At the start of this year, I made a declaration. The mantra of the year is not something new or original; it just came about after reviewing the good and bad of 2015. That mantra is “Exceeding Expectations”. We’ve all heard this before over the years, and many of us live by this rule daily. Some implement it from time to time. It reminded me that I had seen an article online regarding “Relationship Marketing” and how it can add value to a medical practice.
That article started out talking about how the internet and social media is impacting the reputation of a medical practice and how “relationship marketing” can help level that playing field.
Most small business owners understand the benefits of a long-term relationship with their clients, and how important it is to keep them happy. This leads to referrals, brand loyalty and increased revenue. The same applies to physician practices with additional benefits. For the practice, this could increase patient referrals and appointments, which leads to increased revenues. The patient gets healthcare services they are happy with. As we all are well aware, patients are better informed and more empowered than ever. If a patient is unhappy with their treatment, they can take that dissatisfaction online. On the flip side, just like any other business, a positive experience can make that patient an advocate for a physician or a practice’s services.
This article then talked about following the “patient first” policy. Obviously, “the primary goal of all healthcare providers should be patient care and satisfaction. Providing patients with best possible treatment and healthcare services and sending them back home with satisfaction should be on the top of the priority list. During the treatment, if patients sense that profit earning instead of patient treatment is the main goal, they are unlikely to revisit the hospital/practice again. When these patients talk about their experiences on social media or physician-review websites, their opinions resonate. Therefore, all efforts should be directed towards providing the best experience for the patients.” This seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? I have had the experience as a patient of feeling like a provider might be “cut-happy”, or only interested in follow-up visits for the co-pay. And, as a patient, I have looked elsewhere for comparable services. I equated this policy with a very strong business policy of NOT trying to sell a customer more than what they need. While that can be more lucrative on the front end, it does nothing to solidify a long term relationship.
The subject of “the first appointment” was addressed very simply with the old adage that the first impression matters the most. We all know that, don’t we? Surprisingly, this article says “Train your staff to provide the best possible assistance and experience to the patient. If satisfied, the patient will form a positive brand perception and can become a loyal brand advocate about your practice.” I would have thought this was standard operating procedure, but the author felt it necessary to spell out, so I guess it isn’t, but it should be. In our small business world, new customers are always looked upon as a “gift”, and we just try to make certain that they enjoyed the experience of working with us enough to come back.
Lastly, the subject of communication was addressed. As a patient, I believe I have seen some improvement in this area with the implementation of that “patient portal” we are all encouraged to use. Of course, it’s rare that I ever hear back from the physician; mostly it’s either a nurse or some type of mid-level. That really doesn’t remove the “doctor-patient disconnect” that has been an issue for many years, but it is improving. Communication in small business falls into a few buckets. We all hate the automated attendant and the maze of trying to contact a doctor, nurse or a practice administrator. We should avoid these at all costs for our businesses. As often as possible, a live body should answer the phone. Email correspondence should be acknowledged quickly, even if it’s just a simple “thank you for contacting us. We will get back as quickly as possible regarding your request…blah, blah”.
The bottom line is that relationship marketing, or “exceeding expectations” is the approach that has the best chance of success, in business and in healthcare. It’s the foundation upon which a successful medical practice or business is built. This is especially important in today’s ever-changing healthcare market.