Healthcare has become a fiercely competitive business endeavor. And experienced providers and hospital executives know that finding, attracting and retaining new patients is a challenging process. The best practices (or getting it right) includes many touchpoint steps in this sales and service stream.
A touchpoint is any contact spot between a patient (buyer) and a provider (seller), including “when products or services come into contact with a customer.” Touchpoints—even those among the earliest of marketing or “sales” steps—are inseparable elements of creating the overall “patient experience.” Here’s how “getting them right” leads to patient experience success—all before the patient meets the provider.
Touchpoint One: The Internet. Not surprisingly, health information is the most frequently searched topic online. The prospective patient has been researching your facility, practice and personnel long before you know about it. Better than 80 percent of searches begin with a search engine, and three-quarters are via smartphone owners using location-based services. More importantly, online search information is a deciding factor in the selection of a hospital and a doctor. Plan your online presence and reputation as a touchpoint to shape expectations and engage new patients.
Touchpoint Two: The telephone. A significant amount of new business is won or lost when the phone rings in your office. The difference between success and failure is in recognizing that the prospective patient’s initial call is full of uncertainty. This is a conversion opportunity. It’s the job of the office person to understand the caller’s needs, reassure that this provider can be helpful, answer questions, and provide assurance that a near-term appointment is a proper and beneficial decision. This is the first point of human contact and the basis for initial rapport and trust. To be successful, this touchpoint needs to be staffed by a well-trained and experienced person.
Touchpoint Three: Initial follow-up. Between the initial phone conversation and the initial office appointment, it is usually helpful to continue the rapport building with a comforting contact. Some people may prefer an email while others may prefer a voice mail message or phone follow-up. (It’s best to ask the person’s preference.) Without being intrusive, this touchpoint is personal assurance, from the office to the individual that reduces anxiety and builds the relationship.
Touchpoint Four: First Impression(s). The physical office can be a make-it or break-it first impression. An office environment that does not appear to be clean, modern, up-to-date or warm and welcoming will have an immediate negative impact. In addition, the manner in which a new patient is greeted—and made to feel welcome and wanted—also defines the “first impression.” Do you have a greeter? Does someone welcome the patient directly, addressing them by name, helping them with initial sign-in, pointing to comfort points such as free WiFi, office conveniences, and providing a minimum wait time, etc.?
Throughout the process these and other touchpoints makes the new patient increasingly confident and familiar with the provider’s office. As questions of uncertainty are gradually removed, the patient’s fears or anxiety are replaced by a positive patient experience. The feelings of the unknown become awareness of capability, service and confidence in the provider, staff and office as a rich and personal resource. And, ultimately, the experience transforms from the unknown, to a committed patient connection, a strong advocate and a continuing referral source.