Hospitals and clinics need to improve patient communication

by Ancil Lea ([email protected]) 174 views 

Editor’s note: Ancil Lea has worked in various aspects of medical software and healthcare marketing for nearly 30 years. He is the former coordinator for the Arkansas Office of Health Information Technology. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.

Marketing for physicians and medical clinics? What once was thought as taboo is now a must for medical providers and hospitals, if you are to compete and thrive in the new healthcare environment.

The thought of “marketing” for healthcare has changed over my 27 years in this industry. What was once considered a great secret by several specialties medical providers, and frowned on or looked down upon by the rest, now has many practices and specialties scrambling to catch up.

Why doesn’t this surprise me?

Healthcare leads the way in so many areas, and in some, it lags terribly – technology being one but, I digress. In this new environment of electronic health records and new reimbursement models being floated by CMS, it strikes me that if you are a provider, you need to get it together when it comes to finding your target market/patient mix and have a marketing plan put together and implemented to survive and thrive in this model. No doubt others in your specialty are developing plans.

A simple thing you can begin doing now is capturing patient email addresses and cell phone numbers. Many practices are not even doing this. Start by sending a monthly message to the patients about something going on in your practice: an award you’ve received, community involvement, staff highlight, etc.

Some clinics have taken advantage of capturing cell phone numbers and text-reminders to help cut down on “no shows.” Some of you are laughing now, but it amazes me that many practices, hospitals and outpatient surgery centers still attempt to connect with their patients through the “old ways” and think it’s going to continue be successful in the future. Trust me, it’s not.

Patient engagement is more than a measure you have to hit for “meaningful use.” It’s real and vital in building relationships with your patients. With everyone living on their smartphone, you’ve got to connect with them where they live. Whoever figures out how to use that strategy of communication will be light years ahead of the rest of their competitors. One way clinics and hospitals are starting to connect is by sending patients secure messages outside of the portal with a secure app. Having them securely text nurses instead of calling on the phone. Look at your communication process and restructure. You might find you could save time and even reduce an FTE. Who knows?

But, the place to start is with a plan. Look at your practice, it’s goals and objective when it comes to revenue, patients and procedure volume. Start analyzing your patient base and build it out from there.

If you start making small steps now, in no time you’ll have something put together that will sustain you now and in the future.