2022;29(2):27-32

This content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial relationships.

As you are preparing to see a new patient today, you reflect on the brief notes you made while reviewing his previous medical records and doing pre-visit planning with your team. According to documentation from his prior family physician, Leon Backer played Division I college football at the University of Notre Dame. Now in his mid-50s, Mr. Backer has moved to your community and works as a financial planner. After knocking on the exam room door, you enter and introduce yourself, greet Mr. Backer using his preferred name, sit down facing him, and start the conversation by talking about something you figure will capture his interest: college football and his time at Notre Dame.

You know the importance of first impressions. Before you even enter the exam room Mr. Backer has already had multiple interactions — with the receptionist who scheduled the appointment, the staff member who welcomed him to the clinic, the medical assistant who took his vital signs, etc. You explain the roles of each staff member and their importance to the team.

You ask what has brought him to town and how the transition has been for him and his family. In reading his social history, you recall he has two children, the oldest of whom has just started college. After chatting for a bit, you move on to the purpose of the visit by asking, “What do you hope we accomplish today?”

He wants to talk about high cholesterol, so you add that to the agenda. When you later bring up COVID-19 vaccination, he expresses hesitancy and says he's not willing to receive the vaccine today. You ask if you may call him in a week to reassess. He smiles and says that you may. You set a reminder in the EHR so that you will follow through on this commitment.

As you end your first visit together, you thank him for giving you the opportunity to be his family physician. You have established a sense of trust, started ongoing dialogue, and set a plan of care in place. You have also set expectations for your relationship and discussed your communication and follow-up plans, which your staff has detailed in a visit summary.

As Mr. Backer leaves the exam room to check out and arrange a follow-up video visit after his fasting labs, you cannot resist the urge to say, “Go Irish!”

A week later, when you call him as promised, he is surprised that you followed through. He agrees to come in and get his first COVID vaccine, which you had discussed at the prior visit. “It must be important if you took the time to call me,” he says.

KEY POINTS

  • A positive patient experience is the result of multiple factors and interactions throughout the patient journey.

  • Physicians and their teams can improve the patient experience through practical steps, such as expanding visit options, using pre-visit planning to keep visits organized, and involving patients in their care decisions.

  • To improve visits, try simple strategies such as sitting down, avoiding medical jargon, providing visit summaries, and using the “teach-back” technique.

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