Have you heard of Dr. Google? Your patients have. She is one of the most famous doctors on the planet. Almost every one of your patients consults with her before they contact you. Dr. Google only performs house calls, so her hours are convenient. She does not charge patients, but her advice changes every time they ask about symptoms. She never pinpoints what is wrong, leaving patients to self-diagnose. But the most curious thing about Dr. Google is that people trust what she says, and they are not seeing you when they should.
If you want to stop losing patients to Dr. Google, you need to make some changes to your practice. The world of treatment is changing and you cannot afford to be left behind. To combat Dr. Google, you need to turn your practice into a “Learning and Service Center.” Here’s how.
Improve Your Website
If you want to keep your patients from searching for advice, you need to make sure they can find the information they need on your website. Invest in a robust education section that explains your specialty, the services you provide, the common symptoms of the diseases you treat, and information on how to know when to make an appointment versus running to the emergency room.
Master Social Media
Right behind Dr. Google in trust are her partners—Dr. Facebook and Dr. Twitter. Case in point: posting a photo of a rash gets lots of home remedies, amateur diagnosis, and other misinformation.
You need to focus on these social media sites, along with YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, and build a presence so your patients reach out to you here first. Take the time to develop interesting content that explains your specialty, the diseases you treat, the symptoms of each disease, and treatment options. This is very similar to the website, but in this format, you can explain in more detail by using photos, presentations, videos, and other engaging options that humanize your practice. You also need to respond in a timely manner to private messages and have your appointment software linked to your sites.
Personalizing Your Services
This strategy is easier than it sounds. In addition to sending birthday cards, appointment reminders, and newsletters, start to focus on reaching people based on their disease states. For instance, send targeted emails to your diabetes patients with tips, recipes, and exercises. Do the same for each group.
Make sure your office calls after every visit to make sure your patients do not have any questions. Send them a copy of your notes and an action plan. Send them planning tools for their appointments—things like food journals, exercise logs, sleep logs, and anything. In other words, give them anything that gets them thinking about your practice as they manage their health. There are great third-party software programs like Infusion Soft that can help you automate these efforts.
Invest in Telemedicine
Patients need to have the confidence that someone will answer their emergency calls during off hours. They also want easy access to help that can discern whether they are having a true medical emergency or something that can wait until morning. Getting a simple telemedicine program from Skype or a more robust one from a telehealth service provider will enable you to safely and securely diagnose the situation. Share the duties with your partners so you are not on call 24/7.
Transform Your Waiting Area
You need to improve your patient experience at the office. One way to do this is to invest in digital patient education in your waiting, exam, and patient rooms. This is another opportunity to work with a third-party supplier like Halo Health, which customizes content so that the only message your patients hear is yours.
Tell your patients about your services, community involvement, ancillary service providers, and staff while they wait. Give them tips on how to live healthier, feel better, and be more productive. Deliver this information on HDTVs, which as we all know is a format patients are used to viewing. Inform your patients on all of the extra services that they receive by working with you and how you are the only resource they need to manage their health.
These strategies offer unobtrusive ways to improve the patient experience at your practice—and steer patients away from Dr. Google. The best part is that many of these activities lead to better conversations with your patients and even “billable” events like appointments and referrals. No doubt, many practices have seen great returns on investment (5X or more) with these simple efforts.