By Travis Schneider, co-founder & co-CEO, PatientPop.
Developing a top-tier practice requires doctors to be more than great practitioners. If you do not have a loyal patient base and a positive reputation, you will only be facing an uphill battle in your path to success.
Your ability to attract and retain patients will depend on how well you and your staff understand your patients’ needs, especially with patients having more choices for healthcare than they ever have. Healthcare practices may feel the same pressures that brick-and-mortar retailers face now. Look no further than Walmart’s Health Center Program and Amazon Care to see what the future portends.
To gain attention and stay competitive, you will need to position your practice as a top-of-mind option for prospective patients. At PatientPop, we regularly survey patients to identify what they care about most concerning their healthcare experiences. Our 2021 Patient Perspective Survey results underscore the obvious: All private practices must consider patient feedback and nurture patient relationships to attain meaningful and consistent growth.
Fortunately, the blueprint for achieving this is straightforward. With the right technology and workflows in place, you can respond to patient feedback and deliver personalized patient experiences in a way that sets your practice up for success.
Cover Website Fundamentals and Claim Your Online Profiles
Today’s patients will turn to the Internet first when researching a physician’s capabilities and reputation. Our survey found that 74.5% of patients have done just this while looking for care or selecting a primary care physician or specialist. Therefore, your practice needs to have the proper online marketing fundamentals to capitalize on this trend. This process starts with tailoring your website and marketing channels to satisfy your ideal patients’ needs.
First, refine and optimize your website to ensure it is user-friendly and mobile-ready. To see where your website currently stands and uncover other improvement opportunities, PatientPop has created a “competitive scanner” that any practice can use to determine their online performance in their market, compared to others in their specialty. Within moments, the scanner offers a closer look at your Google rank, online reputation, overall web presence, as well as your website’s speed, searchability, and more. You can use your report as inspiration to make changes to improve your digital footprint and searchability.
Once you are comfortable with your website’s appearance and performance, optimizing your site to engage with prospective patients using Google is essential. The search engine giant currently owns an 88% market share of the online search sector, and we have found that it remains the search engine of choice for patients seeking new providers.
Since your goal is to dominate your area’s local market share, claim your Google My Business (GMB) profile to ensure your prospective patients see up-to-date information regarding your practice and treatment specialties. After optimizing your GMB profile and posting answers to commonly asked patient questions, your practice is more likely to be displayed in Google’s Local Pack to satisfy searches from patients in your local area.
However, optimizing your website and your GMB profile is just the start to stand out and establish a strong presence in the digital world. You should also create online profiles across popular sites such as WebMD and Yelp and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. Even if you’re not looking to dance your way toward more likes and shares at the moment, adding your unique links to more places will help maintain a consistent online presence and allow people to find you on all platforms. Ensure that all the information you display across your profiles is current and consistent so that prospective patients can reach you.
Garner Reviews and Build Up Your Reputation Online
Once you’ve made upgrades to your website, Google business profile, and social media presence, the next step is to put your best foot forward is via your online reputation. As part of your overall presence, every review you receive helps build your online reputation and influence patients that your practice is the right choice for care. After all, 74% of the patients we surveyed consider positive reviews to be very or extremely important to their decision-making process. Unsurprisingly, you should focus your efforts on Google, as 72.9% of patients say they are likely to check Google reviews.
The only way to build out your practice’s reputation is by proactively requesting reviews. After all, patients who are asked for feedback are 2.5 times more likely to submit an online review. Outsourcing these tasks to a solution capable of producing automated customer feedback emails and review notifications can be effective and efficient. You can solicit feedback at scale through this automated approach, encouraging and facilitating positive reviews while identifying and responding to problematic ones.
Make Adjustments Offline to Improve the Patient Experience In Your Office
Of course, the in-person experience also dramatically impacts the success of a busy healthcare practice. While your online appearance and experience matter, your offline demeanor and operation are what keep patients coming back. Our 2021 survey found that patients most prefer practices with providers who listen, have a welcoming staff, and offer short wait times.
While you cannot always control patient wait times, you can put tools and technologies in place to help improve the overall patient experience while reducing repetitive office work. Consider using an online scheduling tool and digital patient registration to free up staff resources and expedite patient visits. Sending patients a link to an online intake form lets them complete the form before their visits, helping to secure covering ID details beforehand and save patients time. Implementing these simple conveniences can add up to an excellent patient experience and encourage more positive online reviews.
Strengthen Communication and Connections with Your Patients
Practices should also stay abreast of how patients communicate today and correspond with them in ways that meet their needs. For example, our research found that 2 out of 3 patients now prefer to receive appointment reminders via text message. On the other hand, roughly 1 in 3 patients still prefer to ask questions over the phone. While automated communication is beneficial for practices, patients still require the human connection for more personal or complex communications. Practices that deftly manage this balance can improve patient retention rates, streamline wait times, and better manage patient relationships.
Practices can also take their retention strategies one step further by collecting patients’ email addresses and developing targeted email marketing campaigns. Doctors should ideally customize these campaigns in ways that keep patients engaged and provide valuable information about specific conditions and treatments. While compiling an extensive email list never hurts, breaking your list down into category-specific groupings is the ideal strategy for delivering a customized patient experience.
When segmenting your patient email list, consider taking a holistic approach that accounts for each of your patient’s needs. A patient seeking treatment for sports injuries, for example, will likely have different needs, interests, and health obstacles than one who presents with workplace-related injuries. Similarly, a Gen-Z patient will have different pain points, worries, and perspectives than an elderly patient. Regardless of how you organize your email list, segmenting your contacts will help your practice deliver relevant information and foster deeper connections with your patients.
Practices that embrace technology and leverage it to anticipate and deliver on patients’ needs stand a better chance of achieving growth and success in today’s competitive digital environment.