We begin with a true story...with an object lesson for medical practices, healthcare providers and practice administrators about emotionally engaging (and retaining) new patients.
Imagine for a moment that you've moved to a new neighborhood. You have two neighboring families...one on either side of your new home.
It quickly becomes apparent to the new residents (you) that one neighbor is far more neighborly than the other. The "good neighbor" goes out of their way to proactively introduce himself or herself, offers warm words of welcome, builds rapport with congenial conversation and extends an offer of assistance.
Their tone is sincere, the effort is appreciated, and there's a mutual willingness to build on this foundation of friendship. Over time, you and your family feel good about becoming better acquainted and being friends with the "good" next-door neighbors.
Contrast this with those other neighbors-you still don't know their name-who have done none of these things. They're probably just busy. At best, Mr. and Mrs. Something occasionally wave from a distance and indifferently go on with their daily living. They become invisible.
OK, our slice of life story is a bit simplistic. (It is, however, a true story.) But you can see the parallels between the experience of the new family in the neighborhood and the good or bad experience of a new patient getting acquainted with an unfamiliar medical practice.
The organizational culture of some physician practices is one of performing administrative functions for a passing parade of medical conditions. They don't deliberately try to be impersonal, but sometimes the patient can feel taken for granted. The medical/business process steps seem to push aside the human/personal touch. Function overpowers form.
The new neighbor/new patient analogy is a reminder that proactively reaching out-in relatively simple, easy and low cost ways-communicates a welcoming environment that can ignite a lasting connection. New patient or neighbor, the difference is in making an emotional connection.
When a new patient appears at the doorstep of a medical practice, they are neither committed nor engaged. The marketing and branding effort is not finished; in fact, it's just beginning. The patient experience that follows-especially during their first visit-will determine if they become bonded to your practice, or if they opt to "shop" elsewhere in the future.
Winning the heart and mind of a new patient requires a clear plan with defined steps, responsibilities and accountability. The following ideas will fit nearly every office environment and can be used by everyone. What's more, there is virtually no cost to implementing any of these engagement and loyalty tips.
An engaging and positive patient experience—one that is strong enough to inspire enduring loyalty—requires a degree of effort. Fortunately, this effort can, with consistent repetition, become an easily formed, proactive habit.
It is important to remember that the primary reason that patients leave a practice is not because they were offended or even dissatisfied. The most common reason is when patients feel neglected or treated with indifference.
For more on this topic, there's a related article here: The paradox of disappearing patients.