Guest post by Will Williams, MyHealthFirst
For many years, independent practices have offered a unique service to their patients and communities with continuity of care, one-on-one patient engagement and a level of care and support which isn’t offered by the big corporates, to great effect.
With the development of the digital world, and ever-increasing corporate marketing budgets, the playing field has become more competitive and all too often we see independents across the country falling behind the curve, as while they may be providing the same great quality of care they always have, they’re failing to re-engage existing patients and struggling to find new ones.
If your practice only re-engage 20% of all patients for a return visit, it means 8 out of 10 patients won’t be back – why?
Where independents are and always will be in a league of their own, is their ability to put the patient first in everything they do; ensuring a quality of care and range of products truly suitable to their communities, rather than a dictated process and structure developed to get patients in and out again.
However, with the rising frequency of automation and big data, it’s now more important than ever for you to be asking, is everything you do patient centric?
When I say patient centric, I mean is everything you do in your practice focused on putting your patients’ experience first and foremost, from before their first booking, to in practice, through to after their appointment driving referral and return visits?
Are you making it easy for them to find your practice when they’re looking for you and then book an appointment when they are in their need state, do they feel appreciated and cared for by all the staff in your practice when they come in for the appointment, do they feel like you want to hear (and act on) any feedback they offer, and how easy do you make it for them to re-book for themselves and family members when they’re due for their next appointment?
Patient centric practices will always find they have happier, more satisfied patients, who are both more likely to return to your practice (next year to claim their health benefits, after a couple of years when they find they need a new script, etc.) and to refer you practice to their friends and family.
1stGroup has now facilitated well over 6,000,000 appointments for patients across Australia and the data very clearly shows that the patients who are most sticky (likely to return and show loyalty to your practice) are those who have been referred to your practice by family or friends, compared with those finding you via advertising or a google search.
While I’m not suggesting you forget about all forms of advertising and marketing your practice via traditional, outbound means – it’s vitally important you consider how every interaction you have with your patient is delivering your practice return custom.
Today every man, woman and child is glued to their digital devices at different stages of the day.
When we want to hear from our friends, we look at social media or send them an SMS/email; When we need to travel somewhere, Uber, GoGet, Taxify, etc. are there in a flash; Dinner suggestions and bookings are suggested by our smartphones; news is quickly and easily digested through social media and apps; and airlines are now nearly impossible to book any way other than on the internet.
But when it comes to healthcare, we still see many practices are sending postal recalls, have outdated websites, don’t offer the ability to take appointments out of hours, and the only time we’re engaging with our patients is when they’ve missed an appointment.
At Optometry Victoria’s Southern Regional Congress in 2017, we invited best-selling author Michael McQueen to present on our behalf to the delegates about how to make your practice ‘indisruptable’.
Disruption is often seen as a scary word, seeing how tech businesses like Uber have devastated the taxi industry, AirBnB has hoteliers around the world running scared, Amazon is closing entire shopping districts of bricks and mortar stores in the US, NetFlix is changing the way people consume TV and the like – however it doesn’t need to be this way.
When you consider the above examples, all of incumbents were running outdated business models and weren’t engaging their customers as well as they could, because they held a monopoly on the industry, while the disrupters were able to come in and rethink the way things are done and how people want to engage with these services.
So when considering how to make your practice indisruptable, don’t put your head in the sand – look at what you can do to make your patient’s experiences as easy, positive and seamless as possible whilst still providing the level of care only you can.
Gone are the days of patients having your fridge magnet on the fridge or a post-it note next to their phone with your phone number, the vast majority of today’s patients will find your practices contact details through a search on their phone, whether that’s using voice tools like Siri, Alexa or the like, or a simple Google search – and in Australia close to half of all searches are done on mobile devices.
You need to ask yourself: How easy is it to find your practice through some form of online search – and when they do find you, how easy is it to read and interpret what they’ve found to get in touch with you?
There’s a wealth of resources available to you to ensure this is possible, ranging from claiming your “Google My Business” page, social media, platforms like MyHealth1st and of course keeping your website current and up to date with modern technologies (such as mobile responsiveness).
I spoke about making it easy for your patients to book an appointment with you in their time of need. How many of your patients resolve to visit you because they’re feeling the aches, pains eye-strain, toothache, or any other ailment, when they get home after work, and their partner tells them to do something about it?
Traditionally, they’d have to remember to call your practice the next day when you’re next open but needing to remember and then follow up is something less than likely to happen, especially with males who may or may not be ‘ready to accept they need help’. How easy would it be if they could book a time which suits them, then and there, in front of their TV.
Likewise, across the 6 million appointments we’ve facilitated to date, we see only 55% of all appointments are currently booked during practice hours. You may ask what’s the advantage for these patients booking online than over the phone, but consider the patients’ experience here.
A patient booking online has no time pressures from your front-desk staff member rushing to get to the next call/patient in front of them, so the patient can take their time to discuss with family, check their diary and consider their movements when choosing a time which best suits them.
That is why we see less than just 1% of all appointments booked through MyHealth1st resulting in no-shows.
Traditional recall methods are costly, time-consuming and in-effective. Consider the experience for most patients receiving a postal recall notice. They get home from work after a long day at work, bring in the mail (and at best) open it straight away. They see they’re due for an eye test, and decide they should book that. Only it’s now 6pm and your practice is closed, so they can’t call now – so they pin the letter to the fridge/etc. so they can follow-up tomorrow. This sounds great, although how many times do you find things stuck to your fridge from months ago that you were meant to follow-up?
What if you could send your recalls instantly, for a fraction of the price, and give your patients the opportunity to book from them when and where they like, online, in less than 4 clicks on their phone? This is the future of patient recalls and reminders with MyHealth1st, and the hundreds of Australian independent practices already using the platform are seeing great results.
I mentioned earlier the need for a holistic approach to your patients’ experiences, and ensuring their feedback is not only appreciated but acted upon.
Most of the independent practices we’ve spoken to across Australia and New Zealand don’t have a structured, regular method of collecting patient feedback after their appointments, and even those who do rarely have a clear and simple way of interpreting this data for immediate actions and long-term analysis.
Recently, MyHealth1st released our Easy Feedback solution which is able to send a survey message to each and every one of your patients after their appointment (whether they booked online, over the phone, or were a walk-in) with a customized set of questions which relate not only to your practice goals and concerns, but also give you an opportunity to ensure patients were aware of any special offers within your practice and are incentivised to refer your practice to their family and friends.
It’s clear as we move into 2018 and beyond that there are a wealth of opportunities for independent practices across Australia and New Zealand to enhance their patient experience through technology and drive increased loyalty, practice success, compete with major corporates and insure against disruption, without spending substantial amounts of money.
If you’re ready to make the move into the digital age, and see the positive impacts on your business, visit https://www.myhealth1st.com.au/practices/ to schedule a call with our team and discover how we can help.
Digital Marketing Manager