You’re bleeding. In fact, you’re bleeding a lot. After freaking out for a few minutes, you realize you need medical attention, so you head for the nearest urgent care or emergency room.
When you arrive, the person at the desk takes your information and asks if you’d like to provide an email address. You do, and head back for treatment.
The next day you find a survey in your inbox from the medical center asking for your opinions on the treatment you received, what the center can do better, and what it did well. The email is signed by the CEO of the hospital system whose center you visited.
“Wow,” you think. “This place must really value me as a patient.”
Until you look at the bottom of the email and see the following:
“This is an unmonitored email box. Please do not reply to this email.”
When you need something like a new pair of shoes, you have time to compare brands, prices and even stores. But when it comes to medical care—especially urgent medical care—researching and comparing options is not always possible. That’s why it’s vital for healthcare organizations to always be searching for ways to improve patient relationships. One of the easiest ways to do this is through email marketing.
But before you hit send on your next batch of emails, know that what you’ve written can either make someone feel valued as a patient or turn them off from coming to your facility again.
These tips can help you use email to improve patient relationships.
HIPAA protects against the disclosure of identifiable health information, but a patient’s name and age are legal and helpful data points to consider when crafting an email. Case in point: this real email from a pediatrics practice.
There are several things wrong with this email:
So how can this kind of email be improved? First, check your data. In the above pediatrics example, the patient went to an urgent care center affiliated with the hospital/pediatrician he or she normally sees, so the practice already has the child’s age and the parents’ names on hand to produce a relevant follow-up email—using a parent name and omitting the last sentence.
If you send automated patient emails, examine your data and content to make sure you’re using the correct first names, and your content is targeted to your audience.
Even if your email doesn’t specifically say, “This is an unmonitored inbox,” a “no reply” email address sends the message your organization doesn’t want to engage with the recipient. Instead, consider using a from address with words like “info,” “surveys” or “newsletters.”
If your email does say, “This is an unmonitored inbox,” at least give the recipient another way to contact you. An unmonitored inbox is still bound to receive a few replies, and using filters to identify hard or soft bounces as well as out-of-office or vacation messages can take the extra work from sifting through everything to find actual replies.
“But many companies still aren't willing to do it,” says ClickZ about reply monitoring. “It's a position that places the corporation's interests above customer convenience. It also takes away one of the inherent benefits of the Internet: the ability to easily interact via two-way communication. It's the online equivalent of those prerecorded telemarketing calls you're supposed to just listen to, since there's no one on the other end to hear you if you speak.”
Patients and potential patients are considering your organization to help them maintain their health or be there for them in an emergency. For healthcare organizations, the ability for patients or potential patients to easily provide feedback is even more important than that for corporations.
If your hospital or facility has a blog, make that content go further by using some of it to create newsletters. Allow patients and prospects to select the information that resonates with them, such as heart health, nutrition or blood pressure. In the pediatrics example above, you could also allow someone to select content according to age group.
If you don’t have a blog, consider creating one. And remember, it doesn’t have to be all about patient stories or advice written by doctors. Sure, patient stories are a great way to insert a human element into your content, but you could also feature content answering general health questions, tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle or healthful recipes. The possibilities are endless.
As a healthcare organization, you want to provide the best care possible to your patients. But there’s more to the patient relationship than just medical care. By taking a few simple extra steps with your communication strategies you can make your patients feel valued, trust your expertise even more and maybe even recommend your facility to a friend.
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