The Power of a Name

In healthcare, we have access to more information about a person than almost any other industry. Yet, something as simple as a person’s name may be the most powerful piece of information we have to improve the experience we provide. Learning a person’s name, and using it well, is a powerful thing.

Have you ever received a mailing that looks like it was created just for you, then turns out to be a mass mailing with your name thrown on top? For one moment, you feel special and chosen. Then you realize it’s just another piece of junk mail, and you throw it away.  But more than that — for a moment, you feel something valuable has been mistreated. Your name has been mistreated, tricked, and you lose trust in whoever sent the mailing.

Consider, on the other hand, the true wonder when someone from your past sees you at the mall and remembers your name. “Dave, is that you?” It feels wonderful to be recognized, to be known, to feel that someone remembers you, knows you, and can relate to you. This builds and reaffirms trust. Don’t underestimate the power of a name.

Building trust is key in healthcare. Consider some of these practical ideas you can implement today:

  1. Know (and use) every patient’s preferred name. I once followed a cataract consult where, in the course of 45 minutes, three different people asked the patient for his preferred name three different times. He was learning to distrust us each time someone had to ask the question again. Having this information placed prominently on the chart can avoid situations like this.
  2. Have front desk people look ahead at who’s coming in, and be prepared to greet patients by name whenever possible. For many clinics, it’s possible to create pretty accurate guesses about names simply based on age and appointment time. Other clinics we’ve worked with have photo capabilities to pair with their management software. Whatever the tool, imagine the trust that’s built when a front desk staff member can greet the patient by name!
  3. The waiting room “cattle call” is one of the most inhumane moments of our work. We can do better. Instead, have techs approach a person in the waiting room, lay a hand on their shoulder, and say “Sue, we‘re ready for you,” rather than stand near the front of the waiting room and cattle call “Sue!”

Matt Jensen Marketing has created multiple systems with clinics where it is possible to do this regularly, with little to no extra time from staff, and it makes a world of difference to the patient.