Dead Fish and Dead Plants: What Message Are You Sending Your Patients?

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Neil Baum, MD

Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA

Author, Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers


Dead fish in the aquarium and dead plants in your waiting rooms and examination rooms don’t exude a message of confidence to your patients. All of the following are also red flags to patients: ancient magazines in the reception area; a doctor using paper charts instead of electronic medical records; old brochures and patient education materials; prolonged waiting to be seen by the doctor; carrying a paper prescription to the pharmacy; having to wait 30 to 45 minutes to have the prescription filled; long telephone hold times when calling the office; waiting 2 to 3 weeks to obtain the results of a test or study; and failure of the doctor to return calls about laboratory tests and hearing from the staff or doctor that no news is good news! These are all signs of a doctor using antiquated processes that probably do not reflect up-to-date, state-the-of-the-art skills in your practice.

Bottom line: Patients are making clinical decisions based on what they see, hear, and even smell—the non-clinical aspects of your practice. All of these non-clinical signs of being “old school” can easily be changed. So take a moment to look at your practice through your patients’ eyes. Start watering the plants and removing the dead fish from the aquarium!