Converting International Patient Inquiries @ 10% ~ Part 2
Last issue, we covered the best practice email being used in the marketplace, based on market research across AllMedicalTourism.com’s 150 healthcare provider partners. This month, we complete the patient inquiry process, by picking up the phone and following through on our service offering.
We also covered how to effectively execute the initial response to inbound patient inquiries. We’ll now follow up through the remaining steps to ensure you’re converting your inquiries to patients at 10%.
Your Initial Call • Communication aim ~ Call before the competition; address concerns, show you are responsive and there to help, explain the process and benefits, move patient to the next step.
- Timing ~ Within 24 hours of receiving inquiry – prefer-ably within 2 hours.
- Common communication errors ~ Not setting up call in email. Not specifying when you will call. Expecting the patient to call you back.
Best practice research across our client base confirms calling patients within 24 hours of receiving the inquiry dramatically improves the chance of securing the patient. Not doing so will typically halves your response rates; it’s a key step!
Things to remember
i. Call when you said you will. Based on the initial email, call within the window specified.
ii. Ensure superb language skills. Ensure that the person calling the patient has perfect language skills. A common concern is that the patient will not be understood whilst in country and the initial contact is key to remove this fear.
iii. Treat the call like a free, initial consultation. Understand you have to add value, not just extract information.
iv. Address fears and concerns. Explore what concerns the patient has about the treatment overseas. Address these fears or follow up with additional information if required via email.
v. Push to next step. This is the place to request photos or the completion of a medical questionnaire. Ideally complete this over the phone, schedule a follow up call to complete it or request it completed and emailed.
vi. Call again! If you get voicemail, don’t just leave a message. Leave a message that you’ll call back, rather than the patient having to call you back – do all the work!
Your 2nd Email
• Communication aim ~ Provide more information about your offering – the full pitch, provide additional incentives, and set final call expectation.
• Timings ~ Within 48 hours of receiving inquiry
• Common communication errors ~ Not providing enough new/additional information.
If you have been unable to elicit a response after the 1st email and call, all is not lost! The patient could just be busy or being tempted by other providers – it is time to provide additional information and extra incentives!
Your 2nd email should provide more information about your services. Assume this is the presentation you would like to make over the phone, but need to do via email instead. Provide more information about the procedure, the risks and what the patient should expect. Include information about the medical facility and why it is unique. Provide information about your services and include ‘free advice’ on key questions to ask their prospective surgeon/practitioner to position yourself as an expert.
Leading providers add incentives at this stage to trigger a dialogue. Incentives can be varied and some examples follow. Incentives should be offered at this stage in the process rather than earlier; it is better (and more profitable) to secure the patient without incentives, but this can help with a communication tipping point. Pick ‘high perceived value, low actual cost’ incentives – examples we have seen include:-
i. Procedure discounts available if booked before end of month
ii. Free guides to medical tourism or specific procedures, available by replying to the email
iii. Free limousine from home to/from airport
iv. Free hotel upgrade for recuperation
v. Free flights or upgrades
The incentives (clearly) should not be linked to better medical care, but to ancillary services and offering. The cost and return on investment of the incentives should be closely tracked.
2nd Call • Communication aim ~ Last attempt at contact. One last try!
• Timings ~ Within 7 days of receiving inquiry – preferably within 4 days.
• Common communication errors ~ Not making this call.
This is the most common step left out; some medical providers are wary about picking the phone up again. It is worth trying the client again (and again) if they have provided their phone number. They originally completed the submission form to receive a follow up, so requested this information; they could just be busy! Explain you don’t want to be a pest, but just ensure they had received your emails and didn’t have any further questions.
The Final Email
• Communication aim ~ Sign off, but keep the door open, protect your brand.
• Timings ~ Within 10 days of receiving inquiry – preferably within 7 days.
• Common communication errors ~ Not sending this email.
If you have still received no response, it is unlikely you will convert this lead. But always leave the door open and ensure your brand is respected. This email should sign off politely, let them know you are here if they have any questions and would be happy to help.
Ask if they want to be included in follow up marketing activity. If not, ensure you don’t communicate with them again – respect their privacy.
Potential Patient Workflow
At any stage in the inquiry workflow, you’ve opened a dialogue with to the patient and have been shortlisted as a potential healthcare provider for them. It is now time to prove you are the leading provider for their treatment and secure them. This is where you need to:
i. Extract the information you need from the patient, to properly quote and build a treatment plan. This can be done initially by asking the patient to complete a medical questionnaire (better still, set up an initial consultation call to work through the questionnaire over the phone), request photos (if relevant) and request medical reports/ scans.
ii. Market your competencies. Through your dialogue, you need to reinforce that your organisation and medical practitioners are leaders in their fields and especially why you are unique compared to the other providers in the patients’ shortlists. You need to understand and communicate how and why you are unique.
iii. Reinforce your patient care ethos. Through the dialogue, give the patient a sense of your patient centred care – be considerate, supportive and empathetic to provide the patient with a sense of how you treat patients once they arrive at the facility.
iv. Extract and address their fears. Most patients considering a procedure overseas are doing so for the first time – don’t forget that! They are bound to be apprehensive about the experience and likely to be poor at communicating these concerns. Explore their concerns with them and have robust responses ready for the most common concerns (e.g., “is the hospital clean?”).
Resourcing for Success You’ve invested millions of dollars to set up your medical tourism program. Don’t sell it short by treating patient inquiry management as an administrative task. Getting it right can generate a ten times increase in revenue for a very small increase in costs.
You have now got the framework for handling patient inquires and ensuring as much value is extracted as possible. Now it’s key to resource appropriately to be able to handle the volume and realise the benefits.
i. Staffing levels & service level agreements (SLA). Ensure that you have realistic staffing levels to respond within your stated internal SLA; one case manager cannot professionally respond to a daily flow of 50+ patient inquiries. Ensure you have done your maths and continue to resource effectively or response rates and conversions will suffer.
ii. Appropriate experience. It may be that you have different staff working the inquiry workflow and the potential patient workflow, based on their skills and costs. Ensure you have people with the appropriate skills for each step of the process, with perfect language for the patient!
iii. Training and knowledge sharing. Set up workshops for your best case managers to share their skills with more junior team members – ensure everyone is working from the same knowledge base.
iv. PRM. Invest in an effective Patient Relationship Management platform. Leading products include Health Travel Technologies (www.healthtraveltechnologies.com).
v. Specialist access. Nothing is more impressive for a patient than a consultant calling within a couple of hours of an inquiry. Ensure you have access to the specialists within your organization and patient inquiries are treated with the importance they deserve.
vi. SLA and responsibility. Make sure your team is clear on what their patient inquiry goals are and are clear who is responsible for achieving what. At case manager level, this could be:
• I will respond to 95% of patient inquiries within 2 hours of receiving them.
• I will respond to 100% of patient inquiries within 12 hours of receiving them.
• I will call 95% of patient inquiries within 12 hours of receiving them
• I will call 100% of patient inquiries within 24 hours of receiving them
vii. Reporting. To monitor your SLA’s, you will need reporting. Ensure you can track the work of your team and address any performance issues and reward any stars!
If your message does not get through to the patients’ inbox – you definitely will not secure the patient! With medical content emails, we need to be especially careful with junk folders and spam filters, as much of our content is ‘high risk word’ heavy. Email deliverability is a science unto itself, but some of the basics which you can ask your webmaster or hosting provider to implement on your behalf are:-
i. Send from a corporate email account, not an Internet Service Provider (ISP) account, like Gmail, AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo. ISP email addresses lower credibility with patients and are much more likely to set off spam filters.
ii. Set up 2 static IP addresses for the domain – a primary one and a secondary one. These need to be static IPs. If you have email delivery problems with your primary IP, you can switch to the back up until they are resolved.
iii. Add your IPs to our reverse DNS records (IPMX records)
iv. Set up loop back addresses for hotmail (via their Junk Mail Reporting Tool), Yahoo (domain keys) and AOL; these help remove addresses of those users who report you as ‘junk’ and help validate your email as a legitimate sender.
v. Consider signing up for Sender Score certification – (http://www.senderscorecertified.com). They offer a lot of support and provide a daily monitoring of your ‘sender score’ – i.e., how spam filters see you so you can respond to any deliverability problems immediately.
We are confident that implementing these recommendations will significantly increase the levels of patients you secure – we have seen it happen with other healthcare providers who are enjoying extremely high conversion rates and low patient acquisition costs.
We hope you implement these recommendations and realize these transformative improvements as well.
AllMedicalTourism.com recommended by the Medical Tourism Association as a credible and high volume source of international patients. Last month alone, AllMedicalTourism.com referred over 7,500 international patients to its partner hospitals, clinics and facilitators; each was matched exactly based on supported procedures and target markets. You may reach the author, Rob Passmore, CEO at rob.passmore@AllMedicalTourism.com +44 845 057 403