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How to Keep Your Relationships with Patients Strong—Starting with the First Visit

How to Keep Your Relationships with Patients Strong—Starting with the First Visit by Elements magazine | pbahealth.com


July 25, 2016


As an independent community pharmacist, you know that it’s vital to develop and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with your patients. But, how exactly do you go about doing that?

It’s not enough to just establish an initial rapport, you have to continuously keep up with your relationships in order to make them mutually beneficial. Your patients will benefit by receiving the best possible care from a pharmacy they trust, while your pharmacy will benefit from loyal patients spending more money and bringing in referrals.

It’s important to remember that every encounter you have with a patient is an opportunity to build a closer professional bond.

Here are some tips to help you establish and nurture relationships with your patients.

Develop the relationship

First visit
First impressions are always important. When patients initially fill a prescription at your pharmacy or use one of your services, such as getting an immunization, they need to have a good experience. They should leave their first visit with a lasting impression of high quality pharmacy-based care.

One of the simplest and most important aspects of a patient’s first visit is how they’re treated. Patients should be treated in a friendly, professional and respectful manner. They should feel comfortable in your pharmacy and at ease when interacting with your staff.

All of your employees should be trained on providing excellent customer service, and be prepared to deliver that service from the initial meeting to the conclusion of the visit. If a patient is using one of your services, such as scheduling a medication synchronization counseling session, you should explain the process of the visit beforehand, so they’re prepared.

For example, make sure they know if they need to bring anything with them for the visit, and call them a few days beforehand as a reminder.

It’s also beneficial to provide patients with accurate information regarding their financial responsibilities. Communicating with patients about payment arrangements and what is expected from them is essential in establishing a positive relationship.

Follow-up visits
Follow-up visits are necessary to assess and monitor your patients’ progress if they’re using one of your services, such as your smoking cessation program. They’re also a vital part of developing relationships with patients.

During these visits, you should reinforce the importance of your patients’ progress, praise their achievements and encourage the continuation of healthy behaviors.

If patients have not adhered to treatment recommendations, respond with empathy. Work with patients to figure out why this occurred, and address the issue by helping to find a solution.

Show patients you really care by investigating the causes of failures, and working to find ways to fix them to achieve their treatment goals. Be sure to address any additional issues or concerns that may have arisen since the initial visit.

Maintain the relationship

Be realistic
When deciding to promote a particular patient care service, make sure your staff can fully meet patients’ expectations regarding that service. Consider introducing a new service gradually as opposed to a full-on promotion to ensure patients’ needs can actually be met.

Deliver on your promises
If you can’t deliver as promised, your pharmacy will lose its credibility, and it can negatively affect your relationships with patients. Before promoting a service, carefully assess your knowledge and skills to determine whether or not you can make that service successful.

In order to meet patients’ expectations and maintain effective relationships, you need to properly train employees.

After initial training, provide regular continuing education for your employees to keep their skills and knowledge sharp. Service provided to patients needs to be consistent and of the highest quality, no matter who provides it, or when.

You also need to assess your resources.

Evaluate whether or not a new service will require changes to the layout of your pharmacy, extra staffing or other adjustments. And, be sure to make those changes before promoting the service. Regularly assess the functionality of your pharmacy to ensure it’s designed to meet your patients’ needs and that the services you offer can be properly executed.

Listen to your patients
Every time you interact with patients, they form a perception of your pharmacy’s service quality, which ultimately affects their decision to continue using your business.

Because it’s not realistic to expect service to always be perfect, your pharmacy should have a plan in place to manage situations when your patients’ expectations aren’t met.

Patients should feel comfortable and encouraged to share their feedback about your pharmacy’s service. Any complaints should be addressed promptly, sincerely and professionally. It’s important that patients understand their concerns are valued, and that they will be addressed.

When you do address a dissatisfied patient’s complaint, make sure you create a noticeable difference—one that the patient will recognize and appreciate. If a patient sees that you acknowledged their concerns and also made improvements, it will strengthen your relationship.

Relationships with patients aren’t the only ones you need to nurture. Check out these tips to improve pharmacist-physician relationships.

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