My front office manager does a great job in greeting every patient by name when they first walk through the door. If she is currently on the phone or with another patient, an attempt is still made to greet the patient and let them know we will be with them right away. My hygienist or dental assistant step in to make sure that patients are greeted promptly and personally when my office manager is busy. This may sound like common sense, but the vast majority of medical front offices do not treat patients in this manner.

I’m reminded of sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office when a woman walked in frantically informing the receptionist that she thought she was having a hypertensive attack. The receptionist told her to have a seat and someone would be with her shortly. We were the only people in the waiting room and I observed this lady squirming in her chair as the time rolled by. Five minutes elapsed as I listened to the receptionists gossiping about someone else’s life. I watched them file their nails and chat as the patient fidgeted nervously. Finally, she approached the window and asked if she could come in and have someone take her blood pressure. I was relieved that I wouldn’t now be called upon to administer CPR to one of my medical doctor’s patients in his own office.

Though this true story may represent an extreme example, similar anecdotes involving the medical office “witch-ceptionist” abound. Given the fact that it is far more common for these employees to be aloof, cold and unfriendly, efforts to train a staff to interact in the converse manner do not go unnoticed. When attempting to establish an insurance independent dental practice, it is mandatory to have an attitude of caring and concern for your patients. This practice philosophy falls under the auspices of internal marketing and will over time generate consistent patient referrals and a tremendously loyal patient base. Obtaining these two results should be the primary focus of your overall marketing campaign.

My receptionist makes every effort to remember family members’ names and engages in conversation while my patients wait. This helps to put nervous patients at ease and lends a family atmosphere to my office. My front office manager and hygienist make notes on the daily schedule regarding patient’s interests and family members’ names to ensure that all staff members can make the patient feel important, valued and remembered. I include a dedicated page in the patient record that documents information unique to that patient, like the fact that he is fluent in Russian or that she was a competitive Equestrian in her youth.

Using the patient’s name may appear as an obvious principle, but consider the emotion elicited in you when your doctor calls you by name. More important is the routine recollection of your name by the doctor and staff. You feel important, valued and remembered. I know I do. This feeling is consistent not only at the doctor’s office but within any business entity that claims you as a customer. You are made to feel welcomed and wanted. It should be your goal in business to provide this feeling to your clientele. In no manner is it easier to establish this rapport than by simply remembering and utilizing your patients’ names.

The take home point in the discussion of greeting patients is consistent through all instances of patient interaction. People tend to be fonder of their name than any other commodity they possess. This is true even if they would have rather been labeled something else at birth. This particular designation has accompanied them through every occasion in their lives. It was exclaimed during the first reprimand by their mother, pronounced by their teacher at the first day of school, whispered by their first girlfriend and recognized on graduation day. Their name is their identity. Remember it and you will go a long way toward remembering the name of a loyal patient for life.