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    Keys to satisfied patients, successful practice

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    A secret code to indicate that patients are piling up, a well-developed “spidey sense” and free herbal painkiller tablets: These are keys to satisfied patients and a successful practice, a veteran physician told a crowd Thursday at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

    READ: More coverage of the ASDS 2014 Annual Meeting

    Listen to yourself and your staff, says Heidi Waldorf, M.D., with an ear toward detecting warning signals. Think of your “spidey sense” — courtesy of Spider-— or the “Danger, Will Robinson!” catchphrase from “Lost in Space.”

    If you pick up a danger sign, don’t be afraid to “just say no,” says Waldorf, who’s director of Laser & Cosmetic Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “You will never regret not doing a procedure,” she says.

    For example, she says, beware of patients who complain extensively about past doctors and list one problem after another. Watch out for patients who get excessively angry and those who become excessively bonded to a physician or the staff. “A person who loves you too much is going to hate you too much,” Dr. Waldorf says.

    She also recommends making extra efforts to support patients. Allow them to call the office to check on the day’s progress before they arrive, she says, since patients will appreciate knowing they can come in a few minutes late because the practice is behind.

    “If you see the charts piling up, offer the patients some coffee or coconut water,” she says. But what if the back office and front office aren’t communicating? Her clinic has developed two code phrases — “Biopsy 8” and “Biopsy 16” to pass the word along that the waiting room is filling up and the practice is running late. To keep things moving, she says, add last-minute patients to the end of the day so they don’t disrupt the timeline for scheduled patients.

    Dr. Waldorf also recommends a few inexpensive freebies that help patients feel more comfortable after their procedures. Her practice buys arnica tablets, a kind of herbal painkiller, and gives them to patients after procedures. “They love that we’re giving them something under their tongue before they leave,” she says.

    Don’t forget that other people besides patients need to be comfortable at the office, she says. Who are these people? The physician and the staff. That’s why her practice has bought inexpensive small rotating fans to combat the heat from lasers. “They’ve changed our lives in my office,” she says. 

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga is a medical writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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