High- and low-tech ways to avoid multi-media rejection

This week's column was inspired, in part, by a snippet of one of my all-time favorite movies: "He's Just Not That Into You."

Here is the quote, spoken by Drew Barrymore, who plays Mary, an avid online dater having trouble getting in-person relationships off the ground:

"I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting."

Although this film came out in 2009, Mary's point is even more relevant today, on the dating scene and elsewhere, too.

Consider, for example, the myriad of modalities you currently have to communicate with patients, physicians, colleagues, employees, job candidates, business associates or anyone else you interact with on behalf of your practice.

Each option has strengths and weaknesses, whether used alone or in combination with one another. When communicating with all of these techniques, think not only about which one is the right choice but also how you can best use each given modality:

In person: In today's tech-heavy world, the face-to-face conversation is often considered a dying art. Even doctors, who've always relied on in-person exchanges in the exam room, have had to learn to overcome communication barriers posed by having to type into an electronic medical record during visits. But successful executives have long espoused the value of "management by walking around."

Doug Conant, former president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, for example, took this management technique so seriously that he used a pedometer to track whether he reached his goal of taking 10,000 daily steps walking around the office and connecting with employees. Despite his busy schedule, Conant would spend about 30 minutes a day on these walks, which he squeezed in during varying parts of the work day, demonstrating to employees that he was actively working to be present with them.

While it doesn't always make sense to interrupt what another person is doing by initiating this facetime, don't overlook the potential impact and efficiency of handling some matters the old-fashioned way.

Handwritten note: I got a greeting card in the mail the other day--not for my birthday or a holiday--but just because. Because the person took the time to pick out a card, write in it with an actual pen, address it, find a stamp and go through all those other archaic steps, the message got through far more strongly than it would have via an email, text message or post on my Facebook wall.

Campbell's Conant agrees. According to a video created by Harvard Business Review, Conant wrote about 30,000 personal notes to employees in recognition of their contributions to the company during his 10 years as CEO for 20,000 employees around the world. The keys to making the notes work, he told HBR, was they were not gratuitous but called out specific employee actions he wanted to commend.

Phone: When well-done, automated phone systems can save employees and patients time. But beware the dreaded phone tree to educate patients about your office, and make sure your employees are trained to engage with callers in a reasonable, helpful way. When working to improve your practice's telephone service, experts advise to prioritize creating the right tone, using scripts to handle frequent scenarios and recognizing when it's appropriate for physicians to take calls directly.

Patient portal: While more practices are embracing this technology, there's always room to optimize. For starters, be sure your physicians are competent with the system you're using and comfortable recommending it to patients. If patients don't get the sense that their doctors want them to use the portal, or they don't hear about it, they're unlikely to sign up and/or use it. And when you're setting up or upgrading your system, consider listening to your patients and considering their what they want a patient portals to do.

Email/secure messaging: This week, we ran a top story describing the ways secure email messaging with patients benefits practices. But when choosing your communication technique and crafting your messages to colleagues, to keep in mind factors such as:

  • the urgency of your message
  • the other person's communication style
  • the complexity of your message and the likely response
  • the sensitivity of the conversation
  • how fast you want to hear back
  • any areas of potential ambiguity, including your intended tone

Text message: While a small subset of physicians have formed a satisfactory way to use text messaging with patients, how you use SMS technology with employees, coworkers or business associates should be evaluated carefully on a case-by-case basis. Simply put, some people prefer text messages to any other kind of communication. Others despise it. You have to find out which camp your recipient is in before you'll have any success in transmitting and receiving the information you need via text or otherwise.

Social media: As a communication tool, social media has probably equal number caveats as it does benefits. Pay attention to whom you're talking to, what your message is, and whether Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are truly where these conversations belong.

Most importantly, whatever communication technique you choose, try to make it the one that's most likely to engage the person on the other end--so that neither of you end up feeling rejected at all. - Deb (@PracticeMgt)




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