Improving the patient experience doesn’t have to be costly. In part one of this two-part series, we took a look at what practices can do offline to change how they interact with patients.
Now, let’s take a look at the online components.
If a practice can provide a patient with access to a portal and with appointment reminders, those experiences will be incredibly helpful. That said, practices can start improving the experience with simpler solutions.
Practices can start with clearly describing what services they provide. When we evaluate many practices’ online communication, we will often find very quick references to the services a practice provides without any real detail. Practices need to slow down and talk about the specifics of what to expect before, during, and after procedures.
Physician profiles are another great opportunity to provide more info than just a CV and a brief description of how the doctor likes to golf and go on long walks on the beach. Okay, I’m kidding with the last part, but you get the point.
Talk about the doctor. Talk about their specializations. Talk about why a patient should see that physician as opposed to someone else in the area.
Clearly State Your Services
Moving beyond the website itself, practices can focus on local listings to help reduce friction and prepare patients appropriately for their appointments.
For instance, practices can use their Google My Business listing (the same data that shows up in map searches) to provide a full listing of their services, provide photos of the practice, and provide any other pertinent details. The more that practices can help patients know what to expect, the more comfortable they will feel.
Little details like parking information or directions to get to the right door inside an office building can help reduce patient anxiety.
Small practices need to be utilizing as many small business communication tools as possible, and directories like Google My Business and Apple Maps are inexpensive ways to reach your patients. At the very least, be sure to claim as many of these kinds of listings as you can so that you can help keep basic information up to date.
Help Set Expectations with Social Media
Practices can also use social media for a low-barrier tool to get messages out to patients. The level of engagement will definitely differ according to the specialty and the audience, but practices can use social media to keep patients informed.
In the last article, we quickly mentioned Dr. Justin Smith’s classification of the stages of the patient experience as they relate to appointments: pre-encounter, encounter, and post-encounter. Dr. Smith uses social media extensively for the sake of helping patients in the pre-encounter and post-encounter stages.
For example, Dr. Smith uses Instagram to help explain to parents exactly what to expect on check-ups for their infants. He talks through exactly which questions they’ll cover in the appointments so that parents feel more prepared and so that they can prepare what questions they’d like to ask him.
Different specialties require unique approaches to social media. A surgeon who treats adults with arthritis will need much different content than a pediatrician, but the intent is still the same. Help patients understand what to expect.
Create Connections through Patient Reviews
You’ve already heard how important patient reviews are. Let’s talk about it from the angle of improving communication and setting expectations.
We all know that the overall score matters in terms of how patients might perceive a practice, but there is more to consider than just the number of stars.
Going back to the social media example, think about how valuable it is for patients to see reviews from their friends and family for a doctor or surgeon. The consumerization of healthcare means that people are paying more attention to review scores in any case, but Facebook provides the opportunity for a patient to have a personal connection to that review score.
If you can, encourage patients to leave more detailed reviews—not just on Facebook but on other systems, as well.
If a patient talks about specific procedures, Google will often pull relevant excerpts for searchers looking for qualified providers. You’ll see that information in a handful of spots in Google results, but the main point here is that you’re creating another opportunity to reassure patients that your practice is qualified to help.
Combine the Online Communication Opportunities
Take a moment to consider how all of these unique channels can fit together.
Someone recommends a patient to go to a specific practice. The patient looks up the practice and easily finds the right contact information and an overall set of review scores. The patient likely clicks on a handful of links to get more information: the map listing, the website, and maybe a review site or two.
In each opportunity, the practice has the opportunity to help shape the conversation by providing details and by responding to reviews or to questions on services like Google My Business.
This level of communication isn’t going to eliminate all of your patient phone calls, but it provides more opportunities to empower your patient.
Pick a Spot to Improve
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of making improvements for any practice is finding the time to implement these changes.
I understand. Everyone in your practice is justifiably busy.
Look for something small, and integrate it into your workflow. Be sure to set up a means to measure the impact if you can.
If you see positive change, be ready to tell that story to your team as you go to make the next change and the next.
Your patients will appreciate it!
About the Author
Michael Roberts spends a great deal of time with the healthcare industry both professionally and personally, which gives him the perspective of what stakeholders on either side of the care equation need. Michael is the marketing director for P3 Inboundand the co-host of the Paradigm Shift of Healthcare podcast, an interview show that discusses how healthcare’s changes impact stakeholders in health systems, insurance companies, technology companies, and the patient population.