Do you still struggle with embracing the idea that social media is the most impactful way to market your practice? Do you really understand what type of content you should or should not include in your posts, tweets, blog entries, etc.?
Maintaining a social media presence that is engaging and interesting to your fans and followers can be challenging. But it is critical that you do–it’s the way the majority of your patients are communicating and finding information.
Before you jump in, if you are new to social media marketing or need to brush up on the basics and do’s and don’ts, you will want to refer to the elements of Social Media Etiquette 101.
Understanding and practicing even the basics of social media marketing will help you create a more dynamic and unique online presence, while improving conversion and page rank on Google– and ultimately your digital-footprint.
Your ability to communicate and market effectively to your patients is the key to the success of any professional services business–particularly in today’s digital world. As you attempt to engage your patients on a consistent basis, you should establish different objectives you would like to address and gear each post individually to accomplish them.
The first rule of thumb for social media marketing is to never go solo. If you want to do it right, your best chance at being most effective in the social media realm would be to make it a team effort. Secondly, every piece of content you post should not try to accomplish every business or marketing goal. So what type of content is most intriguing to your patients? What types of things do they want to hear from you in order to keep them engaged in between visits to your office to ensure loyalty and encourage them to stay on top of their health?
When it comes to patient education, it’s not a case of “offer it, and they will learn.” If patients aren’t aware of your materials, can’t access them easily, can’t understand them due to language or literacy barriers, or don’t find them relevant, you will never get the results you want. Here’s a look at some basic mistakes many doctors make in educating their patients, and what you can do to fix them.
1. Your patient education materials focus on the wrong conditions. Suppose you offer great information about, say, sinusitis and TMJ. That’s great, unless the majority of your patients are actually interested in snoring and hearing loss. Think about your patient population. What are the most common, complex, and costly conditions your practice treats? Are there particular things you and your staff find yourselves explaining over and over? Focusing on these topics will allow you to better target your patient education programs to your patients’ actual needs.
2. You assume you know what patients need. Of course, you can’t get a good handle on what your patients need unless you ask them. For instance, you may assume that parents of your pediatric tonsillectomy patients want information about the procedure itself, when really they want to know how best to care for their child post-op. Ask patients directly or circulate a poll or questionnaire in your waiting room or via email to find out what types of information they would find most helpful.
Eric Zierse, the Customer Service Training Lead at Solutionreach, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insights on EHR and medical software. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, covers how different technologies - including CRM, Marketing Automation, Project Management, HR, and Healthcare - can improve your business.
Eric joined Buckner to discuss how professionals in the medical field can us EHR and medical software to manage and improve the patient relationship from start to finish. To listen to the entire podcast, you can go here.
Keep reading for highlights of the interview:
As a member of a care team, your communication skills are (hopefully) good enough to establish relationships with the patients that visit your office. But, like most doctors and care teams, you have more restraints on your schedule than ever before. As you tighten up, the thing that you let slip first may be communication.
With connected relationships and patient satisfaction being such critical contributors to a successful practice, this is a sacrifice you can’t afford to make.
Below are some tips for improving point-of-care communication. They can be used in any practice, though we’ve included extra tips for maximizing the Solutionreach tools that are at your fingertips to personalize your communication even further.
How many times have you walked into an appointment, simply to have the staff member behind the desk holding a phone to his or her head or involved in a conversation? Sometimes they hand a clipboard across the counter, illustrating with a hand gesture that you should sit down and fill it out. Other times, you just stand and wait until it’s your turn. Do you feel engaged with? Do they even look you in the eye? Make a habit of implementing the following habits:
The front desk staff has offered initial pleasantries, but that doesn’t negate your need to greet patients when you walk into the exam room.
“One thing that’s very important is how you enter a room,” Wolff says. Even with time at a premium, walk into the exam room with a smile, shake the patient’s hand, call the patient by name (first name or surname, whichever the patient prefers), and sit down. “Sitting down places the doctor at eye level or below eye level,” Wolff says. “This relaxes the patient so that he or she will communicate more openly.”
Remember that class in college, where the professor was completely unable to dumb things down? She spoke to her students as if they were equally knowledgeable, skimming past the explanations, using terms you hadn’t yet learned and concepts you didn’t yet grasp.
Don’t be that doctor! The moment a patient feels stupid is the moment they stop gaining anything from the appointment. The result? Patients that fail to follow treatment or preventative plans, avoid coming in, and switch to a new doctor when the opportunity presents itself.
A surprising 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email, and–lucky you–you have a ready-to-use database of patients right at your fingertips.
Unfortunately, 84% of all email traffic this year will be considered spam, and the spam folder is where marketing emails go to die. In order to take advantage of the 77% of consumers that want to receive marketing focused emails, you have to be sure you aren’t falling into this category.
Email only becomes spam when the content of the message brings no value to the recipient. In other words, always provide a benefit for the reader.
But how do you make sure patients immediately see that your email is beneficial for them? There are quite a few strategies, like perfecting your subject line and communicating the right message to the right patients, and among them is the format of your email content. To engage readers immediately, the format can be a delicate art. Below is a starter-template for a good marketing email. (You can use it for blog posts, too!)
Heather Starling, OD, believes in the power of the doctor-patient connection. For years, her practice sent out birthday greetings to patients, penning cards by hand and sending them via regular mail. She also sent surveys through the mail in order to assess patient satisfaction with the quality of care they received in her practice. Finally, like most practices, she dedicated a staff member to manage appointment reminder calls. She gradually moved many of these functions to email, but they were still labor intensive.
“We kept lists of patients and had to actually send out the emails using Excel spreadsheets,” recalls Dr. Starling, owner of the Starling Eye Group in Gainesville, Florida. “Reminders were done by a staff person a few days prior to the patient’s appointment. We sent out surveys weekly to all the patients that had been seen that week—again manually. It was starting to take up quite a bit of our time.”
The optometrist strives to keep her practice “modern and up-to-date,” so it was natural for her to take the step to use technology to enhance her patient outreach and communications efforts. She did just that in July 2011 when she decided to use the Solutionreach patient relationship management platform. The company offers an all-inclusive suite of customized patient communication tools—including email, text messaging and customizable landline phone calls—for a flat monthly fee, and now Starling Eye Group uses the service to perform many of the functions it did manually in the past.
Today’s Tip Tuesday is aimed at practices that are already using Solutionreach in their office. If you aren’t a Solutionreach user and would like to learn more about the topics covered in this article, click here to get a quick demo of the platform. They will even send you a $10 Starbucks card when you complete the 15 minutes overview.
Solutionreach is a powerful and versatile tool for communicating with your patients, made possible by our ability to safely integrate the information from the software already being used in your office that stores patient and schedule data into your Solutionreach account; we call it The Solutionreach Sync.
The Sync is the backbone of our system; without the shared communication, Solutionreach can’t manage your patient relationships as seamlessly. We’ve found that practices that seem to have trouble are often not aware that they can customize the settings for their sync, and configure them to meet their unique needs.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, the Solutionreach Sync will work smoothly behind the scenes without a second thought from you. However, if you are encountering some difficulties, these tips may be just what you need.
Remember: We are here to help you. If you need training on any of these tips or need us to help you readdress the sync settings in your office, call or email us!
When Eyes on Main Vision Center expanded and opened its second location in Findlay, Ohio six years ago, it entered uncharted territory. The practice had operated in a rural town—Ada (population roughly 6,000)—since 1954, but the more suburban Findlay (population roughly 40,000) required a whole new operating and marketing approach.
“We opened the office cold—not a single appointment booked,” notes Duane Wires, OD, the owner of Eyes on Main, who purchased the Ada practice in 1984 immediately after graduating from optometry school. “The Findlay practice alone will do more than $1.25 million this year. The growth has been amazing.”
Dr. Wires gives at least some of the credit for the new location’s success—as well as the continued success of his long-time office—to new marketing/outreach initiatives implemented by the practice two years ago. The cornerstone of these programs has involved working with patient communications platform provider Solutionreach. Solutionreach offers text, email, voice, video, web and social media tools to eyecare practitioners seeking new ways to engage patients in today’s mobile, wireless world. Services include appointment reminders/confirmations, recall, referrals, birthday wishes, online review monitoring, revenue management, surveys, newsletters, targeted care campaigns, and more. All capabilities can be customized based upon a practice and its patients’ individual needs.
“A dentist who is our neighbor has been using Solutionreach for years with great results,” Dr. Wires recalls. “I liked the idea of engaging our patients using mobile technology.”
Social media is a critical element to marketing any business, and your practice is no different.
But how do you create a social media presence that is professional without being impersonal? What are the faux-pas in the Social Media World?
This handy infographic will tell you what you need to know. Take a look!
(click for full-size image)
As Jason Lake, O.D. remembers it, one educated guess resulted in streamlining an outdated recall system, reducing staff time devoted to recall, providing a better response to “no-shows” and greatly enhancing patient communication.
“I bought Solutionreach before it came to Cleinman [as a sponsor],” noted the 6-year Cleinman Performance Network member. “This program looked like it offered what we needed, and I decided in 2010 to give it a chance. The payoff has been tremendous.”
Dr. Lake and his wife, Susan Lake, O.D., own Eyecare Specialties in central Missouri. This four-doctor, two-location practice had what Dr. Lake calls an “intricate” recall system.
“We devoted two full-time people to recall, using snail-mail, email and the telephone to make sure the schedule was kept full. It was very intensive. We are talking a lot of time on the telephone, and a big expenditure on postage,” he said.
Even though the old recall system was burdensome in cost and staff time, Dr. Lake knew that recall was essential to maintaining Eyecare Specialties’ current caseload and supporting future growth. He was already looking for a solution when he became acquainted with Solutionreach and several competing services.
“I looked at DemandForce and some others. Solutionreach was the most integrated system, and it was compatible with OfficeMate, our practice management software,” he said.
Shortly after implementing Solutionreach, Dr. Lake noticed a drop-off by 50% to 70% of staff time spent on recall phone calls. He has estimated a reduction of one-third to one-half full-time equivalent. The savings on postage was welcomed, as well.
Dr. Lake noticed another benefit that is directly apparent to patients:
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