When you understand how patients research and choose care, you can optimize your online customer experience to best meet their needs.
Patients are Customers
Thinking of patients as customers can feel unscrupulous. Healthcare organizations care for people during some of their most vulnerable moments. But patients increasingly expect their experience with healthcare organizations to be as easy as their interactions with companies in other industries.
As healthcare marketers, we can take a page from “customer-obsessed” businesses like Amazon, Costco, and Netflix by making it as easy as possible for patients to become and remain loyal customers. After all, these companies’ emphasis on putting their customers first is right in line with healthcare organizations’ missions to provide empathetic, patient-centric care.
Understand Your Customer Journey
Finding gaps and opportunities in your business model and marketing efforts can increase and improve touchpoints with your prospects. Investigate your customer experience to make it more human, streamlined, convenient, and personalized.
Begin by choosing a service line. Write down the steps a typical patient takes, starting with needs and wants, traveling through their journey of information gathering, evaluation of care options, option selection, and post-experience evaluation. What are all the steps a prospect needs to complete in order to get treatment at your organization? Where are the potential pain points, and which can you help solve with better customer service?
An Example: Urgent Care
Peter, a prospective patient, has a fever and sore throat and he wants to see a doctor. He becomes a customer when he actually receives the services you offer – that is, he’s seen by a doctor and receives care, and your organization accepts payment. What are the steps that need to happen from the moment Peter experiences his symptoms until he sees a doctor?
A typical patient journey for urgent care may go like this:
- Peter goes online and searches for “urgent care that treats sore throat.” Your organization’s website is displayed in the search results.
- He clicks through to a page of content that lists symptoms and conditions your urgent care treats.
- He sees that you have an urgent care location a couple of miles from his house, it’s currently open, and it accepts online reservations.
- He searches your site and learns your organization accepts his insurance.
- He reads on your organization’s website what he can expect at the clinic and what to bring. He gathers the items he needs.
- Peter arrives at the clinic. A staff member signs him in, asks about his symptoms, and lets him know how long he can expect to wait. The staff member processes his insurance card and lets him know he has a $20 copay.
- A nurse brings Peter back to an exam room, where he sees a doctor, gets a rapid strep test, and receives a diagnosis of strep throat.
- Peter gets a prescription for antibiotics, which he can fill at the on-site pharmacy.
- He also receives discharge instructions that explain his diagnosis, treatment plan, and how to care for himself at home. His instructions may also include information on follow-up care.
Tips for Creating Your Customer Journey
When you outline a patient journey, ask yourself the following questions at each step:
- What questions might a patient have?
- What does the patient need to move to the next stage? Do they need additional information you can provide on your website?
- Is it easy for your website visitor to understand what steps to take to get care or engage with your organization? Can they request an appointment or take other actions online? If not, can you work with your organization to offer more online interaction?
- What do you want to say to the patient at this stage about your organization’s services? This is an opportunity to convey your unique differentiators and promote your brand in a way the patient finds supportive and helpful.
Structuring your digital customer experience in a way that builds patient understanding of the healthcare process can help your users more easily understand how to navigate your services and what to expect – which, in turn, can lead to improved patient satisfaction overall.
When you finish your patient journey map, ask:
- How many people, on the phone or in person, does a patient need to interact with to get treatment? Are there ways to streamline the number of contacts so the patient doesn’t have to repeat themselves or jump through hoops to get care?
- What support is available to the patient if they encounter a roadblock while trying to make an appointment or access care? Is there someone they can contact through a phone call, text, email, or form submission and get a response in a timely manner?
- How can we use content marketing to reach consumers at all stages of their journey so we’re top-of-mind when it’s time to seek care?
- How can we reach the patient before and after they’re actively seeking care?
- How can we structure and design our website to aid customers engaging with our content at any stage of their patient journey?
Empathy is Key
As you go through this exercise, keep in mind your typical patient isn’t a healthcare expert. They may have little to no knowledge of medical terms, what to expect at the hospital or doctor’s office, or how your organization works. Be as empathetic as possible.
In your current digital customer experience, are there places where the patient may get lost, become confused, or look to one of your competitors for an easier route? Once you identify these gaps, create online solutions that provide more meaningful content experiences along the patient journey.
Jumpstart Your Patient Journey Strategy
Find guidance to increase positive touchpoints with your prospects from the healthcare marketing experts at Geonetric. Contact us today.