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The Often-Forgotten Five-Minute Rule for Every Physician Practice

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

forgotten five minute ruleIf you live and work with the hints and helps in short maxims, there are dozens of “five-minute rules” to guide you in everything from computer science to digital discourse. Some of these “rules” are informal at best.

In computer science, the five-minute random rule says to cache randomly accessed disk pages that are re-used every five minutes. (If you don't know what that means, you don't need it). In college, if the professor isn’t present five minutes (or is it ten?) after the start time, the class may leave. Or, there’s the guideline that says you can sneak away from work five minutes after the boss has gone.

But other quick imperatives—such as The Five-Minute Rule for Doctors—are serious, helpful and highly effective tools in medical practice marketing. Our Five-Minute Rule for Doctors is a key ingredient in the design and implementation of an office procedure to warmly welcome new patients.

The principle is akin to the idea that you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. The doctor’s five-minute rule says that, in meeting a new patient, the provider should invest the first few (three to five) minutes in greeting the individual on a personal level. The intent is to engage in an initial conversation that is non-clinical…getting to know the person, their family, or just about anything other than the reason for the healthcare appointment.

Although this simple technique is widely known (and costs nothing), it is commonly forgotten or shortchanged. Using it in the new patient welcome process, however, has important benefits. The rule helps to:

  • Establish trust
  • Open channels of communications
  • Develop rapport, understanding and empathy
  • Initiate a bond among patient, provider and practice
  • Create a foundation for a positive patient experience

Corollaries to this rule say that (a) the doctor needs to use it consistently with each new patient; (b) the doctor has the most impact with the patient, but every member of the staff should also apply the rule; and (c) don’t skip this rule because the office is "too busy."

Variations of this principle can be found in business.

On giving or getting advice: “The good advice usually came only after the advisor took the time, even if only a few minutes, to understand my situation. My only unconditional advice to you is not to take advice seriously if the advisor doesn’t spend at least five minutes understanding your situation first."  [Business Insider]

On investing or financial affairs: “If you don’t understand the thesis underlying an investment in five minutes or less, take a pass.” [Morningstar Investment Conference]

In healthcare marketing—and new patient welcome procedure specifically—a trusting patient is more likely to follow-through with treatment recommendations, and satisfied patients refer friends and family. It’s simple, easy to do, and, not surprisingly, only takes a few minutes.

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