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Communicating effectively throughout the patient journey: A guide for healthcare practices

What should define effective patient communication for practices? A consistent experience that improves each step of the patient path, fostering both acquisition and retention.

patient communicating with healthcare practice on mobile device

There are many considerations that come into play when a patient chooses and, ultimately, sticks with a healthcare provider. Receiving top-notch clinical care is a key driver of patient satisfaction, of course. But today’s patients also consider the “customer service” experience when evaluating your practice — with most of that assessment taking place online. 

Patients check a multitude of factors right from their laptop or mobile device, long before they step in the practice front door. They assess how you present yourself online (your web presence), how easy it is to find you (search engine rankings), the quantity and quality of your patient reviews (online reputation), and whether your communications appeal to them and answer their questions.

Many practice owners and practice managers don’t realize that the opportunity to make a lasting impression usually begins during a simple internet search. 

From the first time a patient looks online for a service or a referred provider, the quality of your practice’s communication has a direct impact on your business. It starts with that search, continues to the first appointment, and includes post-visit communications (known by PatientPop as the ongoing patient-provider connection loop). 

When that experience meets patient expectations right away, you’re driving patient acquisition; when continued connections with patients satisfy their needs, that helps fuel retention. 

Healthcare practices that use digital tools to accomplish the above set themselves apart from the competition. Offering digital convenience and access to patients makes it clear you prioritize their experience. 

More sophisticated practices take it one step further by incorporating digital communication throughout the patient journey using an all-in-one platform. With all the tools integrated, and available in one place, a platform can help your practice connect with each patient at the right time, with the right information.

Consistent communication: A top tactic for patient acquisition and retention

A firm, effective patient communication strategy is no longer a nice-to-have at healthcare practices. In fact, recent PatientPop research shows that patients place considerable importance on timely, effective communication with their providers. 

Aside from quality care, 67.1 percent of patients told us what they want most from their healthcare provider is “a good listener.” Nearly 47 percent said they want a provider that offers prompt response to questions or concerns. 

The proliferation of technology across all aspects of life has created a culture of consumers that expect to be able to reach their doctor or healthcare practice whenever they need — to find information, book an appointment, get answers to healthcare questions, or pay a bill online. Practices that meet this demand are better-positioned for growth in today’s digital world. 

Communicate effectively at every step of the patient journey

One key to creating a thriving relationship with patients outside the exam room is by offering choice. Give patients multiple communication options including online scheduling, secure two-way text messaging, and click-to-call access via mobile devices.

Here’s our overview of the four major phases of that patient journey, and how consistency in your communication can create a better patient experience every step of the way.

Phase #1: Search and evaluation

If your practice thinks communication begins after a new patient schedules their first appointment, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with and convert more patients. The experience begins the moment a prospective patient begins searching online for a practice. At that step, they need reliable information about healthcare providers and the practice. 

Make sure your practice leads the way compared to others in your market. Ensure that patients can find you with greater ease by claiming and optimizing your online directory profiles such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. On those sites, communicate clearly about the services you offer so patients know what makes your practice unique. 

From there, wow them with an informative, easy-to-use website that offers plenty of opportunities to contact your practice (text message, online scheduling, click to call). Create provider bios (consider video!), to let prospective patients get to know your team virtually. Finally, establish an aggressive online reputation management program to make sure your online reviews reflect the exceptional care you provide.

By ensuring your web presence clearly communicates and highlights what sets your practice apart, prospective patients will have a clear choice — and won’t be left wondering whether your practice can meet their needs.

Phase #2: Conversion and pre-appointment

After a patient decides your healthcare practice is the right choice, they should have easy, immediate ways to make an appointment, followed by reminders to show up. With the right digital tools and communication strategy, you can manage these actions effectively — with little to no additional work by your front-desk staff. 

Online scheduling invites prospective patients to request or book an appointment at their convenience, helping you boost volume 24/7. From there, offer digital tools that take registration and intake paperwork online, saving time for both patients and office staff. Use email and text messaging for automated appointment reminders that reduce no-shows and last minute cancellations, and to tell patients what to expect from their visit.

Using these tactics together signals to new patients that your practice prioritizes convenience and communication — both critical for driving patient satisfaction.

Phase #3: During the encounter:  

If your patients have completed registration and other forms online before the appointment, your front desk staff and providers can be fully attentive and focused on your patients when they arrive at your office. This sets the stage for the kind of experience that drives patient loyalty, helping your practice deliver on that demand for “a good listener.”

If the appointment is virtual, ensure your telehealth platform is easy to use — for patients and providers. Confirm that your camera angle, lighting, and presentation allow patients to see you clearly, in an environment free from clutter and distractions. 

Depending on your community’s COVID-19 or flu activity, you can use two-way text messaging to communicate with in-person patients while they wait in their car rather than a crowded waiting room. 

These strategies help ensure a seamless and memorable patient experience, again, promoting good patient retention and a wonderful opportunity at positive online reviews. 

Phase #4: Post-appointment & in between visits

Let patients know you care about their experience with your practice by sending an automated patient satisfaction survey after each appointment. By requesting feedback, you can keep a pulse on overall patient sentiment, and address any operational issues you may not otherwise be aware of. Also, 2021 survey research indicates that patients who are asked for feedback are 2.3 times more likely to submit an online review, which can significantly improve your online reputation. 

To forge connections in between visits, practices can use well-timed email campaigns and text messaging outreach that feature practice updates, relevant health-related information, and reminders to schedule routine care. Practices with ample marketing resources can also create blog and social media posts to supplement these tactics and stay top-of-mind in the community. 

Lastly, your practice should give patients numerous communication options for routine questions, appointment scheduling, and bill payment. Whether via text messaging, email, or your patient portal, you can inspire loyalty and appreciation by letting patients connect with you in ways they prefer. 

 

Streamlining patient communication with an all-in-one platform

Healthcare practices that prioritize effective communication at each step of the patient journey are better-positioned to improve patient satisfaction and loyalty — critical needs for long-term practice growth. 

But, how can a busy office hardwire effective communication into their process to ensure nothing falls through the cracks? There are numerous tools out there to use at different phases of the patient journey. But, overburdened healthcare providers need simplicity, not a stack of more tools. 

An all-in-one solution that supports your website and online presence, search engine optimization (SEO), online scheduling, automated appointment reminders, patient satisfaction surveys, telehealth, and two-way text messaging enhances the patient experience at every turn — while taking a significant load off of your practice staff. 

With all needs in one place, your practice communications and outreach can be cohesive and consistent, reminding patients that you’ve got your act together, and that you prioritize convenience and access. 

Also available:

Prevent patient attrition by avoiding these 4 patient experience mistakes 

The realities of patient attrition: Insights from the 3rd annual patient perspective survey report

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PatientPop
PatientPop is the leader in practice growth with the only all-in-one solution that empowers healthcare providers to improve every digital touchpoint of the patient journey. As experts in the healthcare technology space, PatientPop makes it easy for providers to thrive in the consumerization of healthcare and promote their practice online, attract patients, and retain them for life.

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