In today’s consumer-driven healthcare market, doctor shopping has been raised to an art form. Patients are demanding more and practices around the country are struggling to differentiate themselves from the competition. Advice about how to find a new doctor often includes long lists of interview questions to ask a practice before you visit, and the global availability of medical information online means that patients are approaching the search with a new level of education and sophistication. So what does it really take to satisfy potential patients? The answers are surprisingly simple.
1. A thorough examination
A few years ago, a study at the University of Manchester looked at how patients literally value different qualities of a good doctor by asking them to put a monetary value on a range of attributes. Respondents overwhelmingly ranked thoroughness as their most valued quality. How can you communicate this quality to your potential patients? Consider adding content to your website about the physical exams your practice offers, and don’t be afraid to go into detail. It will signal to doctor shoppers that they can trust you not to miss important symptoms when they visit.
2. A sense that their doctor knows them well
In a large practice, it can be difficult to know every patient by name, but feeling known by their physician was actually the second most important thing to patients. Obviously, when a patient is searching for a new practice, it’s the potential to develop a meaningful, productive working relationship with a doctor that really matters. Friendliness and approachability are the best ways to give potential patients that assurance. Make yourself available for questions from potential patients. Build a warm, caring, professional presence in the community and through appropriate social media channels, and you’ll attract new patients with ease.
3. A hassle-free appointment booking process
Being able to see a doctor quickly, and having a choice of appointment times both ranked highly with patients when they are trying to find a doctor. It’s worth trying to build in some flexibility in appointment booking: the ability to adapt to your patients’ schedules will make your practice an attractive choice. Investing in an online booking system is a great way of giving patients a level of control over when they come in. It’s also convenient and extremely attractive to a younger patient base.
A recent study found that more than 56% of people devote several days to the task of finding a new doctor. It’s a difficult, important, and often emotional decision, because there isn’t much that is more personal or more important than good health. If you can place yourself in your patient’s shoes, you’ll already be ahead. Whatever you can do to make the process easier on patients will improve your chance of being chosen.
Cheragbi-Sobi, S. Annals of Family Medicine, March/April 2008; vol 6: pp 107-115. http://www.vitals.com/about/posts/press-center/press-releases/vitals-defines-three-distinct-patient-personalities#.U6vxA_ldWUI