Call it whatever you may, but the fact remains the main reason patients leave a medical provider is usually poor customer care. A decade ago, a patient would simply slip away quietly and without making a scene, in search of a new doctor with character traits such as bedside manner, empathy, and a caring support staff. Nowadays, though patients may leave without making a scene, many will resort to review sites to vent and voice their opinion about the level of care received from your medical practice.
If reviews are coming back to bite you, then the fix might be easier than ever. Seldom does a patient complain about failure to be healed or your personal lack of professional expertise. The bulk of complaints for medical doctors and other health professionals can be characterized as service-related complaints or patient experience.
Thankfully, service metrics are one of the easiest trends to correct in the healthcare industry. Let’s touch on three key customer service markers with the potential of boosting your online reputation and helping your patient retention and acquisition.
Clear, Patient-Friendly Communications
One surefire way to boost your patient relations and, consequently, your online business reputation, is to implement processes aimed at streamlining all your communications in a way that all patients can understand. Take a step back and try to see every patient engagement from their perspective, from the first time they contact your practice to book an appointment, to the way you handle referrals for more complex treatment. Simplify processes and make health-related information available in formats that provide clarity to the patient, his or her family, and his or her caregivers.
The number one complaint on review sites such as Healthgrades, Dr. Oogle, HealthTap, RateMD and Yelp relates to breaks in communication. Take ownership of your communication processes. By doing so, you are setting the stage for positive and frequent online patient reviews.
Respect Their Time at All Stages of the Relationship
Don’t abuse the patience of your patient. Second to poor communication, the most common complaint voiced by patients and their families usually relates to lack of respect of their time. Effective, patient-centric time management begins the moment someone reaches out to your practice seeking a first appointment. Implement software and schedule-management practices that are patient friendly, without jeopardizing the way you service your regular patients.
Set forth clear standards for all your administrative staff related to callback procedures, check-in procedures, and standard waits in the waiting or examination room. Make it your goal to treat your patient’s time as if it were your own. Make certain these habits extend to all facets of your practice.
Step into your patient’s shoes and imagine the anxiety associated with having to wait for the arrival of a specialist at a day surgery center, or having to face long waits for a regular checkup when you have a full day of responsibilities ahead of you. Clearing standard operating procedures and service level agreements associated with patient care will quickly translate into more and better online patient reviews.
Empathy and Personal Interest
One of the main hurdles when it comes to creating patient loyalty is conveying empathy, establishing good rapport, and having the trust of your patient. A Harris Interactive Poll of 2,311 respondents found that 94 percent considered a physician having access to relevant medical histories as important or very important in creating a positive customer experience.
Know your patient’s background, personal details, and name. Review his or her chart prior to walking into the examination room, and make it a point to listen and ask questions. The time spent engaging in conversation is as important as the auscultation and clinical examination and can give you valuable insights for diagnostic purposes. Don’t make the patient feel like they are just a number. A doctor that cares sincerely and listens carefully is usually one that has outstanding online and offline reputation, which quickly grows their practice by gaining them new patient leads through review websites or via word-of-mouth referrals.
Every medical practice has the potential for improvement. Track these service markers and work on optimizing service delivery. A well-managed medical online reputation is one of the best marketing strategies for any doctor at any stage of practice growth.