The Future of Profitable Healthcare Is Marketing
The rate of change in medical technology is astounding. Practitioners and providers alike have more tools available to them now than ever before and this trend looks set to continue well into the foreseeable future. That trend is one which applies to our patients use of technology, too.
Prospective patients routinely review online forums, review and ratings sites, before selecting their healthcare provider. They look at the experience of other patients of yours and determine from those reviews whether they want to be the next one to enter your waiting room. Or not. If your overall patient experience is good, this can drive prospective patients through your doors. Of course, if the overall patient experience is bad, it can drive the same prospective patients through your doors. Only, of course, in the other direction. One bad review (whether justified or not) can stop your door from opening at all. What can you do about that?
Healthcare will be increasingly driven by social media and community interactions between patients. That is clear. Just like choosing a restaurant, people shop around to see what will work best for them. In many cases, by the time a patient actually picks up the phone to make an appointment they already know everything they need to know about your organization and what they can expect of your service.
So, to make certain that your organization will gain the maximum benefit from this growing phenomenon it makes sense to be aware of this trend, and be open to the adoption of new workflows. You have to start marketing.
Knowing which web sites your prospective patients frequent is the first item on the agenda. This can be determined in a manner of ways. The first is the most basic: Ask them. A quick "Hi, so you’re a first time visitor. Just wondering where you heard about us?" opens the conversational door. Was it word of mouth, magazine, web site? Make notes. You can check out any web site references yourself later to see what others have said about you – and here’s a warning, you may want to sit down for this. Joe Public does not pull punches.
Another way is to have a comments box on the counter at reception, asking the same or a similar question. Some have even turned this activity into a small contest where those that take the time to complete a questionnaire have a chance to win a gift card. Patient networking, in effect. And it works.
However you choose to gather information, acting upon it is the next step. For example, how do you deal with bad online reviews? Well, honestly, that depends on whether the bad review is accurate. Getting into an online argument is a sure fire way to lose face, but if that review was accurate, then admitting it and apologizing may be enough to swing the tide of opinion your way. Just be sure not to leave yourself open to litigation, of course. Being aware of a bad review gives an opportunity to defend your reputation, which you would never have otherwise had. That market research may start the door swinging inwards again.
How best to monitor the Internet? It’s a big place. Some practitioners enter their local online communities each evening, or even set aside time during work hours. Sometimes a staffer is tasked with the job. One hour per day can pay dividends. Some organizations find the increase in new patients sufficient to cover the cost of hiring a dedicated employee whose only function is to monitor patient review sites, and to represent their organization online to protect reputations. Consider it ‘Defensive social media’.
Online marketing of healthcare practices and organizations is an increasingly lucrative field and the market is getting more competitive daily. This can tie into patient feedback. For example, many practitioners have a Twitter account which they use to interact with and respond to their patient base, or even to announce things like yoga classes or flu-shot dates. Tip: That last has been known to fill a waiting room in minutes. You heard it here first.
Your future patients are increasingly finding you online. It only makes sense for you to use the same tools to find them online, wherever they are. Why? Because your colleagues in other practices are doing it. If your door is not constantly opening to admit new patients, they must be going somewhere else instead. Give some thought to finding out what online resources your existing patients and your prospective patients are using, and you may be able to prevent those existing patients from leaving, while encouraging new ones to walk up to reception.
Once you understand your online reputation, you can market yourself accordingly and that has the potential to open up a whole host of options which will help build your practice, build stronger relationships with your patient (and prospective patient) base, and build your revenue stream.
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