How does your practice fare on any of the dozens of physician rating websites that populate the Internet? Do patient comments represent your practice fairly or is it a one-time unflattering rant?
If the overall impression is "positive," a practitioner may embrace the results. But "negatives" that don't reflect well on the physician's marketing, branding or reputation are frustrating if not infuriating.
And once the unflattering comments are posted on the Internet, they are difficult to challenge or change, even when they are false or unjustified.
Proactive control begins with the patient experience
The most practical approach to positive patient comments is by being proactive. A deliberate program of communications and engagement gives every patient the means to feel heard before turning to online social media.
The foundation, of course, is in consistently delivering an overwhelmingly positive patient experience. And when patients feel that you're listening to their concerns and addressing them, they are more likely to become ambassadors, and make referrals to friends and family.
Here are several communications strategies that show patients that you are listening.
Learn how your patients prefer to communicate: While you may or may not like using e-mail, text messaging or online scheduling, your patients might prefer to engage electronically. Consider this to be a facet of your marketing program. (And, yes...this all can be done within HIPAA guidelines.)
Collect e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers: Request this information on patient information forms and ask for written consent to contact them by e-mail or text messaging when appropriate.
Use scripts for welcome, interaction and parting: Don't leave your verbal communications to chance. Scripts are powerful tools to inspire patient feedback, clarify questions or concerns, and assess patient understanding of medical instructions, etc.
Text messages: Consider how to integrate a standardized follow-up text message to remind patients how to contact the office with any questions about their visit, diagnosis, medication or treatment.
Follow-up contacts: Utilize letters or survey questions to help assess the patient's level of satisfaction. You'll be letting them know you care enough to contact them, and to connect with new patients after their first visit.
Follow-up calls: A follow-up call a day or two after a patient's first visit (or treatment or surgery) provides a direct channel for questions and encourages treatment or medication compliance.
Post an FAQ page on your website: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions further understanding and patient education. Remind patients during their visit that the website is an information resource for their use.
E-newsletter: Regular communication by e-mail/newsletter promotes your accessibility and positive information.
Relevant educational materials: Empower your patients with relevant and research-based articles about health conditions. An authoritative source of your own is superior to potentially erroneous information online.
A consistent communications program has the potential to create the kind of advocates who are encouraged to go online and post glowing reviews of your services, as well as refute negative ones you can't address yourself.
The good news is that that most online comments are positive. More importantly, well-informed and engaged patients are more likely to experience better health and outcomes.
© Copyright Healthcare Success Strategies, Inc. Published with permission from the authors.
About the authors
Lonnie Hirsch and Stewart Gandolf, MBA are two of America’s most experienced healthcare marketers. They have a combined 30 years experience, have written hundreds of articles and have consulted with over 3,500 healthcare clients, including medical groups, hospitals, doctors and corporations. Additionally, Lonnie and Stewart have spoken at hundreds of venues across North America to tens of thousands of healthcare executives and doctors. As co-founders of Healthcare Success Strategies, they lead a team of over 40 Healthcare Marketing All-Stars. You may reach either of them directly by calling 800-656-0907, through their website at www.HealthcareSuccess.com or via email at .