Adapting to Patients as Consumers
November 3, 2015
Few healthcare professionals can deny that the way we view patients has been changing rapidly for the last few years. More importantly, the way patients view themselves and their responsibilities for their own health has transformed—and their expectations of healthcare professionals have changed as well.
In order to adapt to these changes, practices need to adjust how they treat patients, starting with the methodology, resources, and customer service they provide.
Consider your practice’s approach to patients:
- How well do you know your patients?
- What resources do you offer your patients, in terms of education, health and exercise opportunities, and preventive care approaches?
- Does your practice work to meet the patient’s needs, based on scheduling, access, and/or fully addressing all concerns?
- What kind of interaction does your practice have with patients? Is it confined to a pass-by greeting from the front desk and then a quick visit with the doctor, or has your practice learned to utilize social media, technology, and basic sales techniques or loyalty-inspired business practices?
While these questions might not have seemed pertinent to traditional practices only a decade ago, they’re essential to competing in today’s market. Modern medicine, through both legislation and a change in perspective about methodology, is more about treating the whole patient and personalizing that treatment, instead of distantly assessing symptoms for resolution. The goal has always been to improve overall health of the population, but recent studies have shown that this can be more effectively accomplished through a compassionate and proactive relationship between doctors and patients.
To accomplish these goals, consider incorporating the following concepts into your practice:
- When assessing your patients, seek to understand more about their entire lifestyles. Blood tests and regular check-ups can certainly tell you a great deal about a patient, but you should also inquire about how much time they spend watching tv everyday, what kinds of beverages they drink, their preferred foods, how often they eat out, etc. All of these factors play a role in the overall health of the patient and can help to better determine preventive measures and steps to achieving a greater level of well-being.
- Take the time to understand the little things. Ask your patients for their preferred names or nicknames or their preferred payment methods. These are details that a business professional, especially one involved in customer service, would seek to know about a client. Make them feel that you know them, and you will find that not only does their level of comfort increase, but their loyalty to your practice will be solidified. With competition coming in on all sides, particularly from retail clinics and one-stop health spots, this personal relationship can be invaluable for both your business and your patient.
- Adapt your practice to your patients’ needs. As you’re probably well-aware, many of your patients work full-time jobs. Scheduling appointments, especially for parents who have to worry about not only their own health but also the health of their children, can be difficult when the patient has to take time off of work. Consider extending hours, even if only for one day, or changing the hours to more mid-day and then evening hours, to accommodate the needs of these patients. You’ll be surprised how grateful and responsive your patients will be to this kind of step.
- Communicate with your patients. In this modern age of technology, there is absolutely no reason that you cannot have a strong presence in your patients’ virtual lives. A strong website with an effective patient portal is essential for reducing the number of calls you’ll receive and for increasing your patients’ sense of accessibility and control over their own health. Utilizing social media is also a practical way to build up awareness of your practice and for communicating different health initiatives to your entire patient population.
The business of healthcare has changed greatly in recent years, but those changes could mean wonderful things for your practice and for the lives of your patients. Consider the kind of care you’d like to receive from your preferred practice and go from there. Improving the relationship between patients and practice will create a positive, comfortable environment that will only end in improved health outcomes and better business success for your practice.