The rapid growth of health information on the Internet has resulted in more patients turning to the Internet as their first source of health information and acquiring knowledge on their health conditions. It’s often difficult for clinics to stand out from their competition, to show a patient that they have their best interest in mind, and to demonstrate that they are competent. A website can be a clinic’s first opportunity to build that relationship with their patient. It goes without saying that first impressions are important. Therefore, it begs the question, what exactly does a website need to offer to both foster a solid patient-to-provider relationship?
1. Be Transparent
According to the study, Measuring Patients’ Trust In Physicians When Assessing Quality Of Care, “Nearly two-thirds of patients with high levels of trust stuck to their treatment, but only 14 percent of those with low levels of trust do.” It’s no secret that patients are taking it upon themselves to research clinics before choosing the one that meets their needs and expectations. Meeting those expectations can be a lofty goal. Patients often question the validity of any practice, or any business for that matter. They do so by asking some common questions; Does this practice accept my insurance? How much will this treatment cost? Does this provider have my best interests in mind? All of those questions, and more can be answered through a human centric approach when designing and writing content for your Digital Presence. For your web presence you should start off by following some basic principles:
- Have a system in place for your staff to quickly respond to questions via online contact forms or live chat support.
- Provide detailed information of your services. Patients love to learn more about what you offer and how they will be treated. Continue reading to learn how.
- Use current photos of your office and team. Don’t be afraid to show off your space and the people you work with. After all, patients are going to be frequently visiting these places and will be putting their care into your hands. They will feel more comfortable reaching out after seeing you and your team’s cheery smiles.
- Prominently list your practice’s accepted assurance providers. When surveying practitioners we asked, “What was the most common questions that their staff received?” Unsurprisingly, we found that the overwhelming majority were asked which assurance providers they accept – Be transparent!
Make an effort to respond to all reviews left for you on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Reaching out to bad, and good reviews show that you care about the treatment that your practice is providing. In the example, the clinic in question has not so stellar reviews. Regardless, the owner is transparent and acknowledges the problem by ensuring the patient that a resolution is being worked on. Reviews can tremendously help with your Search Engine rankings placement for Local search results, you can learn more about that through our post, Acquire New Patients by leveraging Local SEO
A Google Business search result for “clinic near me”
2. Provide Resources for Services and Treatments
A good clinical website empowers their patients by providing resources to them so that they can be more informed. By researching online, patients are better prepared for their visit, ask better questions, and understand what the physicians told them. Contrary to popular belief, the doctor-patient relationship does not degrade when a patient seeks information online. In fact, patients who were discouraged from researching online were more likely to seek other practitioners.
For instance, when working with clinics one of the first steps we take is to start building a knowledge base catered towards the practice. This knowledge base should be accessible to patients and aim to provide detailed treatment information with what to expect from the practitioner. It’s also imperative that these documents are print-friendly so that staff can provide this information to patients as needed with ease. A good example of making patient information a cornerstone for a clinic’s online presence is Mayo Clinic’s website. Note that the patient guide is prominently present on Mayo Clinic’s home page.
Mayo Clinic’s home page
3. Integrate a Tool for Patients to Schedule Appointments
Digital self-scheduling tools offer efficiency, value, and convenience for patients and staff. As a result of top healthcare systems adopting emerging tools in 2019 patients will come to expect access to their medical records, and to be able to schedule appointments online. By implementing a self-scheduling platform, providers will engage patients, increase the quality and availability of care, and reduce overhead.
Take ZocDoc for example, there’s a reason why tech-savvy patients use it. It’s convenient and it works. Calling to make an appointment can be more of a commitment than some realize. As is evident with some urban-based clinics who are reporting that 1 in 5 appointments are made online (Web-Based Medical Appointment Systems: A Systematic Review).
ZocDoc Online Scheduling Tool
4. Reduce Time Commitment with Online In-take Forms and Fillable PDFs
Your patients are already dealing with enough stress as it is. No one wants to spend a significant amount of time in the waiting room filling out documents they have seen over a dozen times. This only makes going to the clinic more of a commitment. So why not make your patients’ and staffs’ lives a little less stressful by offering HIPPA compliant online in-take forms.
At the very least providing fillable PDFs for your patients to quickly complete on their computers and print before coming to your office. A good way to encourage patients to either use your Online In-take form or Fillable PDFs, is saying something along these lines, “Your appointment is now scheduled with Dr. Smith Since this is your first appointment we do need you to fill out some of our patient forms, and you can find the forms on our website or we can email them to you. If you fill out the forms before your appointment date, you can come in 15-minutes before your appointment time. If not, please come at least 45 minutes earlier for us to process your in-take forms.”
5. Keep Patients Up-to-date with Your Practice
Something that often goes overlooked by providers is how current the information online about them is. Google My Business Listing, Doximity, ZocDoc, Yelp, Facebook, etc. It’s a lot for any one person to keep up with. Not to mention, local NAP citations are a relevant metric in Search Engine algorithms. But nothing is worse for your digital presence than a website that is out of date. More often than not, clinical websites are left untouched for more than 3 years! This often leaves patients confused and/or frustrated with the provider. Which results in more wasted time for clinical staff taking unnecessary phone calls.
With all that said, we are not saying that this is all the clinic’s fault. This is usually the result of poor website development & design that was done with no consideration of how it will be managed. Clinical staff are busy, and shouldn’t have to take time to become computer savants to simply manage their website. Could you imagine the job posting for that? The job posting would read something akin to looking for friendly receptionist with 3+ years of experience in HTML 5 and CSS – unbelievable. Updating contact information, locations, services & treatments, bios, etc. should not frustrate you to the point of wanting to delete the website in a fit of rage, or overpay someone to make the changes for you.
Measuring the Success of a Doctor-Patient Relationship
Patient care goes beyond providing treatment. Afterall, these people aren’t just patients. They are parents who cannot take care of their children, police officers who can no longer help their communities, athletes who can no longer compete, professionals who work tirelessly into the night for their passion. They each have stories unique to them, and the care that clinics provide them greatly affects each of their lives. Collecting feedback and improving how care is provided is invaluable to fostering a positive doctor-patient relationship.
When collecting feedback we recommend doing so on-site with a tablet or following up via systems integrated on your website. Consider measuring the following three metrics to establish how effective your care is:
- Symptom burden – How have a patient’s symptoms affected their livelihood?
- Health-related quality of life improvement – How has your care improved a patient’s life?
- Office care – How did the patient feel interacting with you or your staff. Regardless of the reason for their visit, did they feel cared for? Was relevant information readily accessible to the patient?