In an economy such as ours we need to make each patient opportunity count. That means being quicker smarter and more caring than our competition. Below are six action tips that are guaranteed to keep your patients from falling ill to wanderlust. Because lets face it if we don take care of our patients someone else will.Ever wonder what happens to all of the patient prospects that contact you and then disappear?
You know those people that emailed you once twice or perhaps even visited your hospital clinic or practice and then vanished seemingly into thin air. Were they abducted by aliens? Did they all get well at once? The sad truth is that many (probably more than you think) have wandered off to visit those otheruhbad people that offer many of the same services you do but not nearly as well. Thats right your competition.
But whats a guy or gal supposed to do? Often we are so busy focusing on the day to day activities of running an international patient department or medical practice that we scarcely have time to think about what could have been. I meana few patients here and there whats the big deal?
Multiply a few patients here and there by fifty-two weeks and you will be shocked at the potential business youre loosing each year. And we are not even talking about referrals here. Let me put it this way imagine yourself lying on one of your comfortable hospital beds with half a dozen leeches strapped to each wrist. Get the picture? Youre letting blood my friend.
I. Don Keep Them Waiting
Not responding to your prospective patient requests in a timely manner is akin to chucking a good portion of your advertising dollars into your hospitals hazardous waste incinerator. I called and emailed repeatedly but I never heard back from them is a common complaint I hear from patients that have contacted overseas hospitals and then ended up with yours truly. Think about it.
While your right hand waves to attract patients to your hospital your left hand is letting these same patients slip through your fingers like sand in the wind. Talk about wasted effort! Your prospective patients should be getting a response from you within 24 hours or less.Some of you may be saying Well I don have the staff or resources to do this... Well I have some good news for you you don need to hire an army of sales reps or invest tens of thousands of dollars in expensive technology to get the job done.
What you do need is a system in place that will allow you to get back to prospects quickly and with the right information.My best advice is to automate as much of your patient follow-up as you can. There is affordable software out there that can help you significantly reduce your response times and assist you with streamlining your entire patient follow-up process. Trust me responding quickly to your patients will put you a step ahead of ninety percent of your competition.
Your patients can receive automatic customized responses (with their name and information about the procedure they are requesting) the moment they send you a request and without you or your staff having to lift a finger. This sort of automation can be expanded to newsletters and follow-up sequences that your patients receive once they reach a certain stage in the sales process.
Some of these CRM/automated follow-up systems will even allow you to tag patients based on criteria such as location procedure type gender etcallowing you to reach your prospects and patients with targeted messages suited to their particular needs. Now don get me wrong Im not advocating a hands-off approach to dealing with your patient prospects. On the contrary being warm and approachable is half the battle as far as attracting patients is concerned.
You do need however to find ways to speed up and automate repetitive tasks that eat up valuable time and resources. Your patients will thank you and you will be free to hone in on the small but important details (some of which are mentioned below) that can really take your patients experience to the next level.
II. Know Who Youre Talking To
Do you know your patients? I mean do you really know your patients. Not only their age employment and where they come from but what their concerns fears and joys are? Say what? Some of you are probably thinking. How am I supposed to find out what makes my patients joyful?
Setting aside for a moment a patients surgical outcome (which is obviously your number one concern) your most important goal after that should be to make your patients happy. Do you know what makes your patients happy? Do you know what they are concerned about?
If not then you need to ask them before your competitors do.Make a habit of using surveys and talk to your patients (ask questions) every chance you get. Only when you understand what makes your patients tick will you be able to craft a marketing message that resonates with your prospects wants and needs. And only then will you be in a position to create a surgical experience tailor-made to meet and exceed your patients expectations.
III. Put All of Your Cards on the Table
Okay sir maybe those two strangers in your private room shouldn really be classified under amenities. Getting clear information about your hospitals policies should not be like pulling teeth. If so your prospective patients will quickly move on to someone else that is easier to deal with.
Let your prospective patients know what to expect and what you expect from them before they set foot in your hospital and without them having to ask you. This means clearly explaining the molecule-size print on your waiver forms and gently letting Mr. Jones know that the transportation services included in his procedure package do not extend to his wifes shopping sprees.
None of us wants to be surprised (at least not in a negative way). North Americans in particular want to know whats going to happen before it happens. All of your patients should be receiving a detailed itinerary and information packet that answers potential questions and mentally prepares them for their medical trip.
A good way to avoid misunderstandings and at the same time satisfy your patients need to know is to include a welcome briefing. It does not have to be anything fancy just sit your patients down for a few moments after they arrive at your facility and let them know what they can expect over the course of the next few days.
This is a perfect time for small talk answering questions and for you to get to know your patients and their expectations. This simple step will immediately put your patients at ease and make for a good start to their surgical trip.
IV. Deliver More Than You Promise
Julie is at your facility for a hernia repair procedure. She finished her pre-operative exams a little early and is now waiting around to meet the doctor. Whats supposed to happen? Julie keeps waiting while our patient assistant goes to lunchWrong answer.
Offer your patient a complimentary lunch bring her a cup of gourmet coffee give her husband a free haircut. Although these are relatively small gestures to your patient they often make a world of difference and can end up turning an okay trip into a pleasantly memorable experience. The impact they make can literally be exponential.I remember a gentleman some months back who came to our hospital for a knee replacement procedure.
When we welcomed him into our office he was nice but formal. We quickly learned however that he loved a good cup of coffee.Guess what? Every chance we had we would head over to the coffee stand and bring him a steaming cup of Costa Ricas very best brew. At one point we even ran four blocks to a specialty store to bring him soy milk for his coffee.
These small gestures opened the door for a warm relationship which included an outing together and many talks. Needless to say he had a great all-around experience and refers patients to us on a regular basis (in exchange for our coffee!). Finding ways to enhance your patients experience is easy.
You can offer free international calls include extra rehabilitation sessions in a procedure package offer a free tour the opportunities are endless. The hard part is changing your mindset so that you are always on the lookout for ways to exceed your patients expectations. Do this well and your patients will have no excuse to wander over to the dark side?
5. Turn a Bad Situation Into Something Special
Are you sure you didn see our transportation van at the airport? I know for a fact that they were there When things go wrong and patients complain we sometimes have a tendency to get defensive or blame someone else. Thats human nature. Mistakes and misunderstandings happen even in the best of situations and to the best of people.
The important thing is not to make things worse by arguing or pointing fingers this will only lead to a bad patient experience no matter how successful the surgery or treatment may have been. Granted there are times when we feel like giving some of our patients a knee replacement - whether they need it or not.
But take a deep breath count to ten and recognize that you are being given a special chance to make a positive long-lasting impression on your patients.Take the hypothetical airport mishap mentioned above. You have two choices you can argue about whose fault it was until youre blue in the face or you can sincerely apologize and offer your patient a little something to compensate for the inconvenience.
Perhaps you can give your patient or companion a free skin-cancer exam a complimentary meal or even a short sightseeing tour. The important point here is to show your patients that you value them as people as well as customers and that you are truly sorry for the problems they may have experienced regardless of whose fault it was.
What do you think your patients reaction is going to be? Wow! I was expecting a string of excuses or a curt apology at best instead theyre going way and above to make me feel special.Don underestimate the power of this concept!
What youve done is turned a potentially bad situation upside down and transformed it into something positive for your patientand for you.Instead of a disgruntled customer who is eyeing your competition and licking his lips you now have a disciple who will sing your praises to friends and family alike.
VI. Don Let Them Forget You
Once a patient gets on the plane and heads home a lot of medical providers may be tempted to assume that their job is over. If there is any contact at all it will probably be a one-time courtesy email. Don make this mistake. Not only are you short-changing your patients (you are basically saying I don really care about you) but you are also losing out on a valuable opportunity to establish a long-term relationship with your patients.
Your patients should be treated as dear friends. You don just forget about a friend do you? A few days after your patients return home they should be receiving a call from you inquiring about their trip home and the status of their recovery. You should then continue to follow-up with your patients regularly by email and phone.
You will be surprised at how pleasantly surprised your patients will be when they get a call from you inquiring about their well-being (they will not expect this). Doing this will not only give you a heads up as to any potential healing problems your patients may be experiencing but will oftentimes lead to new referral opportunities.
My best friend is having some serious problems with her knee and was wondering about getting a knee replacement surgerydo you think you could help?Use these opportunities to ask your patients for written testimonials or if they wouldn mind being used as referrals.
Take my word for it as a hospital we receive a substantial number of returning or new patients because we stay in touch with our patients. If you are really on the gun get your patients and prospects to sign up for your newsletter and then send them valuable tips and advice.
Next time they need to see a doctor who do you think theyre going to call?Apply these six strategies on a daily basis and the only way your competition is going to get their hands on your patients is by using a crowbar to pry their fingersone by oneoff your hospitals admission counter.
As Patient Coordinator for Hospital Clinica Biblica International Department in Costa Rica Bill Cook oversees operations and customer relationship management initiatives aimed at increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction. Bill also overseas web content development and marketing strategy for Medical Tours Costa Rica a locally based medical tourism operator. Bill can be reached at www.hospitalbiblicamedicaltourism.com.