By ELAINE VAIL
In the not-so-distant past, patients looked to their doctors and healthcare professionals as experts. There were rarely, if ever, questions like, "How much with this procedure cost?" or "Is that treatment really necessary?" Doctors were elite and privy to knowledge only they had access to. Doctors were respected and patients took their word as gospel. But, those days are gone. Why is that?
The healthcare industry is now driven by consumerism and the growing "power of the patient." In this age of technology, patients can find out anything they want to know about you and your competitors without ever contacting you. Many times, they make the decision to consult with you or not before you even know you're in the running. Most everyone in America today is constantly connected to Internet devices and wearable technology, giving them instant access to every imaginable piece of medical information available. They've become their own experts and only turn to the professional when matters get out of hand.
The only way to keep your vitals steady in this rapidly changing industry is to understand that patients are consumers who are shopping for good service at a competitive price. They're looking for low cost without sacrificing quality, state-of-the-art facilities, convenience & simplicity, and fast service. With out-of-pocket expense on the rise and the new normal set at high deductibles and copays, medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy today. With instant access to information all over the world, buyers are under intense emotional pressure to not making buying mistakes. Choosing a service provider is often an emotional decision rather than a logical one. Improving patient experience without increasing cost is critical to the future success of health care institutions everywhere.
So, how is it done? How can your treatment center or office differentiate in this highly competitive and ever-changing industry?
Consider some of these tips to set yourself apart:
- Be likeable. Patients want to feel like you are listening to them. Since they can do their own research, they are often looking to you to validate their concerns and then provide them with the care they can't provide for themselves. They want to feel important. They want to trust you and believe you. They want to feel connected to their providers. If you are the one who solves their problems and resolves their concerns, you build a relationship of trust and in turn, your patient retention will increase, and new patient acquisition will increase over time as friends spread the word over social media.
- Provide price transparency. Patients need to know what your services cost upfront. Openly discuss options so the patient feels like she has choices and can make an informed decision while having control over what she spends on her family's care.
- Identify your differentiating factors and market them. Your specialization, the fact that you have the best physicians supported by leading-edge technology, coupled with shorter wait times--these are selling points that you need to make clear in your direct mailings, email newsletters or any other digital contact, social media campaigns, signage, etc.
- Offer amenities. Does your facility offer free Wi-Fi, free parking, or hotel-quality accommodations? Sometimes the little perks go a long way in making a good impression and making the patient feel he is important.
- Engage in Content marketing. High quality content is one of the most valuable currencies on the Internet today. Educating your patients can reignite that old feeling that the healthcare professional is the expert. Provide value to your services by producing exceptional, well-written blog posts and email newsletters. Share informative industry specific articles, high quality HD videos, and infographics showcasing interesting data relevant to your patients via social media. The more your patients engage with you online, the more they trust you feel a connection to your particular institution.
Is marketing the real solution to this wave of healthcare industry transformation? The fact is that a patient is a consumer shopping for a product, and your product is top-notch healthcare services. And according to Rx MD Marketing Solutions, healthcare professionals who actively engage in marketing increase their annual revenues by 20-30 percent. The overall health of your facility or office depends on your ability to understand the power of the patient.
Elaine Vail is a marketing solutions consultant at PIP Printing, Signs & Marketing and focuses on helping companies throughout Florida and across the country to grow their businesses. She is also a member of the Lake Nona Regional Chamber of Commerce in Central Florida.