Is Your Office Client- and Parent-Friendly? If you want to attract and keep clients, try viewing your practice from the clients’—and their parents’—points of view. Here are some pointers to get you started. In Private Practice
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In Private Practice  |   September 01, 2014
Is Your Office Client- and Parent-Friendly?
Author Notes
  • Dana M. Merritt, MS, CCC-SLP, owner of Merritt Speech & Learning (www.merrittspeech.com) in Jacksonville, Florida, has been in private practice since 1997. She is a member of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. dana@merrittspeech.com
    Dana M. Merritt, MS, CCC-SLP, owner of Merritt Speech & Learning (www.merrittspeech.com) in Jacksonville, Florida, has been in private practice since 1997. She is a member of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. dana@merrittspeech.com×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Practice Management / In Private Practice
In Private Practice   |   September 01, 2014
Is Your Office Client- and Parent-Friendly?
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.19092014.40
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.19092014.40
When you set up a private practice, of course you need a solid infrastructure for the nuts and bolts of running a business: billing, scheduling, payroll, accounting and other functions. But equally as important as these behind-the-scenes processes is a visible, client-friendly atmosphere that makes treatment smooth for young clients and their parents.
To make your practice attractive to those you serve, consider taking a step back to view your office from their perspective.
Live up to your online image
The first glimpse that a parent gets of your private practice is usually on your business website. If you have a state-of-the-art online presence, you want to be sure that your brick-and-mortar presence matches. I recently had an appointment with a health care provider who came recommended by his patients and whose website portrayed a cutting-edge business image. On my first visit, I was shocked to find myself in an office that looked and felt like it was straight out of the 1950s—not in a purposeful retro way, but in an old-fashioned, shabby way. I was looking for a provider on the cutting edge of his field—did his outdated office reflect his medical practice as well?
As it turns out, I was impressed with the provider. But the image he initially projected did not inspire my confidence.
After that visit, I thought about my own business image, which I try to project as concerned, professional, individualized and thorough. I asked the parents of my clients if my website projects a business image that is consistent with their actual experience, and was relieved that the response was overwhelmingly “yes.” You might want to consider asking your clients this question, too.
Help parents understand your process
The parents’ second look at your practice is during their child’s evaluation. Rather than old magazines to help them pass the time, I supply three activities to help them understand the evaluation and remediation process. The first is a 24-minute video that explains each test the child will take. I give the parents a one-page handout that summarizes each test. During the video, the parents wear headphones and follow along in a notebook that contains the actual tests.
I also invite parents to review notebooks that include my favorite research reports and to look through books on visual processing, auditory processing and motor processing disorders. I stack the books in three piles, with the easiest book on top.
I also leave my book open to the neuroscience chapter so parents can begin to understand the power of developing new neural pathways to make a change in the child’s speech, language and learning skills.
Most of the parents want some insight into their child’s behaviors and actions—some will only listen to the video, others will take a look at some of the other information. It’s their choice—I just want them to see how my treatment strategies are consistent with research so they can make informed decisions about pursuing treatment.
It doesn’t matter what your specialty is—voice, fluency, augmentative devices, cognitive impairment or whatever you have chosen—parents will appreciate learning more about your approach to the remediation process.
Keep kids from getting bored
A very, very long time ago, I was that patient sitting across from the speech-language pathologist for nine years of my young impressionable life. I had a severe speech impediment and could not pronounce the /r/. I sat through testing, year after year, bored beyond my wits. (Thankfully, a school-based SLP changed my entire life’s path by properly diagnosing the cause of my speech impairment: ankyloglossia. After the minor frenulum-clipping procedure that allowed me to elevate my tongue into the ideal position and three months of treatment, my speech problems were gone.)
But I vividly remember the boredom during testing, and my advice is simple: Get a big box of interesting items that the child, adolescent or even adult can manipulate and play with as you transition from one test item to the next. My box contains toy eye balls, a slinky, a barrel of monkeys, stretchy balls, magnetic sculptures, squeezable stretchable items, spiral bubble timers, liquid motion bubblers, an Etch A Sketch, a pinwheel and wind-up toys, to name a few of the items. As I transition from one test to another, I hand the student a manipulative. The kids love having something to look at and play with, even for 30 seconds. I also have a mini-trampoline in the office. If the child gets too wiggly or floppy, I let the child jump on the mini-tramp while holding my hand for a few minutes.
Testing can take more than two hours to complete. Having a manipulable to play with keeps my kids alert and energized and they walk out of my office smiling. (The parents, who have been immersed in assessment and treatment information for two hours, are amazed by their child’s reaction.)
Give immediate feedback
My last advice is straightforward: Compile all of your test conversion information in one large binder. As soon as testing is finished, bring the parents into your office and present the results. They do not want to come back to find out what you have just learned. They want to know now. (Ideally, the child is out in the waiting room, playing or relaxing and enjoying a healthy snack the parents have brought along.) Make sure the parents have a heads-up that the entire appointment—interview, testing and results—will take up to about four hours.
Using these four suggestions will help assure parents of your ability to help treat the child’s difficulty. Your satisfied clients will tell other parents, helping to build your practice. Making changes to improve the clients’ perspective and experience has the potential to yield big dividends.
Sources
Stewart, E. E., & McMillen, M. (June 2008). How to see your practice through your patients’ eyes. Family Practice Management,15(6), 18–20. www.aafp.org/fpm/2008/0600/p18.html
Stewart, E. E., & McMillen, M. (June 2008). How to see your practice through your patients’ eyes. Family Practice Management,15(6), 18–20. www.aafp.org/fpm/2008/0600/p18.html×
Andrade, C. C., Lima, M. L., Pereira, C. R., Fornara, F., & Bonaiuto, M. (2013). Inpatients’ and outpatients’ satisfaction: The mediating role of perceived quality of physical and social environment. Health & Place, 21, 122–132. [Article]
Andrade, C. C., Lima, M. L., Pereira, C. R., Fornara, F., & Bonaiuto, M. (2013). Inpatients’ and outpatients’ satisfaction: The mediating role of perceived quality of physical and social environment. Health & Place, 21, 122–132. [Article] ×
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2004). Knowledge and skills in business practices for speech-language pathologists who are managers and leaders in health care organizations [Knowledge and Skills]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2004). Knowledge and skills in business practices for speech-language pathologists who are managers and leaders in health care organizations [Knowledge and Skills]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.×
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2013). SLP Health Care Survey report: Private practice trends, 2007–2013. Available from www.asha.org.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2013). SLP Health Care Survey report: Private practice trends, 2007–2013. Available from www.asha.org.×
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September 2014
Volume 19, Issue 9