The key to establishing a successful communication plan is to evolve your digital communication tools to meet (or exceed!) your patients’ expectations, drawing them in with easy access and dynamic, personal interaction.
Build a communication plan that captures a patient’s interest and holds it for years to come by taking these steps:
Step One: Create a Conversation with Engaging Content
Add educational content to your website to position yourself as the trusted source of information that your patients seek. Use interesting and engaging articles and videos that teach patients about the procedures you offer. For instance, tell them the steps involved with a procedure and what the recovery time is like. Allow them to learn about other patients’ experiences through testimonials, personal stories, and before and after pictures. Make your website a “one-stop shop” for medical information.
Patients who have access to the right resources and get their questions answered will take the next step and book an appointment—so give them what they’re looking for!
Solid educational information is vital, but fresh, ongoing communication is equally important in today’s online landscape. Regularly updated content signals that you are invested in the online portion of your marketing; you didn’t just pay someone one time or take a “set it and forget it” approach. Give the consumer a glimpse into what it would be like to be your patient by using a consistent tone or “personal” style, whether very professional or more personable. It breathes life into your communication and ultimately makes the consumer more comfortable with you as a professional and a person.
Enhance your website by incorporating some of these modes of communication into your website and online marketing strategy:
- Blog. A blog provides a platform to cultivate and share less traditional and engaging content. You can use your blog to generate more frequent activity since they can be short or informal. Ideally, the content is compelling enough that the consumer will want to share it with their network of friends—think commentary on recent discoveries or events, seasonal health advice, etc. rather than ranting against some unrelated topic; although, showing a bit of personal flair or respectfully sharing an opinion can help provide that personal touch before they even meet you in person.
- Social Media. Decide what social media networks would be best for your practice and establish accounts, if you haven’t already. At the very least, use your social media presence to post links to your blog content and other links to your website. Better still, use social media like an interactive tool, where you are sharing interesting information you find on the web in general and develop an audience who will tune in when you speak. Linking to outside articles and resources reduces the impression that you are only promoting yourself. Instead, you are actually sharing your knowledge, experience, and yourself. Frequent posting or sharing keeps your “feed” fresh and encourages professional connections. Join the conversation!
- Before & After Gallery. The Internet has become an incredibly visual place. Creating a photo gallery on your website is a great tool for demonstrating success and helping prospective patients understand the process of care.
- Q & A. Create and participate in a two-way conversation where consumers can ask you questions that you answer in a visible way that can be seen by all. Hosting this form of communication positions you as an expert, and when you answer questions with kindness and professionalism, you demonstrate your knowledge and “bedside manner.” Clearly, patient confidentiality needs to be maintained by removing personally identifiable information and your responses will be scrutinized, but the benefits greatly outweigh any concerns over divulging information on the web. In fact, search engines really value this kind of content versus standard long form article content for many types of searches.
Step Two: Open Your Front Desk to Appointments 24/7
Tablets, smartphones and notebooks have established an “instant gratification” expectation among consumers. There is a growing demand for patients to be able to book appointments with ease at any time. Is your website ready to book appointments online?
A recent study found that over 47% of patients book appointments online. As technology evolves, the number of practices offering online appointment scheduling will continue to increase.
Embracing these changes early and implementing an online scheduling tool offers appealing, interactive convenience for patients, and will also help reduce phone time for your busy staff. Even if full-featured appointment integration is not feasible for your practice, you can simulate the experience and at least give the user an opportunity to name their ideal time and date for an appointment to help facilitate the booking process when the front desk staff follows up on the patient’s inquiry.
Step Three: Use Email to Maximize Your Patients’ Lifetime Value
Acquiring new patients is essential, but sustaining an ongoing relationship with your existing patients will help you grow your practice. Maintaining strong, consistent communication with your patients after their appointment keeps your practice top-of-mind. Whether your efforts result in positive word-of-mouth advertising or a future appointment, your practice has a lot to gain from keeping in touch with current patients.
Today, email continues to be a leading mode of digital communication—it’s inexpensive and effective. Try sending a regular email to your existing patient base on a monthly basis, versus sending one out every few months when you have a specific promotion. If you include relevant content like links to those new blog posts or something you shared on social media, recipients will look forward to opening and reading the emails, so you’ll get a much better response when you do run promotions.
Making it Happen
There’s a lot to consider when mapping out your patient marketing communication strategy. Not all approaches will work for all practices, so start with features that you think best meet the needs of your patients and is something that your practice can sustain for a while. Keep in mind that improving the way you communicate with your patients doesn’t have to fall solely on you. While you can build and implement communication tools on your own, partnering with a web company that specializes in digital communication solutions can streamline implementation and keep your technology on the cutting edge as the digital landscape evolves.
We’ve all heard the adage: “The only constant in life is change.” As the use of technology in the health care space continues to progress in the coming years, you’ll want to continue to keep a close eye on new developments. At least experiment with the tools that make sense to you and think about how you can use them to your practice’s advantage. You can’t expect to stand still and continue to stay competitive. However, by integrating some of the ideas we’ve outlined here, you can have confidence that you’re adapting to the current marketing and communication field and establishing a strong position for the future. Show patients through dynamic digital interactions and instant online access that you’re embracing technology and the power it gives you to connect, listen and meet their needs.