Build Patient Trust and Gain An Advantage Over Your Competition
It’s no secret: our healthcare landscape has changed.
Practice referral sources are drying up, patients are researching their own conditions and treatment options before even talking to a doctor, and the internet has disrupted the traditional referral model of how patients find and select their healthcare provider. Sound familiar? The good news is that the internet has also brought many opportunities for healthcare providers who know where to find them.
There’s one aspect of healthcare that I don’t think has changed at all over the years – the need for patients to feel comfortable. It’s just as true today as it was 100 years ago that patients want to know the practice they choose for treatment is trustworthy and understands their specific medical situation.
Seriously, they just want to know you are listening. And the majority of them would prefer to do this over the phone without making a time-consuming office visit.
But how do you make time for a person-to-person touchpoint when your schedule is jam-packed with clinic days, or working with your billing department, and the front office is buzzing with appointments, paperwork, cancellations, and filing duties? Too often, patient engagement falls to the bottom of the to-do list or simply gets forgotten altogether.
We think the answer is a Patient Engagement Center. While this might seem like a foreign concept, an engagement center actually utilizes many of the same tactics you or your office staff are already doing. Centers are comprised of medically-educated, professionally-trained salespeople dedicated to phone conversations with potential patients on your behalf. This amazing tool offers a hassle-free way to get to know your new patients, reduce the load on your front office, and more quickly and easily acquire more patients.
Let’s break down exactly how it works.
Step 1: Establish Trust With Your Patients
Connecting with your patients is key.
Sure, digital marketing offers a multitude of ways that you can reach out to potential patients: email campaigns, social media, text messaging, etc. Even direct mail marketing methods can be effective.
But those methods are one-way communications. Today, patients want a dialogue, and they don’t want to pay an office visit co-pay to get it.
Patients have LOTS of questions, and they don’t often make fast decisions about healthcare. They usually want to talk to someone about insurance, their specific medical condition, the treatments you offer, costs, recovery times – the list is virtually endless. It is this complex decision-making process that is best served by people and not just one-way marketing messages.
You’ll need to show these patients that you understand their case, and you’ll need to keep up with the details about each patient, individually, to build the trust your practice needs to acquire them as a patient. Again, a well-staffed Patient Engagement Center is a great way to begin building that trust.
Even in the case of existing patients, a personal phone call for appointment reminders, test results, or question feedback is much more valuable in the eyes of the patient than an automated message, email, or text.
Step 2: Utilize Smart Tech to Delight Your Patients (and Earn New Ones)
A well-run patient engagement center should have a CRM system that pulls up the caller’s contact record and conversation history as soon as they call in.
This kind of touch point can bring some impressive results. Think about it: when a representative can refer to patients by their name and provide them with information and resources specific to their unique needs, when they need it, you help guarantee a stronger relationship with them.
It’s estimated that the cost of missed healthcare appointments is around $150 billion each year. Strategically-timed appointment reminders or office visit follow up calls assures patients that reduced missed appointments. Part of a patient engagement center’s role should be to send those timely messages and increase office operational efficiency.
Step 3: A More Efficient Practice
Here’s the bottom line. A patient engagement center will make your practice run more efficiently.
Instead of making an appointment for an office visit for each patient lead (which can cost the patient co-pays and waste valuable physician time), your engagement center will screen them first. Because the engagement team fully understands your practice, they will determine if the patient is a good fit or needs another form of care. The engagement professionals will also determine an insurance type the prospective patient has and pass through only the most qualified patients.
This all comes together in a way that gives you the opportunity to understand your leads and patients more fully before anyone from your staff even speaks to them. This critical aspect saves everyone time, money and frustration.
What Patients Get From an Engagement Center
We aren’t talking about your traditional call centers. Representatives who handle patient calls are medically educated with a trained and licensed physician on staff. This allows them to offer a vast menu of services:
- Offering guidance on medical treatment options
- Registering callers for upcoming phone reviews (think MRI reviews) or conversations about insurance benefits and coverage of treatment
- Recording any negative or positive feedback from patients
- Handling referrals
- Scheduling office visits
- Reminding patients of upcoming appointments
A Personal Touch
Patients want to speak with a real person over the phone. Email and text messages feel automated and impersonal. Online submissions feel unsecure when it comes to personal data. Often, patients won’t ask personal questions via an online form or by email for security reasons, and this leads to them researching and diagnosing themselves online. The personal touch of a real, American voice on the other end of the phone will put them at ease from the very beginning.
With integrated data from your CRM, patient acquisition representatives already know your patient’s location and if they’ve received any other form of communication from you before. The rep has a comprehensive profile of the person on the other end of the line, and can direct their conversation in the most helpful and efficient way.
The Care They Need, When They Need It
We know how crucial it is to keep the lines of communication accessible to your patients, especially when their health is the topic. Even if that communication is “just” an appointment reminder.
“A missed medical appointment could pose serious health risks for patients as it could mean the difference between catching a disease early on or too late,” writes Jamie Geer for Health Management Technology. “In addition, an inefficient scheduling process can wreak havoc and raise stress levels for both a health systems’ staff and patients.”
Solutions like a patient acquisition program can fill in these gaps and inefficiencies in the patient experience. When you personalize that experience, you take things even further by building trust and connecting more deeply with your patients.
There’s more to marketing to and communicating with your patients than advertising. The healthcare providers that find success today are the ones that create lasting patient relationships based on trust and real engagement.
Want to see how RUNNER can help? Contact us today to schedule a personalized demo of our patient acquisition software and patient engagement center.