Unlike 20 years ago, the modern patient is an active participant in their care and relies on the internet to research symptoms, conditions, treatments, and healthcare providers. In fact, 74.6 percent of people have looked online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care, according to PatientPop.
This marks the very beginning of the patient experience for the modern patient. Because of the internet, patients often meet you before you get to meet them, and throughout each phase of the patient journey, they are forming and molding their opinions of their healthcare providers. More than just providing a stellar in-office experience, doctors must take into account the entire patient journey when trying to attract new patients. Read on for an explanation of the steps of the patient journey and how you can ensure a positive experience at each one.
The patient journey begins during the doctor search. The majority of all patients go online sometimes or often to look for care, according to PatientPop. During this step, patients are evaluating doctors or dentists in their area who can assist with their care needs.
Your goal as a provider is to appear in the results, wherever patients are looking. This means your healthcare website should be optimized for Google — which has more than 88 percent of the U.S.’s search engine market share, according to StatCounter — as well as other search engines.
What’s more, one in 20 Google searches is health-related, according to the search engine, providing ample opportunity to attract new patients to your practice with your web presence. Beyond just having a search-optimized website, you should create or claim your online profiles on local business and healthcare directories, as patients may be searching for providers in multiple locations. Plus, it’s possible you may already have profiles that include inaccurate information. This can confuse both patients and search engines.
After a patient has found you online, they begin the next phase of their patient journey: the consideration phase. They are evaluating whether they are interested in choosing you as their care provider. Even though you are not aware of the patient at this step, there are actions you can take to help patients in this phase choose you.
First, is your name, address, and phone number accurate everywhere online? Can patients easily find photos of your practice online? Patients seek to understand what being your patient is like. The more transparency you can offer online, the better.
Second, focus on your online reputation. About 70 percent of people consider a positive online reputation to be very or extremely important, and 59 percent of patients say reviews from other patients contribute to their decision when choosing a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare provider, according to PatientPop. When evaluating your reputation, patients are looking at your average star rating, the total number of reviews, and how old your reviews are. Thus, to attract new patients, it’s important you consistently request feedback from your current patients.
After a patient evaluates your online web presence, they’re ready to book an appointment. Again, ensuring your contact information is accurate is critical because you can quickly lose a patient who dials a disconnected phone number.
You may also consider enabling online scheduling on your practice website. Not only is it what patients want — 68 percent say they are more likely to choose medical providers that offer the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online, according to Accenture — but this is the only way to ensure that patients can schedule available appointments with you when it is convenient for them. If they have to wait until business hours to give you a call, they may forget or worse, book with someone else.
The Practice Growth Podcast: What patients want, online scheduling edition
Now that the patient has a scheduled visit, it’s important to begin communication. The patient should receive an appointment confirmation, especially if they book online. This gives them confidence that their appointment is actually booked. You might also consider sending new patient forms their way. They may appreciate being able to fill forms out on their own time, and this can help increase efficiency at your practice.
You should also send automated appointment reminders to your patients prior to their visit. They’ll appreciate the reminder, and it can help you reduce last-minute cancellations or no-shows.
After a patient confirms their appointment, it’s time for the main event: the office visit. This is where you, the provider, get to meet your patient and deliver on the expectations you’ve set for your new patients up until this point. Often, when people discuss the patient experience, they’re referring to the experience in the office.
Don’t let the patient visit be the last time you speak to a new patient. After a visit, patients enter what we call the retention loop, where they will remain for the duration of their relationship with you. This is an opportunity to nurture the new relationship and stay top of mind for the next time they need care.
The first thing you should do is send a patient satisfaction survey. Software can help automate this process for you. Asking for feedback shows patients that you care about their experience. If they had any problems during their visit, they have the opportunity to share those with you directly and give you the opportunity to address any issues. Your willingness to address any problems goes a long way. It also gives you the opportunity to identify happy patients who can advocate for your practice.
Now that patients have had a good experience with you at every step of their journey, they may be willing to leave you a public testimonial describing their positive experience. As we mentioned earlier, new patients use online reviews to help them make healthcare decisions. Thus, your current patients can help you attract new patients. If they’re willing to share their experience online, they’re likely to come back.
If you’re looking for a manageable way to ensure you’re meeting patient needs at every step of their journey, consider investing in a software solution. PatientPop is a complete practice growth solution that helps providers attract new patients and retain them by helping them expand their online presence and improve their online reputation, while improving practice efficiency.
For more patient retention methods that work, read the blog post “5 ideas to encourage patient retention with healthcare marketing.”
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