Build Trust with Patients using a well-structured Profile Page
While the healthcare industry is progressive in many ways, marketing strategy tends to lag behind other consumer-centric industries. Why?
The issue of advertising by professionals was first challenged by lawyers. In a landmark decision (Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 1977), the US Supreme court ruled that state bar associations could no longer universally prohibit attorney advertising.
What about medical professions ? In 1982, the same US Supreme Court (case 455 U.S. 676 (1982), American Medical Association) affirmed a ruling in favor of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its determination that the prohibition on advertising contained in the American Medical Association’s code of ethics was an unlawful restraint of competition. The FTC argued that all businesses and professionals have the right to inform the public of the services they provide and that all consumers have the right to make informed choices based on truthful advertising.
But since then, the adoption curve was gradual. Many doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers, also in European countries, have maintained a conservative attitude and go-slow approach. For them, the concept of advertising is distasteful, maybe even unprofessional. Their concern is that advertising commercializes the practice of medicine and does not respect the dignity of the profession. They expect to generate referrals from other colleagues and from satisfied patients only by providing good care to their patients.
Often, younger doctors, however, who are newer in practice and dealing with a highly competitive business environment, are more accepting of marketing and advertising.
In favor of a professional and ethical marketing
We are pleading for a conservative approach to marketing that is tasteful, professional and ethical.
To be tasteful and professional, marketing should:
- be truthful;
- not reveal patients’ details, and avoid any reference to personal health information that can lead to patient identification;
- be clear about expectations, by avoiding testimonials or examples that imply, promise or guarantee results;
- use disclaimers indicating that results may vary according to patient’s situation;
- avoid claims of competitive superiority, cures or promises of outcomes;
- claim to be a “specialist” only in case of a recognized certification.
To be ethical, marketing should:
- not be deceptive or misleading;
- not convey discriminatory attitudes;
- not denigrate the competence of other individual professionals or group practices;
- clearly identify all paid advertising as such;
- not consider just the intent of any advertisement but also its effect on the public’s view of the profession.
Healthcare providers should care about patient experience and satisfaction
Most patients define patient experience in a healthcare facility by how well they were treated as a person, more so than the medical treatment itself.
Taking patient experience into account provides:
- better outcomes, in the sense of more diligent patient adherence, by patients accepting more recommendations, more following treatment plans and more adopting healthier lifestyles;
- avoid litigation, as patients who are satisfied with their provider are less inclined to challenge misbehavior or professional negligence;
- higher personal and professional satisfaction for providers and their staff, thus creating happier employees, more efficient work environment and staff more likely to stay;
- good word-of-mouth and more referrals, as satisfied patients are more likely to refer good providers to friends and family;
- strong attachment of patients to the practice, facility or provider they like, less likely to shop for another resource in the future;
- cost efficiency, as it is about ten times more costly to acquire a new customer/patient than it does to retain an existing patient;
- enhanced professional reputation;
- fewer complaints and callbacks, thus improving productivity.
People are prizing quality service and looking for higher value. They select providers where patient satisfaction is high. More and more patients are giving value to “the experience” as much as they prize the service or the outcome. In short, patient satisfaction is not only good business, it is a reflection of professional success that benefits the patient, the community, the organization and the entire provider team of professionals.
A well-structured profile page
Today’s empowered health consumers turn to providers’ profile pages to learn something meaningful about the person to whom they are speaking about their health and from whom they are expecting a clear explanation of what is their situation and possible evolution.
Personal profile pages give providers the visibility patients are expecting. Also in healthcare, relationships matter. The initial encounter starts for a patient mostly online. The goal for a provider is to build trust, to engage with the prospective customer and to begin a genuine bond with that patient.
To be sure the provider is the right one for them in the situation they are, patients want extensive information, starting with:
- a headshot, allowing the consumer to make a real connection, convey a sense of who the doctor or provider is as a person;
- his/her age, gender;
- spoken languages;
- contact details (phone, email, website);
and continuing with information that health consumers need or want to know before selecting a provider, like:
- the conditions they are treating;
- their specialties and certifications;
- their academic history;
- their professional credentials;
- their acceptance of new patients
- their acceptance of insurances and health plans;
- their location, opening hours;
- their accessibility by public transport, for disabled people, parking spaces nearby;
- check-in procedures;
- other colleagues in practice;
- affiliation with hospitals, or other healthcare facilities;
- at distance and online consultations;
- chat possibilities;
- appointments available online.
Providing this information helps prospective patients narrow the field, but the consumer journey doesn’t end there. Their choice usually comes down to likeability, trusted endorsements, and expertise and convenience.
This is particularly useful if a patient is trying to find medical personnel who have experience in a rare type of medicine or services.
It also helps to generate referrals, particularly if the providers is a specialist in his/her field. By creating a profile of the medical practice within an online directory, it allows other practices and medical professionals to find the right provider. It is an excellent networking tool and more importantly, an easy way for doctors to refer patients to you. Having a comprehensive and extensive profile makes it easy for these professionals to find the best-suited colleague and to ensure them he/her has the skills, experience, and services they need for a patient.
To help creating a personal connection with the patient before the initial meeting, providers could speak about things that humanize the provider: where did he/she grow up, what motivated him/her to pursue medicine, professional interests, favorite hobbies, and other personal touches. Videos are an engaging and share-worthy component that deepens a provider’s attributes and skills, displays his/her personality, and offers insight into his/her background, philosophy of care, and perspective on the practice of medicine in general. It also creates a sense of comfort and familiarity prior to meeting the provider for the first time.
Providers’ profile pages must evidently respect the principles of a professional and ethical marketing, as exposed here above.
Assembling all providers’ profile pages on one digital platform creates one of the most beneficial tools for providers to generate leads and to market their practice. It also allows patients and professional colleagues to search for medical practices, doctors, specialties, and locations — and that’s just the beginning.
An online directory must:
- have comprehensive, accurate correct and regularly updated information, avoiding lost time when finding a practice that moved or went out of business;
- utilize advanced search and filtering capabilities, allowing patients to look for specific information such as a specific skill set or a doctor who has been practicing for a certain number of years, it can be time-consuming to read through numerous listings online to find specific information;
- be user-friendly, straightforward and simple to use, meaning that it is easy for patients, other practices and companies to search and find the best-suited provider without sifting through multiple websites and pages of information.
This is exactly the logic Meopin is working in. To be the patient journey platform, for a perfect match-making in healthcare.
Integrate Reviews and Ratings
Adding reviews and ratings on provider profiles is a rapidly growing trend. It follows how we all use online feedback to guide our daily decisions, from where to shop and eat, to what movies we see.
In the US, more than 60 % of people surveyed report that doctor reviews and ratings are important when choosing a provider. Along with patient satisfaction scores, embracing this sort of transparency on your profile pages can go a long way toward earning trust.
Considering that patient satisfaction is more important than ever, forward-thinking medical practices routinely put the patient/consumer at the center of their progressive planning. They want to hear the voice of the customer through feedback channels, patient satisfaction surveys and online reviews.
Patient satisfaction surveys tap into customer loyalty and patient communications, identify audience needs and spot trends ahead of the competition.
They ask different questions, not only about the provider himself /herself, but also about the team, accessibility and practice equipment. They should leave open space for comments.
Online review systems should follow some fundamental rules.
They should respect patients’ freedom of expression. Patients must be able to express their opinion freely about a provider. At the same time, the provider’s right of personality must protect him from interferences with his/her personal area of life.
In order to contribute to a balanced approach and protect the providers’ rights, the review system should allow healthcare providers to reply to or dispute a review made by a patient. Replies should be added to the review.
If a provider challenges a patient’s review and disputes it, the review system should require the patient to provide additional proof of factual elements of the review. Patients should be aware that, in such a case, proofs must be provided in order to publish the review.
The reviewer should certify that a treatment or consultation has taken place. Only patients who were in relation with a provider can fully assess this same provider. Names of a provider’s office or other employees of a practice should not be mentioned. The provider’s visit should be a recent one, to be reviewed.
Review must not include insulting utterances. Insults, defamations and discriminatory statements must not published. The same is for assessments which do include serious accusations, and cost disputes. Reviews should not include advertising or web addresses for any company, service or product.
Review systems should ensure that:
- an (uninvolved) third party may not evaluate provider (eg agencies), except parents for the evaluation of the treatment of their child, or accompanying persons for patients who are unable to attend the doctor’s visit without supervision due to their age or illness;
- employees, relatives or service providers and agencies commissioned by the provider may not evaluate this;
- a patient may evaluate the same provider several times;
- a review for which a monetary consideration was accepted, may not be published.
If such guidelines are respected, the benefits of a review system are obvious. It allows:
- all feedback — the good one and the bad one — to improve business, permitting providers to find and fix problems, to identify large or small things helping the current and future customer, and often helping create a better product or service;
- consumer satisfaction to translate into current business, repeat business and/or referral business;
- the customer to feel validated, as taking action on behalf of, or because of, a customer comment is recognition of the importance of the customer to the business;
- positive patient satisfaction to help retain existing customers;
- negative satisfaction to be a direct deposit with the competition.
Again, on this field, Meopin fully respects these fundamental principles.
Let’s work together to a better, but always tasteful and ethical, marketing for healthcare professionals, improving patient experience and satisfaction.
Founder & CEO, Meopin