Are Your Key Messages Echoing Throughout Your Practice?

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO May 10, 2013

I am sure you are familiar with the exercise where you tell a story to the first person, who tells it to a second, and a third, and so on. By the time it gets back to the originator, it is almost always a far different story. This very phenomenon can easily happen in our optometric practices. We may think that we have clearly communicated the words we want used to describe a condition or procedure, only to find out that our scripts have been forgotten.

It is important that we have a uniform delivery of key messages. We would all agree that there is usually a "best way" to describe something. Our doctor/patient interaction is always enhanced when our words are echoed by the staff. However, the best way is not always utilized.

If you are ready for a real surprise, spend some time listening to what is actually being said in the office. You might be pleasantly surprised to hear your preferred key messaging being accurately communicated throughout the office. However, you might instead, be alarmed to find out that the communication train is off the tracks.

We have developed scripted key messages in our practice which are supposed to be used by everyone. In many cases, the key messages are posted for easy review. However, we had gotten away from regularly monitoring the actual conversations. The result was way too much variation and not nearly enough attention to detail!

Nothing good happens when we go off script. Firstly, the power of repetition is lost. Patients are far less likely to remember key messages when they are stated inconsistently. In addition, important qualifiers such as, "doctor recommended," "comparative," "preventative," etc., can be omitted. Worse yet, incorrect and contradictory information can be delivered. Certainly, communication becomes less effective. If we expect patients to follow our recommendations, our effectiveness will be improved with uniform phrasing throughout the office.

There is simply no room for key message variability. Individual style and approach are fantastic in personal communication, but not for professional communication. Free styling should not be allowed if we want to achieve the most effective response.

My recommendation is to review your key messages for accuracy and for effect. Second, make it a priority to standardize descriptors for both doctors and staff. Third, initiate a plan to listen regularly to what is being said and to judge the relative effectiveness. This is such an important practice initiative that we have designated message competency as a key measure in staff evaluation.

As I See It, there is always a best way to say something. If we want someone to know something we have to tell them…and tell them consistently. The clearer the message and the more often they hear it, the more likely our patients will understand. Let’s be sure that our preferred key messages echo throughout our practices.

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