Meaningful cultural change in the modern medical practice: good for patients, good for practitioners, great for the bottom line.

Feb 02, 2015, 5:00am

What's this mean...for existing and future patient in the digital realm

Meaningful cultural change in the modern medical practice: good for patients, good for practitioners, great for the bottom line.

For the purpose of this article culture refers to the way modern medical professional’s attitudes and beliefs toward interaction with new, existing and future patients in the digital realm.  In a recent interview with Wendy Weiss, Director of Marketing and Communications for Dermatology Associates, I asked her to describe their culture/attitude toward serving socially connected patients.  Her answer spoke volumes about their proactive approach toward patient connectivity.  According to Wendy, at Dermatology Associates, they realize, “through the evolution of the practice….we want to interact with patients the way they prefer to interact with us.”

On the question of cultural challenges she indicated, “The doctors know times are changing.”  She explained how the doctors have embraced the shift in patient behavior and their desire to stay relevant.  Including the upcoming release of a practice blog where physicians will contribute on a regular basis.

So what does this mean in practical terms?  Consider the following question.

As a guest faculty member at a recent Aesthetic Show, I posed this question, “How many people in the room believe that somewhere around 80 percent of new and existing patients START their search for a provider or a specific procedure on the internet?”  Simple question, right?  As you would expect, everyone in the room who was paying attention raised their hand in agreement.  The next question is not so simple and identifies a real barrier to digital success and improved patient connectivity.

The question: “Of those people who raised their hand, how many of you spend 80 percent of your time, energy, and marketing and communication efforts on connecting with the modern social patient?” As you would also expect, the vast majority of attendees did not raise their hands.  Which is interesting, given the education and innovative spirit of most medical professionals.

Based on their response, a strong need exists for meaningful cultural change.  The genesis of true cultural change is attitude and BELIEF.  In other words, do we, as a matter of FACT, believe that 80 percent of modern social patients use the internet, email and social media as their primary source of communication?  And if we truly accept that as fact, then what needs to happen in the practice to create alignment and increased connectivity with these patients?

Belief alone is not enough. Belief plus ACTION = Results.

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Belief alone is not enough. Belief plus ACTION = Results.

Here are a few best practices to help you and your team bring your belief system in line with your actions.

Email marketing is still a popular and affordable way to improve connectivity with your patients.  In order to utilize this medium, you will need primary email addresses that your patients check frequently.  This means everyone in the office who interacts with patients should know how to ask for, confirm and explain WHY you are asking for this information. (Culture)

There are several great tools in the market to automate your communications.  Your success will depend on frequency and consistency. In other words, be realistic. If you don’t have the time to create the emails, then find a service provider to do it for you.  Email marketing is great for patient communication and a proven way to increase revenue per patient.  I would recommend approximately 20-25 email touches per year.

Social media outlets are a great way to stay in front of your patients.  Again, a large part of your success will be based on frequency and consistency, which means there will be demands on your time for content.

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In most practices this can be a challenge, so most outsource this task.  Your social media strategy should include campaigns on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.  These sites are free to utilize.  That said, many practices have experienced success with paid advertising on sites such as Facebook.  I recommend posting DAILY.  Keep in mind, just because you created a post does not mean every follower will automatically see it.

Lastly, the number one component of success with social media is your ability to attract new followers.  That means everyone in the office who speaks with patients should know how to ask for and explain the benefits (value) of following the practice.  (Culture)

Generating meaningful results through digital marketing is as much about the attitude and culture in the practice as it is about the specific strategies and techniques executed on your behalf.  Collectively, does everyone in the office truly believe that 80 percent of modern social patients use the internet for EVERYTHING?  And if so, what are you doing to “interact with patients the way they want to interact with you?”