Top Six Ways to Engage with Your Patients.
A 2019 Quality Care Commission (QCC) survey found patients’ ongoing concerns were inadequate communication from the practitioners overseeing their treatments. Respondents to the survey highlighted issues around their discharge, aftercare, prescriptions and possible side effects of those prescriptions. While this study can’t apply to all fields of medicine it does demonstrate the need for clear, ongoing communication between practitioners and their patients. This isn’t a novel issue in healthcare; studies have repeatedly shown that the main driver for negative patient experiences is ‘poor communication’.
The traditional model with scheduled appointments, referrals and follow up is no longer enough to make a patient feel satisfied. Before an appointment patients can now look up their symptoms and search for reviews about the practitioner they want to treat them. They can harness the power of the internet to help determine if your practice is going to adequately meet and exceed their expectations. This means that modern practitioners and healthcare clinics must also harness the power of the internet to engage their patients and demonstrate a willingness to communicate in and around the in-clinic experience.
Doctify believes that improving communication is good for patients and good for business. By elevating your online communications you can better retain your existing patients and help attract new ones.
Here are the top six ways you can engage your existing patients and improve your communications
Create a Safe Space for Questions. Communication is a two-way street and as a medical practitioner, you know patients will have questions about their treatments and therapies. Consider starting your consultation by telling the patient they will have time to ask any questions they might have. This can allow the patient time to formulate questions while you are building your understanding of their condition. Once you have a diagnosis and when you have answered the patient’s questions let them know they can contact you with any further questions that arise. If you can create a safe space for questions this can encourage patients to participate in the communication process and take responsibility for their understanding.
Collect and Reply to Online Reviews. The patient journey begins long before they step into your waiting room. From discussions with friends to online searches the patient is building a vision of what they expect from their treatment. A study in 2017 found that as much as 93% of consumers said that online reviews influenced their decisions. Online reviews demonstrate the quality of service they can expect and how satisfied other patients have been with their outcomes. Patients don’t just read the reviews, they read the replies. Practitioners and clinics should always reply to online reviews, both positive and negative. Positive reviews are an opportunity to highlight successful outcomes and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to care. Negative reviews are an opportunity to clarify a patient’s issues and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to improving your services. By being humble, non-combative and understanding you can turn a negative review into something that reflects well on the clinic. Studies have shown that people are more influenced by positive reviews and the accompanying replies than negative reviews and their replies. Gathering reviews in a dedicated specialist environment is also critical. Doctify profiles are designed especially for the healthcare industry and are easily integrated into your existing processes. A profile on a major trusted healthcare platform such as Doctify can help new patients find you and, after their treatment, share their experience. These reviews, when managed properly have the power to help drive more patients your way. At Doctify, our goal is to help connect patients to practitioners and solidify the patient/doctor relationship through quality communications. Setting up a Doctify profile is easy and our specialist system provides you with all the tools you need to actively encourage patient feedback.
Post-Success Stories on Social Media and Reply to Comments. Of course, reviews aren’t the only place patients can gauge the quality of services you offer. 80% of Instagram users say that posts have helped them decide whether to buy a product or service. Companies that post regularly and engage with the comments are capitalising on this, while company’s that aren’t, are missing out. Content such as success stories or selected quotes from patent reviews resonates well with patients seeking to understand the quality of your care. This type of content also acts as a catalyst for discussions where you can engage with existing and prospective clients in the comments section. Patients might use this space to share their experiences, or ask questions. If you are replying and connecting with them, you are further reinforcing your commitment to providing the best level of communication and service.
Offer Online Consultations. Since the global Covid pandemic patients and practitioners have had minimise physical contact and embraced alternative methods of communication. While a simple phone call can generate all the information you might need to make an adequate diagnosis a video consultation offers so much more. Practitioners benefit from the ability to observe the patient directly, spot diagnostic clues and offer an essential vital therapeutic presence. Likewise, patients benefit from being able to make appointments at their convenience from the safety of their home or workplace while still receiving the reassurance of a face to face interaction. Good communication isn’t just about what you say or how well you listen, it is about creating spaces where that communication can happen in the first place. By offering online video consultations you are enabling patients who might struggle to make a clinical appointment. Doctify offers one of the most advanced and secure telemedicine systems in the world as part of its services. Video calls can be easily scheduled through your regular browser and you won’t need to download any specialist software.
Offer a Post-Treatment Follow Up. While the 2019 CQC study highlighted poor communication as a driving factor in patient disappointment, it also pinpointed that the communication often broke down at the close of treatment. Patients raised concerns around their discharge, aftercare, prescriptions and possible side effects from those prescriptions. The period at the end of a treatment or therapy can be unsettling for a patient, the absence of adequate reassurance from a trusted professional can leave the patient feeling abandoned. this doesn’t have to be the case and can be easily mitigated with proper post-consultation or post-treatment follow up. If the patient meets with a consultant and then goes elsewhere to have the therapy they will invariably expect the consultant to follow their treatment, their progress and take an interest in the outcome. Even a short follow up appointment, phone call or video call can help patients feel like they have come to the end of their treatment with all their questions answered.
Set Up an Email Newsletter. For some practitioners and clinics, it is worth setting up a newsletter to keep your patients informed about new developments and new services. Physiotherapists, dentists, cosmetic surgeons and therapists can all benefit by maintaining a link with their patients long after their treatments have concluded. A dental patient who had an urgent procedure in the autumn may choose to have tooth-whitening in the Spring. By maintaining that connection to their email inbox you can keep them informed of the services and offers you have and stay foremost in their mind when other needs arise. Newsletters can help your clients recruit new business for you. A physiotherapist who has helped a patient regain mobility in their shoulder might see an email and forward it to a friend who is also in need of such a treatment. Newsletters are often dismissed as annoying and unwanted spam, but statistics show that a company’s newsletter is opened and read by around 22% of the recipients. With that number rising to 50% for personalised newsletters. That is a vastly higher engagement rate than Instagram and Facebook.
Improving your communications strategy can boost the satisfaction rate amongst your patients, ensure better clinical outcomes for patients and drive new enquiries and new business to your door. Doctify provides a host of specialist healthcare services that can help you connect with your patients. To find out more contact the Doctify team at email@example.com.