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3 Things Patients Secretly Expect from Healthcare Providers

By Carrie DagenhardAug 6, 2015

Patient SecretsOne of the most difficult aspects of moving to a new city is finding a new set of doctors. Since relocating to Austin 14 months ago, I’ve spent a great deal of time “trying out” local family practice physicians, dentists, optometrists and other specialists in an effort to find providers who meet my expectations. Living in a fast-growing city means I have plenty of options to choose from, and, like most of today’s patients, I have a list of requirements. Unfortunately, not all healthcare providers understand this fact — and they’re paying dearly.

Over the last couple decades, customer service processes — and the expectations that drive them — have transformed entirely. Attention spans are waning, consumers are becoming more informed, mobile devices consume our every moment and anything less than a Ritz Carlton experience may earn companies a scathing Yelp review. Most businesses have made great waves in responding to these changes, but, up until recently, the healthcare industry has remained mostly exempt.

Now, thanks to HCAHPS surveys and popular online review sites dedicated entirely to ranking private practices, the healthcare world is feeling the sting of shifting consumer behaviors. Many organizations are striving to understand what patients want, and discovering it’s not as easy as they’d hoped.

Patient Expectations

To help you get started toward investing in the right changes, here are a few things your customers want — but probably aren’t telling you.

Convenience

As a healthcare provider, your job is to treat your patients’ illnesses and ailments. Offering them the most convenient experience may not rank high on your list of priorities, but it is important to your patients. In fact, it can be a determining factor in whether or not they decide to continue visiting your organization at all — that is, if they even make it in the door.

Convenience goes beyond decreased wait times and a simpler check-in process. While these elements are important, a confusing, difficult-to-navigate healthcare website and poorly designed patient portal may turn potential patients off before you even have the opportunity to win them over with your ultra-efficient processes.

How do you offer a more convenient experience from the first impression? Implement the following:

  • A clean, responsive website design. Your website must render beautifully on mobile devices. Given the fact that mobile has surpassed desktop internet usage, a non-responsive site is unacceptable. (Plus, it can hurt your search engine ranking.)

  • Easy online booking. More often than not, your prospects are finding you online before they hunt down your number and make the first call. Trim out the extra steps by offering fast and easy booking through your website. 

  • Reminders. Missed appointments are costly for you, and frustrating to your patient. Minimize the risk by offering triggered reminder emails in addition to (or in place of) phone confirmations.


A Cohesive Brand Identity

OK, so unless all your patients are marketing professionals, they probably wouldn’t explicitly ask for a “cohesive brand identity,” but it’s what all modern consumers subconsciously expect.

Everything from your website and social media presence to your office or clinic’s decor, uniforms and the language used by your staff is a direct reflection of your brand. If it’s cohesive, you create a comfortable and memorable environment. If it’s not, your organization looks sloppy. I don’t know about you, but “sloppy” isn’t an adjective I’d like to associate with the people who, quite literally, have my life in their hands.

Although a brand identity may seem trivial and irrelevant, it plays a major role in developing trust. By exhibiting a uniform brand, you’re displaying competency.

Educational Resources

When I have a sore throat, a swollen ankle or a toothache, I don’t immediately pick up the phone and book an appointment. First, I search my symptoms on Google (or if I’m feeling especially adventurous, I may ask Siri). Usually this leads me down a dangerous rabbit hole wherein I eventually convince myself I’ve contracted a rare and deadly disease from a rare and deadly spider bite.

Instead of reading a decade old article from an obscure health magazine, I’d much prefer to read trustworthy healthcare content created by certified medical professionals I know and trust. Helpful content legitimizes organizations in the eyes of their patients.

A study by Pew Research Center shows most U.S. Internet users use the Internet for healthcare information — so give the people what they want! Not only will you earn credibility as a thought leader on various topics within your specialization, but you can help prevent patients from becoming misinformed elsewhere. When you have a library of reliable healthcare information for your patients, they’ll look to you for answers first.

Conclusion

When it comes to patient expectations, the tides have changed. Consumers anticipate companies will deliver convenience, a trustworthy brand and a plethora of quality resources, and expectations for healthcare organizations are no different. By assessing your current strategies and focusing on fulfilling these requirements, you’ll develop a more lasting relationship with your customers and improve your overall reputation.

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The Author

Carrie Dagenhard

Carrie is a seasoned content strategist who worked as a department editor and music journalist before making her foray into inbound marketing as a content analyst for a web development and SEO company. Carrie works hard at crafting the perfect content strategy for clients and using her hard-hitting journalism skills to tell your brand’s unique story. Outside of the office, Carrie enjoys live music, Tex-Mex, exploring the city with her husband and attempting to win the affections of her two terrible cats.
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