5 ways building digital connections with patients makes for a healthier practice

September 25, 2017

The bottom line: if you’re not connecting with patients, and actively engaging with them, you’re going to have a harder time keeping your current patients-or attracting new ones.

Today’s patients are no longer passive recipients of medical care. Instead, they’re digitally savvy consumers and are increasingly driven by a desire for high-quality service. As they take on more financial responsibility for their care, patients expect more value and engagement from their physicians-and have no qualms about dropping a practice when they’re unhappy.

Unfortunately, the trend toward patients behaving more like consumers can also take a toll on a practice’s business if physicians aren’t keeping up. 

The bottom line: if you’re not connecting with patients, and actively engaging with them, you’re going to have a harder time keeping your current patients-or attracting new ones.

However, connecting with patients isn’t just about sending email blasts or calling them with appointment reminders. It’s about truly engaging them in a meaningful way that elevates their care.

Here are five tactics for attracting new patients and persuading existing patients to interact with you.

 

1. Boost your practice’s online reputation through patient reviews

When patients are searching for a new doctor, they are as likely to use the internet to find one as they are to seek a recommendation from friends or family members. However, recent data reveals that 91% of people read online reviews when searching for a local business. Only 14% trust businesses with 1- or 2-star ratings.

This means that even if your practice is providing the best service around, one or two bad experiences (and a lack of stars) can drag down your overall score.

To improve your online ratings, start regularly looking at reviews of your practice. Every time you find a review posted, whether positive or negative, post a response. If the review is glaringly negative, offer a solution to remedy the situation.

Chances are, you’ll learn a lot about how others view your business with respect to your competition-which is a great way to start making real, impactful business changes.

 

Patient reputation management technology tools can also help medical practices boost their reputation by e-mailing patients surveys about their experience and alerting practice administrators to any negative feedback. This will enable the provider to address an issue before the patient’s dissatisfaction grows.

 

2. Connect to patients using high-tech, personalized communications

A growing number of patients are not only open to digital communication, but actually prefer it to other types of outreach. This knowledge may be why one-third of chronic-condition patients who exchanged emails with their healthcare providers said the communication improved their care, according to a December 2015 Kaiser Permanente study published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

When patients can connect by email or text, many may feel they can do so more freely-and will appreciate that a practice can accommodate their preferences. If your practice only uses voice communication, supplemented by traditional mail, now is a great time to expand your availability.

 

3. Stay active-and relevant-on social media

Patients who are immersed in social media tend to prefer  engaging with like-minded individuals-and organizations. For medical practices, boosting their social media presence represents a major opportunity to open lines of communication and establish an identity in the community.

To get started, try engaging patients on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube-for example, by posting articles related to common issues (e.g. flu vaccinations) or links to new research studies on chronic illnesses. As a next step, conduct post-appointment surveys (e.g., “how many people wish they had more time with their doctor in the exam room?”) to stimulate conversations with patients.

 

 

4. Post video reviews and testimony

According to a recent Acumen Report study, 85% of millennials are more likely to enjoy online video content than other forms of media. Capitalize on hubs like YouTube or Vimeo by posting videos about your practice and patient testimonials to boost your online reputation and give potential new patients a glimpse of your practice. As with online reviews, remember to promptly respond to feedback.

 

5. Guide patients to use self-scheduling and digital check-in features

While many older adults say they like scheduling over the phone, younger patients generally prefer to make their appointments online. According to a communications survey from business technology firm TechnologyAdvice, among adults ages 18 to 24, a majority (63.6%) said they would prefer using an online calendar rather than scheduling appointments via telephone. To incorporate this trend into your practice, look for a tool that lets patients use their preferred channel of communication, including mobile, to receive appointment notifications. Make sure to include reminders of self-scheduling options in all forms of patient outreach.