It’s crucial to end an appointment well: Here’s how to do it

By Judith Vonberg

The next client is waiting, you still haven’t discussed next steps, and the clock is ticking. It’s tempting to rush through the last items and boot your client out the door with a frantic “see you soon!” After all, you’ve been person-centered for 95% of the appointment – that’s what counts, right?

Unfortunately not – that final 5% is critical to the success of the appointment and your client’s satisfaction. The way a clinician summarizes the diagnosis or recommendations can help (or hinder) the client in understanding and later recalling that information, while a distracted demeanor in those final minutes can damage the rapport you’ve worked hard to build.

And if the client brings up a new problem at the last minute, it’s important that the clinician responds with empathy and active listening, not an eye on the clock. One study showed that the “oh by the way” phenomenon occurs in 23% of medical visits, even where the physician had asked open-ended questions earlier in the appointment, and it’s common in hearing care appointments too. 

How you respond is important, even if it’s just to suggest the client makes another appointment where you’ll have time to discuss it.

Three habits that can help

Clinical audiologist and researcher Dr Samantha Tai addresses those final minutes of an audiology appointment in Module 7 of the Ida University Course, Applying PCC in the Appointment, drawing on the Four Habits model by Richard Frankel and Terry Stein.

She explains that doing this phase well means your client will leave with a clear understanding of what was discussed and the next steps, and with a good impression of you and your partnership. As a result, they’re more likely to act on the decisions you’ve made together. 

And “closing well” doesn’t need to be time-consuming. Tai recommends three habits that can help clinicians end every appointment well, even when time is short:

  • Invite your client to ask further questions if they already haven’t done so. This allows for further clarification if needed – or identification of issues for future appointments.
  • Outline the next steps so these are fresh in the patient’s mind when they leave the appointment. If the patient is recommended to see another health professional, it’s good to provide some reassurance to ease any anxiety. 
  • End on a personal note to reaffirm the relationship. This can be as simple as wishing them a lovely weekend or referencing a personal anecdote if something was raised during the appointment. 

You could also use the last few minutes to recommend one of Ida’s online tools to your client, which can help them prepare for their next appointment.

Ending an appointment well means a happier client and better adherence to treatment – and you’ll likely be less stressed too. 

Take a look at Module 7 of the Ida University Course for further guidance on applying person-centered in each stage of an appointment.