People in need of care want to be heard. Imagine being in mysterious pain, accompanying a sick child, or carrying a fragile animal in the waiting room. You would want your care providers to understand your specific experiences and pay close attention. At best, your provider is responsive to a stressful situation with assuring guidance. At worst, you’re still in pain and even more confused.
Strong communication is critical to quality care because it builds trust, loyalty, and patient satisfaction. If you manage a healthcare clinic, you can expect happier patients and healthier outcomes by improving your communication.
Read on to learn how strong patient communication can help improve every step of your patients’ journey and strengthen your business in the months to come.
1. Be accessible
Your practice should be easy to reach. Patient communication begins well before anyone steps foot into your office. Do you have a well-working website, contact form, phone system, and email manager?
By keeping your communication channels open, you’ll be able to book more appointments and accommodate patients who prefer technology. From your patient’s perspective, there’s nothing worse than having to wait on a toothache because they couldn’t get through to anyone in your office.
Update your contact information. Make sure that your hours and phone number are up to date across Google, Yelp, and your website. As hours can vary during the pandemic, don’t leave your patients hanging.
Offer online appointments. Allow your patients to book appointments online or through their mobile phone. You’ll get to book more patients and free up time answering the phone.
Make telehealth part of your practice. Clinics everywhere adapted to telehealth in the past year. If your patients don’t need to come in, let them see a provider virtually. They’ll save time and get some pressing questions answered.
2. Build a culture of trust
For some, clinics can be intimidating. Patients are visiting in a vulnerable state and dealing with stressful unknowns. They’re often waiting in suspense, surrounded by medical equipment, and busy staff.
You can provide a better patient experience by building trust with your patients. Let them know they’re in qualified hands. Your patients can breathe a sigh of relief once they’re met with empathy.
Use grounded language. Avoid using too much medical jargon so that patients understand you. They’ll appreciate a provider who communicates in relatable terms.
Improve your verbal communications. Make sure your staff is trained on answering the phone or greeting patients with kindness. Encourage an optimistic approach so your patients feel at home. Use one central messaging platform to keep your team up-to-date with any other procedures.
Simplify your written communications. You're used to medical speak — long calls with insurance companies and updating pharmacies with prescriptions — but your patients aren’t. Create pamphlets or paperwork with easy, clear directions. You can use pre-appointment texts and emails to share important information that makes patients feel informed, even before they step into your clinic.
3. Get organized
The pandemic forced businesses everywhere to slow things down. Reduce chaos or confusion in your clinic with standardized processes. When patients come in, do they undergo the same intake process? Are you prepared to communicate with patients who have special needs? With proper protocols, your patients can enjoy an organized experience.
Gather complete patient information. Your patients will fill out paperwork upon entry. Make sure you’re aware if they need language and access assistance.
Create COVID-19 patient requirement checklist. When someone visits your website or calls your office, include a checklist which includes a list of the precautions your team is taking and the requirements patients must adhere to for visits.
Display your vaccine status. Has your entire staff been vaccinated? On top of your COVID checklist, add a badge to your appointment scheduler or website that denotes if your staff has been vaccinated. This can ease the concerns of some of your patients.
4. Empower your staff
Your staff are the backbone of your practice. Day in and day out, they’re answering calls, providing support, and helping patients feel better. Make sure that you’re providing your team with tools to make their job easier, so they can prioritize patient communications.
Offer flexible schedules. Too often, practice managers struggle with time-consuming admin. Use an employee scheduling tool that lets you create error-free schedules with optimal coverage. Your staff should also be able to easily swap shifts on the fly.
Make the most of team meetings. When the team gets together, use your time wisely and ask your staff for feedback on communications. What’s working well, and what needs to change? Their insight can lead to better processes.
Invest in training. Effective communication in any industry requires constant practice. Consider a communication workshop that will teach your staff how to navigate difficult conversations and emotional situations.
5. Practice active listening
Patients want to be heard, so make sure you’re listening. When they are explaining their symptoms or concerns, make sure to give them time and space. Your staff will have an easier time providing treatments with a more comprehensive patient story.
Rely on checklists. Checklists can guide your conversation and ensure you don’t miss any important details. When listening to patients, record their experience on a checklist so it can be stored and shared with assisting staff.
Collect and act on feedback. Send a survey to patients after their visit to ask how their visit went. If they provide any meaningful suggestions, make them happen!
Follow through. If your patients requested any special recommendations or follow-up, make sure they receive an email or call after their visit.
6. Securing loyalty
Inspire your patients to become your fans. Whether their visit was to address a one-time issue or an ongoing need, give them every reason to make you their choice provider. You can make loyal customers of your patients by building your brand and authority as experts in your field.
Partner with local businesses. Team up with your local restaurants, grocery stores, or retail stores to drive referrals and boost your brand awareness. Consumers have said that their trust in urgent clinics have increased since the beginning of the pandemic, and you can use social proof to help double-down on that trust.
Provide wellness tips. Be the expert you are. For example, if you explain how your dog got heartworms, and what medicines can help, your dog parent can take control of the dog’s health at home — and still come back to your practice for other services.
Build your online presence. Use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to engage your patients. You can showcase your staff or patient success stories to humanize your clinic. Give prospective patients a face and voice to connect with if they’re still on the fence about your services.
The communications payoff
Communications can make or break your patient’s impression of your practice. Encourage your entire team to take patient comms seriously, and you’ll see your business boom. Learn more ideas when you download The Payoff of Strong Patient Communications.