Keeping patients happy and building a strong practice

Robin Lansman
Written by Robin Lansman

An Osteopaths view on the benefits of getting to know patient expectations.

No matter what your Practise – whether you’re a massage therapist, yoga teacher, energy healer or manual therapist – having happy “Patients” or “Clients” is a good feeling as well as great at helping a Practice flourish!

After more than 30 years as an osteopath – now part of the 14 Allied Health Professions, it is still a buzz to have the phone ring, with a person saying they were recommended by someone they know to come to see me. In fact, it is an honour and a privilege! Their trust in me is already enhanced because someone they know “trusts” me and values my professional help.

Maintain trust

It is always worth keeping in mind, that everyone is so different – no matter how anyone really hopes you can help them, setting expectations at the outset, is key to maintaining trust. Saying you cannot help them is absolutely fine too, hopefully with a good idea as to who could see, to get appropriate help they need.

Worry can easily cloud an individual’s judgement. In my experience, when people get into a cycle of desperation and disappointment, whilst suffering, it is hard for them to really “take in “what might be planned, advised, or suggested for their particular care plan and needs. Having someone else along with them, is a good suggestion as a chaperone and as an advocate.

Maybe they haven’t been heard or understood. Maybe, they have not got the help they were hoping for and their efforts and financial investment, may seem wasted.

Trust is hard to gain and so easy to lose between patients and their chosen health practitioner. Word of mouth and online reviews can do wonders, as well as damage reputations, over sometimes small and seemingly insignificant misunderstandings.

Communication skills

Confident communications skills and the ability to sincerely explore and explain concepts and concerns as well as your specific approach to healthcare is so important. Those skills used well promote a trusting and professional relationship that also has appropriate boundaries in place too.   

My aim is to engage all my patients by exploring and understanding what they really need, in my professional opinion, as well as what they likely “do not need”. After all, many people these days, have researched widely online well before they attend their first appointment.  It can sometimes be necessary to unpick the carefully gleaned information to ensure advice they are continuing to follow is not, in the new light of a new approach, counterproductive.

Sharing how many sessions, over what time scale that might be needed is important, but even more important – how much improvement can be expected over all and at what stages of the treatment.

Educating patients to “measure” changes and the value to their lifestyle and health, ensures we are all on the same page.

Frequently in Osteopathy, addressing the root cause of the problem means treating an area that is often not the most painful. At first, a patient may be bewildered and question the site of treatment as they are so passionate about the pain they are suffering. The detailed explanation as to why the site of treatment breaks with their expectations, is also educating them about why they have the problem, its cause and why it hasn’t resolved with no outside help, to date!

A working partnership

Healthcare these days needs to be collaborative and a form of working partnership in so many ways. The NICE guidelines and The King’s Fund organisations offer much research and background papers on these ways of working to be found online.

Keeping open and honest is a health professional duty of care. It also keeps word of mouth referrals strong. Our patient questions and queries can also guide areas of our work that need further research. This will inform and develop quality of practise and become a useful part of pertinent CPD for the year.

Happy patients recommending their friends, colleagues, as well as family and sports teammates produces a satisfying virtuous circle, that has kept me busy for many years and kept each day fresh.