Patient Experience & Communication Tips for Effective Word-of-Mouth Marketing

By improving your communication with current patients and working to provide the best experience possible, you can make a lasting impression. When patients are happy with your practice, they will recommend you to friends and family who need your services. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool, and the right patient experience and communication efforts can ensure that your patients will sing your praises.

1. Try out email marketing to stay in touch with your patients on a regular basis.

Email marketing is a great way to communicate with your patients and can be very beneficial to your practice. You can use email to send out routine information like appointment reminders, but you can also use email to send out marketing materials like newsletters (#3), upcoming events, or health tips (#4). When your patients opt-in to email newsletters or health tips, it gives you another way to keep communicating with your patients even if they don’t need to visit your office regularly (just be sure to remove them from your lists if they request to be removed).

Email marketing systems like Constant Contact and MailChimp also allow you to target your audience so you only send emails to people who can use the information you are sending out, and you can automate your messages so the actual sending process doesn’t take up a lot of your time.

Effort:

Tools like Constant Contact and MailChimp can help you save time with sending out your emails, but this method is high-effort in terms of putting your messages together. Again, you can always outsource the work to a marketing company if this is something you want to try, but don’t have the time to get it done.

Cost:

You can expect to pay a monthly fee for an email marketing service, which can vary based on the size of your email lists and the number of emails you plan on sending out. If you hire a marketing company that also puts together newsletter content for you, you can expect higher monthly costs.

2. Don’t forget about direct mail. You can grab patients’ attention there, too.

In a world where we are used to using email for our day-to-day communications, direct mail can make an impact–as long as you use it thoughtfully. When a new patient comes to your practice, send out a “Welcome to the Practice” letter. Also, since you have your patients’ birthdays on file, you can send out birthday cards. Appointment reminders for upcoming checkups can also be sent via direct mail. Small, personal touches like this will really stand out to your patients and make them feel welcome in your practice.

Effort:

It will take some effort on your practice’s part to keep track of your mailing list and when to send out these different mailers. Often, postcards can be mass-printed so that you just have to attach an address label, which saves you some time.

Cost:

You’ll have to budget for the cost of printing the necessary materials and pay for postage. Often, you can get a better deal if you print these items in bulk, but getting these postcards designed may cost a bit more upfront as compared to reprintings.

3. Send out newsletters (email, print, or both) to stay in contact with patients on a regular basis.

Newsletters are a great way to keep your patients informed. Your newsletter may include news articles related to different conditions you treat, health tips, articles from your blog, events in the community, or a combination of those items. You may have to try out different types of content to figure out what works for your practice, or conduct a survey to find out which types of content patients want to read.

If you do email marketing in a system like MailChimp or Constant Contact, you can create newsletter templates to expedite the process of getting the newsletter sent out. If you have enough demand and the resources to do it, you can also create a print version of your newsletter and mail it out to patients or keep some copies in your office for patients to pick up. Just remember, whether you’re sending newsletters to patients via email or regular mail, you’ll only want to send them to those who opt in to the service. No use in wasting your time and resources on something a patient doesn’t want.

Effort:

This marketing strategy is definitely higher-effort, unless you are able to work with a marketing company that can help you put together your newsletter.

Cost:

Whether you use email or direct mail to send out your newsletters, you can expect to pay for this marketing effort on a monthly basis. Email may be a more cost-effective option than direct mail, though if more patients read the printed newsletter, then it makes sense to go with the print newsletter instead. Outsourcing the work will also add to your monthly costs.

4. Give out health tips to show patients you care about their health.

By giving out health tips, you are reassuring patients that you care about their well-being, even when they don’t need to come in to your office. This can be helpful in building trust with your patients and retaining your current patients. You can send out health tips in a number of places: on social media, in your newsletter, or in blog posts. You could even try sending out periodic emails with health tips as part of your email marketing plan. You could email a health tip every week to patients who opt-in. You could also try a “Health Tip of the Day” on social media.

Effort:

This is definitely a higher-effort marketing strategy, as you’ll need to take time to assemble the tips and share them on various mediums.

Cost:

Depending on where you choose to share your health tips, costs could range from free (social media or an already-established blog) to a monthly cost for an email marketing service.

5. Send out appointment reminders to remind patients when to come into your office.

Patients appreciate extra attention like appointment reminders. This also helps ensure that your patients actually show up to their scheduled appointments. If your practice uses a HIPAA-compliant appointment reminder system, or an EHR, it’s quite simple to automate appointment reminders. If you have a smaller practice and the staff available to do it, you could also call your patients to remind them of appointments.

Effort:

Automated reminder emails can greatly reduce the amount of effort it takes to send out the appointment reminders. Phone calls will definitely take more effort on your staff’s part, but may be useful for patients that have missed appointments in the past.

Cost:

Hopefully, automated reminders are built into your EHR system. If not, you will probably need to pay a monthly fee to have an automated service send the reminders out. Phone calls may not incur additional costs, but can take up additional time in your day.

6. Produce pamphlets and brochures to give patients information about your procedures and services.

Pamphlets and brochures can help to inform patients about your practice, your services, and the conditions you treat. Be sure to incorporate your branding. You can give these brochures to new patients, have them in your office for patients to pick up, add them to care packages, or give them out at health fairs and other events. This marketing method may be a good option to have handy for patients who aren’t comfortable using the internet to find healthcare information.

Effort:

If your practice puts together the brochure content, it can take a great deal of effort to get it done. There are also companies who specialize in putting together brochures and pamphlets for medical practices, which takes a lot of effort off of your staff.

Cost:

The initial creation of the brochures and pamphlets will probably incur a higher cost upfront for design and/or content creation, especially if you are outsourcing the work. You should also budget for reprintings, should you run out of copies.

7. Offer take-away items to reinforce your branding and keep your practice top-of-mind for patients.

Everyone loves a freebie! Send your patients home with items that have your practice’s branding. It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive–items like pens, magnets, and notepads are all small and relatively inexpensive to produce. Be sure to include your practice’s phone number so they’ll always have it handy. It’s another little reminder about your practice, so that patients know who to call when they need healthcare.

Effort:

This should be pretty minimal in terms of effort. You’ll need to order these items from a company that makes them. To get the best pricing, you may want to set aside a little time to research different vendors. Other than that, you just need to decide what to order and supply the information needed to get your branding placed on the items.

Cost:

Costs can vary depending on what you order and quantities. Taking a little time to research vendors can help keep your costs as low as possible. Many companies also give discounts when you order higher quantities at once.

8. Focus on patient experience and quality of care to retain current patients and attract new patients through word-of-mouth.

Your ultimate goal as a practice should be to provide the best care possible to your patients. Other marketing efforts can help you get patients in the door, but if you want them to stay and recommend you to others, you have to make sure that every aspect of care is of the highest quality possible. Remember, word-of-mouth is a powerful tool–give your patients an experience that they’ll want to tell others about. It may be helpful to use patient surveys (#10) to learn more about what patients think of the experience at your practice.

Effort:

Hopefully, this is already a big focus for your practice, and it won’t require much additional effort on your part. If not, it’s an effort absolutely worth making.

Cost:

Patient experience doesn’t necessarily cost your practice extra money, unless you really need to overhaul your current processes.

9. Use an EHR to provide an easy way for patients to access their records.

Electronic health records (EHRs) can help your practice stay organized and allow patients to easily access their health information. More and more, patients want information about every aspect of their care so that they can make informed decisions. Having an EHR could be a big selling point to patients who want to be actively involved in their care.

Effort:

Most practices have some sort of EHR in place, but not all practices have a solution that provides everything they want for their patients. If your practice does need to get set up with an EHR or you’re switching, this could take a considerable amount of effort. However, the effort is worth it to use a system that works for both your practice and your patients.

Cost:

An EHR system will, of course, incur a cost to use and maintain. However, in our digitized world, it’s essentially the cost of doing business for a medical practice.

10. Conduct patient surveys to identify areas to improve.

Are your patients satisfied with the care they are receiving? Do they like your facilities? Is the wait time too long? Find out what patients think by asking them to fill out a survey. Surveys can help you find out if you’re staying on track with patients’ expectations, or if you have areas where you need to improve. Our Reputation Marketing survey includes questions that help you gather information about patient satisfaction, and has the added benefit of helping you collect online reviews. You can also put together and hand out your own surveys at the end of the appointment, if you prefer a lower-cost option for tracking patient satisfaction.

Effort:

Your effort for patient surveys can vary depending on how you choose to collect information. Paper surveys may save on costs, but you’ll have to spend time recording that data somewhere. Digital surveys can reduce your effort by aggregating the data for you.

Cost:

Paper surveys will probably cost less, but it may be worth it to invest in a digital survey solution for ease of distribution and aggregating responses. If you’re using a service like Reputation Marketing, you’ll also benefit from having those survey responses published to online review sites.

11. Answer patients’ questions (FAQs) so that the information is readily available.

There are probably some questions that patients ask fairly often. This is where Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) come in handy. You can write up FAQs as part of your website content, blog content, or include them in your brochures or pamphlets. Patients will appreciate the effort to answer their questions before they even have to ask them.

Effort:

While it will take some time to write up all of your FAQs and answers, this should be a lower-effort undertaking compared to ongoing marketing efforts. You’ll generally only need to do this once, with the exception of any future updates you may have.

Cost:

Writing up FAQs should be something your office can handle, so that won’t cost you any additional money. Depending on how and where you want to use your FAQ content, you may need to pay to have it added (for example, having your web developer add it to your website or having it printed in your brochures).

12. Get quality patient education to provide an easily-accessible, helpful reference for patients.

Patients will have questions about their conditions or the procedures they need to have, and patient education gives you a trustworthy resource to point them to. Patient education also helps to answer any questions a patient may think of after he or she has left your office. While patient education typically won’t help you rank in search engines (because the content is typically placed on multiple practices’ websites), there is a lot of value in having it for the convenience of your patients.

Effort:

Patient education is low-effort on your practice’s part. Patient education is typically database-backed, so you don’t have to worry about making updates.

Cost:

You can get high quality patient education, including videos, for as low as $85/month. We also include basic, written patient education with all websites on our P3 Platform.

13. Make yourself more accessible to patients so they have an easy way to contact you.

Patients really appreciate a doctor who is willing to address any questions or concerns outside of the office. Offer a phone number or email address where patients can contact you, and try to respond as soon as you can. If you’re not comfortable giving out your personal information, even having a contact form or an email address dedicated to patient questions could be helpful. Just be sure you’re using a secure, HIPAA-compliant email account or contact form.

Effort:

Depending on how often patients contact you, this can be a fairly involved effort. You’ll need to check in on your messages at least daily.

Cost:

It won’t cost you anything to respond to inquiries, but you may have to budget for HIPAA-compliant solutions.

14. Add new services that enhance the patient experience.

The healthcare field is constantly evolving, and you need to be able to keep up with the latest advancements. Offering newer, less-invasive procedures will appeal to patients seeking the most advanced care possible. Outside of surgery, you can do things that make care more convenient for your patients, like adding on-site physical therapy. You also can also add lower-investment amenities to make patients feel more comfortable in your office, like free Wi-Fi or more comfortable seating in your waiting room. Little things like that can add up for patients.

Effort:

Effort can vary based on what new services or amenities you’d like to implement. However, anything that improves the experience for your patients is effort well spent.

Cost:

Costs can also vary based on which services you choose to implement.

15. Give care packages to patients to reinforce your brand and provide useful items.

Care packages could include brochures and takeaway items like pens, magnets, notepads, etc. You can give different types of care packages to different patients. New patients could get a package containing information about your practice and what they’ll need to know. You can also give care packages to patients who have just been diagnosed with a particular condition and provide information on how to manage that condition.

Effort:

It will take some effort to put together care packages, but if you’ve already had brochures small items like pens or notepads made, it’s easy to put those items in a care package.

Cost:

Your costs for care packages will depend on what you include in them and what items you already have to put in the care packages.