Society is changing, and patient values, attitudes, and behaviors have followed suit. Today’s patients are more informed and empowered than ever, and as you would expect, their preferences and expectations have mirrored current trends among consumers in general, namely:
- They demand instant response and feedback
- They expect convenience and ease of use at every turn
- The end-to-end experience is just as important as the quality of the product or service itself
Social media and online reviews have created unprecedented levels of transparency and have transformed how patients interact with their doctors. As a result, the overall patient experience and how healthcare providers deliver their services have evolved significantly over the last decade. Throw into the mix new digital tools, technology, and software (such as artificial intelligence and blockchain) that continue to disrupt the industry, and you’ve got a healthcare landscape like none we’ve ever seen.
How will healthcare evolve into 2019 and beyond? We break down what trends you can expect to continue in 2019, new healthcare horizons to look out for, and what you can do to capitalize on them.
1. The Millennial Effect
Millennials have changed the game where medical marketing is concerned, and there’s no reason to believe the trend won’t continue. In fact, the millennial mindset has affected and caused a shift in how other generational segments of the population interact and expect to communicate with their healthcare providers.
Today’s patients are more informed and empowered to make healthcare decisions than at any other time in history. They have innumerably more choices where their healthcare is concerned and are no longer slaves to the local practice or health system. Patients can meticulously research a friend or doctor’s referral online before deciding to make an appointment.
Of course, quality and cost of care remain important to patients. However, in the digital age of healthcare, patients can confirm it before they step foot in your office. They trust online reviews and will shy away from medical practices with an abundance of negative ones.
What you can do:
You can clean house throughout your organization, internally if needed. While the moody, rude, and sarcastic front desk person may have been tolerable just a generation ago, today’s healthcare consumers won’t put up with those kinds of behaviors anymore, no matter how good a doctor’s care may be.
Become ultra-transparent about your treatments and pricing and invest in your staff so they can acquire proper customer service and marketing skills. Marketing is a now a team sport in healthcare, and everyone in your office has to be pulling in the same direction if you want to thrive, let alone survive in the 2019 healthcare landscape.
2. Your Online Presence Matters More Than Ever
Patients start their journey to your office online. 77% of patients begin their search for a doctor with the click of a mouse, and almost 65% say that a strong online presence will tip the scales of choosing one provider over another.
It may seem simple, but patients need to find you when they are looking for you online, and if not, they’ll probably end up at the practice around the corner. As a healthcare provider, you must come to grips (if you haven’t already) with the fact that digital channels influence patient decision-making, then adapt accordingly.
What you can do:
How can you increase your presence online? Google is by far the primary way prospective patients search for health providers online. As we like to tell our medical practice clients, the best way to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google search results. To rank at or near the top of search results, your website needs to adapt to Google’s algorithms which place primary importance on:
Providing excellent, unique, and relevant content as well as a fantastic overall user experience will boost how you perform in search and keep you in front of the eyes of patients. To learn how you can bring your website to the next level, listen in as we break down 25 easy-to-implement tips and strategies you can use to make it happen.
3. Online Reviews Will Grow in Importance (believe it or not)
Speaking of online reviews, there is no doubt that they are here to stay and will play an even greater role moving forward. According to national consumer studies, online review sites like HealthGrades and Yelp now surpass recommendations from family and friends.
And the vast majority of patients have no qualms when searching online for a doctor. Roughly 80% of prospective patients use online reviews when choosing a new healthcare provider, and almost 75% will choose one physician over another because of negative feedback. Think patients won’t go out of network to see you? Think again. Nearly 50% of potential patients say that they would leave their insurance network to consult a physician with positive reviews.
And just because someone’s primary caregiver refers them to your practice is no guarantee that the patient will actually make an appointment. More than 80% of patients will still research a physician online even when given a strong referral from their primary healthcare provider.
The bottom line is that online reviews can make or break your practice. They add (or reduce) credibility and authority, and the reality is that patients need to validate their decision when they research you online. And for better or for worse, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
What you can do:
The good news is that you can help yourself by encouraging your patients (especially your ardent fans) to leave feedback. Search engines like Google love online reviews. Moreover, 60% of healthcare consumers value a balanced perspective and will be suspicious if they only see positive reviews for a physician or practice.
If you want to learn how to manage and mobilize patient reviews to attract more patients and grow your practice, our free step-by-step 53-page eBook will show you how.
4. Online Scheduling to Be the Norm
Patients these days (especially millennials) won’t wait weeks to get an appointment at your office, and they certainly won’t tolerate waiting over an hour in your waiting room. 77% of patients place a high degree of importance on the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online. And almost half of all patients prefer doctors that offer online scheduling. That number is sure to grow moving forward.
Third-party scheduling through the likes of Yelp, Google, or other platforms, is becoming a must-have for medical practices around the country. Third-party platforms can blend seamlessly into your practice calendar without overloading your front office staff. If you haven’t done so already, you might want to introduce online scheduling capabilities and send your patients appointment reminders by text message. 53% of patients prefer receiving reminders via text, and don’t forget that text messages are rarely ignored (only 1% of all texts go unread).
Text messages could provide big wins for your office in several areas:
- Reminding patients about appointments and annual checkups
- Notifying patients when prescriptions are ready or when they need a refill
- Alerting patients of test results
- Monitor patients with severe illnesses
- Promoting upcoming specials or price promotions
5. Customer Service: the Foundation of Patient Loyalty
Your patient’s experience isn’t over just because they have left your exam room. It continues and is in the heart of what’s known as the Patient Value Journey, that fork in the road where patients either decide not to return or get converted into loyal supporters who will praise you from the rafters.
When you put your patients front and center in everything you do, you’ll differentiate your practice from your competitors, rock it on five-star reviews, drive new traffic through the front door, and achieve the profitability you aim for.
And remember, patient customer care touches everything and everyone in your organization including:
- Physician disposition, attentiveness, and interest
- Attitudes and helpfulness of your staff
- State and comfort of your lobby
- Amenities in your waiting room (tea, coffee, water, Wifi)
If you want to grow your practice in 2019, the level of your customer service can convert happy patients into rockstar fans who will sing your praises from the rooftops, attracting new patients through the front door.
The Healthcare Revolution Is Far From Over
For your health system or medical practices to thrive in the 21st century, you will need to stay ahead of both your competition and patient needs. Using the latest technology and resources to develop a marketing strategy that keeps your brand at the top of patients’ radar screens will keep them engaged, invested, and loyal.
Meeting your patients’ needs along the entire patient journey will continue to be paramount from the initial doctor search to scheduling appointments, the in-house patient experience, to managing follow-up communication and providing feedback. Healthcare is smack in the middle of a consumer revolution that will push it to alter, rethink and transform in ways we have not yet seen.