Long-distance relationships are tough. Between juggling the hectic day-to-day and maintaining connections with all the other people in your life, it can be challenging to devote time to someone who resides outside your immediate geographic vicinity. Fortunately, as technology progresses, it’s helping bridge the gap between people and their faraway loved ones. Thanks to technological advances like text messaging, email, video chat, and social media, it’s easier than ever for those separated by land and sea to feel connected to one another. But without frequent, consistent communication, it’s easy to grow apart and lose touch. And in that regard, the relationship you have with your patients isn’t any different. After all, if you want to build patient loyalty, you can’t afford to let your patients forget about you.
Patient care doesn’t end when treatment ends.
The fact is, even when a patient has completed his or her course of treatment, that person is still your patient. Improving health goes beyond the healing stage—it’s a perpetual process that requires continued attention to well-being. Some patients are prone to flare-ups or additional injuries; others may require assistance with maintaining their current level of function. Either way, your relationship with those patients shouldn’t end at discharge. Plus, if those patients ever need additional treatment, you want them to come to you—not your competitors—and keeping the door open for dialogue after discharge ensures you’ll be the first provider they turn to.
Follow-up creates brand loyalty.
Not only does patient follow-up ensure your patients continue to choose you over the provider down the street, but it also fosters the kind of loyalty characteristic of brand evangelists. And as I mentioned in my last post, brand evangelists beget even more loyal patients—which makes them an irreplaceable asset to your practice. According to this study, 74% of consumers consider word-of-mouth a major deciding factor when making a purchase. So, when it comes to marketing your practice, these raving fans are an invaluable resource in terms of organically boosting your clinic’s brand via word-of-mouth as well as through online reviews and testimonials.
These loyalists will also be your best source of honest feedback. When you connect with them after they’ve left your care, they’ll be the first ones to tell you what they loved—as well as which areas of the patient experience could use a little TLC. And if you’re looking to improve patient satisfaction, knowledge is power.
Pay-for-performance models account for patient satisfaction.
Speaking of patient satisfaction, getting honest, genuine feedback from patients is even more crucial now that payers are starting to embrace alternative payment models. As this article from PT EMR states, “Healthcare reform initiatives are pushing all providers—rehab therapists included—to deliver higher quality care at a lower cost, all while achieving higher levels of patient satisfaction.” This push—known as the “triple aim”—is catapulting the healthcare industry toward a value-based payment paradigm. So, what does that mean for providers? For one thing, it means that the amount of reimbursement you receive will directly depend on the quality—rather than the quantity—of your services. And that’s good news for therapists who already focus heavily on outcomes and the patient experience.
On the flipside, if you’re not prioritizing patient outcomes and satisfaction—and collecting patient satisfaction data in a meaningful way—then you could find yourself at a serious disadvantage reimbursement-wise. Even if your current payers are still using a fee-for-service model, the winds of payment reform are blowing, and you need to be ready. And in order to prepare, you’ve got to know what your patients really want.
Technology keeps you connected.
It’s one thing to keep in touch; it’s quite another to maintain a relationship. And depending on your brand—and your patient demographic—the tool you choose could make all the difference. Some practices may opt to send a handwritten cards via snail mail, which certainly projects a personalized sentiment. However, as a busy therapy professional, you probably don’t have large quantities of free time to devote to letter-writing. Plus, you spend enough time on paperwork as it is, right? So, in the interest of staving off writer’s cramp, consider a more instant form of post-care communication.
These days, even folks who consider themselves technophobic have email addresses, which is good news for clinics that opt to stay engaged with past patients via email. Firing off an email is much quicker than sending a handwritten note, and responding is easier, too. One drawback to keep in mind, though: Email inboxes can fill up fast, and your email could get lost in the shuffle.
The majority of Americans are now on social media, and it’s a great way to stay connected with a broad scope of patients. The best part of social media is that it’s not just A to B communication; it’s an actual community built around your practice. Patients can interact with your staff, leave reviews, comment on updates and photos, and participate in any social media exclusives. The drawback to social media engagement is that only those with social media accounts can participate. However, having multiple social media pages boosts your SEO, and those pages will show up in search engine result pages (SERPs) when people search for your clinic online.
Patient Relationship Management (PRM) Software
PRM software offers an easy way to engage with patients before, during, and after care. Plus, it takes the burden of sending out individual communications off of you. Instead, PRM software meters out communications—like satisfaction questionnaires, NPS surveys, and follow-up notes—in an sleek, automated fashion at appropriate intervals. Even better: All the information you collect is housed in one easy-to-use platform.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well, I’m not sure who “they” are, but I’m pretty sure they’re not referring to the patient-provider relationship. While you never hope a patient will need to return to treatment after discharge, you want to be sure that if he or she does require your services again, that patient will return to you. By building and maintaining a relationship that goes beyond the treatment floor, you’re ensuring the loyalty of your patients as well as their continued health—and that’s definitely a win-win.