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How to encourage positive word of mouth for your medical practice

Reputation can be built and maintained in many ways, but how do you manage what people are saying about you? And is it helping or hindering the public image of your business?

Barker, S, K. (nd) How to encourage positive word of mouth for your medical practice.

You hope that people speak well of the care and service your practice provides. When that happens, patients choose you because what they've heard is all they need to know to believe that you are the right physician for them. When patients select you on the basis of word of mouth referrals, they are more likely to be satisfied because they know what to expect.
There are four layers of word of mouth sources: Patients themselves, your staff, people who are trusted community members, including those who work in health care settings, and the community at large. ,br /> Patients - According to Michael Cafferky, author of Patients Build Your Practice: Word of Mouth Marketing for Healthcare Practitioners, a patient is most likely to tell other people about you in the first fourteen days after a visit with you. Communicating with your patient during that time increases the odds that they will tell others about you.
Your Staff Members - "My doctor's very good, his secretary said so," a woman replied when asked about her physician. The most effective word of mouth commentary is what your staff has to say about your practice. After all, staff members know the inside story. Do your staff members understand how important they are in creating positive impressions about the practice? You have less to fear from your competitors than from indifference or negativity on the part of members of your own practice. Listen and respond to employee shop talk. In addition to creating a discouraging atmosphere, it's very upsetting to patients who hear or overhear negative comments.

What are the stories that you and your staff tell others about your practice? Stories help people make connections because people remember stories much more easily than a list of facts. When you are hosting a holiday, retirement or other party, listen carefully to the stories that are told and re-told. If the majority speak to mistakes, incompetence or conflict, it's time for you to tell a few stories of your own about positive differences staff members have made in the lives of your patients. Begin every staff meeting by mentioning a positive patient comment. Some practices encourage such feedback by keeping an album of patient letters in their reception area.
It takes some maturity and experience in several different work settings before some employees realize that every organization has some faults. So, if a few younger employees are not referring new patients to you, they probably haven't thought much about it or don't know what to say. However, if the majority of your employees are not recommending new patients, something is wrong. There is most likely a quality issue that you haven't faced up to and/or remedied. Employees want to be proud of their organization and if they have concerns, they will be reluctant to invite their friends and associates to become patients.

Trusted Community Members - Each community has informal referral sources, such as local clergy, realtors, newcomers groups, lawyers, community leaders, fire and police officers and people who supply medical products or services. These individuals often have larger spheres of influence than other people. Nurses and pharmacists are highly trusted sources of information, but almost anyone working in a health care setting has frequent opportunities to make word of mouth comments. Advise your staff that you expect them to be particularly gracious with central schedulers at your hospital, for those folks will judge your practice by the behaviors and attitudes of every one on your team.

Establish relationships with staff members of physicians who refer patients to you. Acknowledge them by name when you call and thank them for any referrals that are made. Consider this scenario: A prospective patient asks the receptionist at his primary care office, "Dr. Jones gave me the names of two specialists. Do you know either of them?" The receptionist responds, "Well, I don't know Dr. Johnson, but Dr. Lowe over on Maple Street is very nice." Which physician is the patient likely to choose? The community at large - The more information patients have about you, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their experience. Dr. Joseph Wassersug, a retired internist living in Boca Raton, Florida, refers to this concept as the "recognition factor." When a new patient says "I know you, you're the doctor who..." the patient is more receptive to you. If they've heard of you, they think you're good. An Agency for Health Care Policy and Research study found that three out of four respondents would prefer a surgeon they were acquainted with to an unfamiliar one, even if the unfamiliar physician had a higher rating of some kind. Wassersug advises working with your hospital marketing department, writing a book, article or letter to the editor and being involved with the community as strategies to increase awareness about you and your practice.

Copied with permission of the author, Susan Keane Baker. Source: www.susanbaker.com.

Peter Buckley

I coach and develop individuals and businesses, in the private and public sector, Internationally and in the UK at board C-Suite and operational levels. Acknowledged outstanding results delivered through bespoke individual and team coaching, mentoring and leadership development to enable performance and productivity improvement with positive team dynamics and sustainable enhanced morale.

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