5 Things Successful Health Care Providers Will Do in 2021

March 3, 2021 | blog | By Corie Stagner
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The last 12 months have been excruciatingly difficult for companies in every professional sector, but few, if any, have had to endure the one-two punch that hit health care. On the one hand, hospitals and urgent care centers across the country have been struggling with capacity to meet the needs of patients with COVID-19 and forced to juggle a lack of basic supplies, not enough treatment space, and supporting the unprecedented mental health needs of employees experiencing significant increases in stress and burnout. On the other hand, non-urgent care providers like GPs, pediatricians, dentists, and even cancer care providers, have found themselves with an unsurprising dearth of patients, what with people putting off their physicals, checkups, cleanings, and treatments in response to new protocols and concerns around contracting COVID-19.

We could use “flattening the curve” to describe both situations as health care providers are looking for better, easier, and healthier ways to move forward. While there is no magic remedy, health care companies that lean into these rapidly evolving consumer needs with an openness to responsively scaling innovation in operations and smart marketing that engages consumers’ new behaviors, will find success. To that end, here are five key things that will help health care companies not just survive, but thrive in 2021:

Make it easier for patients to find you.

Thanks in large part to spending most of the last year at home, patients are allocating a greater percentage of their health care journey to online resources. In addition to the usual reasons people avoid doctors, the pandemic has changed consumer behaviors around looking for and researching physicians, providers, and facilities. Consider these statistics from a January 2021 DialogueTech article:

  • 5% of all Google searches are health-related
  • Search drives 3x more visitors to hospital sites compared to non-search
  • Patients who booked health care appointments ran 3x more searches than those who didn’t
  • A high percentage of consumers researching everything from physical therapists and nursing homes, to hospitals and clinics, are going online before scheduling an appointment:
      1. Physical Therapist 84%
      2. Nursing Homes 79%
      3. Optometrists 74%
      4. Physicians & Surgery 71%
      5. Dentists 71%
      6. Hospitals 69%
      7. Clinics 67%
      8. Chiropractors 61%

With more and more people moving online to manage their health care needs, it’s never been more important to make it easier for those patients to find you. How do you do that?

First, recognizing the quality of your digital presence will determine your volume of new patients. If your website isn’t welcoming, informative, and optimized for search, this is an important place to start. If the communication to your potential and current patients is difficult, unclear, or nonexistent, consider hiring website design or digital services experts to help you.

Second, ramp up your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Determine which relevant keywords your practice should target and create content that will connect you to prospective patients via those searches.

Third, understand the digital metrics that drive new patient acquisition and how to use them to your advantage including Google reviews, your average patient rating, your patient acquisition costs, and the percentage of patients who were influenced by your marketing.

Improve your patient experience.

Our connection to brands is more clinical than we might imagine. Call it a mix of human nature and basic psychology, but be it a great meal in a restaurant or a trusted relationship with our doctors, we tend to repeat the things we enjoy. Thanks to social media, we also like to tell everyone we know all about them.

Take time to survey your patients’ experience at every touchpoint along the customer journey from looking for you online to visiting your practice or hospital. Ask your patients for their perspectives and be open to the honest feedback. Specifically, look at these three areas for improvement:

Improve your “Digital Doorway”

Create effective, informative online gateways that welcome your patients starting with your homepage.

Improve your in-office experience

While you’re paying attention to your online experience, take the opportunity to elevate your in-office experience as well. Assess where you can improve your practice from different vantage points. Physically, how easy is it to access and navigate the office? What’s the sensory experience like? What do your office and examination rooms look like, sound like, and smell like? On average, how long do you keep your patients waiting?

Improve your virtual experience

2020 will go down as the year Telehealth reached critical mass and if it’s not part of your practice now, it soon needs to be. Like all businesses that find themselves working via video conference, pay attention to the quality of your technology, your video, and your sound. Be intentional about your video setting, your background, and how easy you make it for your patients to connect. Focusing on virtual care now will pay huge dividends in the future.

Build your brand by embracing the role of health care thought leader.

One of the great shadow sides to patients flooding online to self-diagnose is that they find themselves in a sea of misinformation that’s half-baked at best and, at worst, dangerous. It also presents you with a great opportunity to grab the mantle as a health care thought leader.

You’ve built your reputation as a trusted caregiver among your patients. It’s a natural extension to be their thought leader as well.

All it takes is better communication and the creation of robust marketing content like blogs, newsletters, and articles that you can share with your followers on a regular basis.

During COVID-19, one of my family doctors wrote two to three Facebook posts every week endorsing the good things being done to fight the virus, and debunking the rumors and falsehoods that had no scientific backing. Not only did it make his patients feel better to have a knowledgeable, no-nonsense expert to follow, many shared the reports with friends and family around the country. Even if you zero-in on one or two areas of expertise, that thought leadership gives your credibility a wide latitude with both existing and new patients. Embrace the role of thought leader and patients will follow.

Recognize there is no “back to normal” after COVID-19.

When asked last year, Forrester analysts anticipated more than one billion virtual care visits in 2020. Not surprisingly, about 900 million of those had to do with COVID-19. But what may be a bit of a shock is that 200 million virtual visits were for general care and 80 million visits related to mental health. If Telehealth has been an emerging trend for years (and it has), 2020 was the tipping point. While many people talk about getting “back to normal before COVID,” for the medical profession there’s no such thing.

Every day, more and more patients are shifting online. They are meeting with their doctors, specialists, and even dentists via video conference. And they are becoming accustomed to more and better personal communication including follow up notes from their doctors, lab reports that can be accessed through an online portal, and the ability to manage the relationship with their doctors with the click of a button. In a number of ways, COVID-19 has forced a reset for providers and staff in meeting patient expectations and changes in health care delivery. Ensuring you have the resources to meet prospective and current patients where they are is critical to staying relevant.

Put patients second.

This last suggestion may seem a bit blasphemous, but allow me to give it a little framing. This isn’t a marketing tagline or anything you’d say to your patients. But as an internal mindset and a cultural foundation for your staff, it’s a game-changer.

Years ago, the president of our agency attended a national retailing conference where he got to hear a presentation from Kip Tindell, co-founder, and then-CEO of The Container Store. As the leader of a company that had made Fortune Magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies To Work For” for a decade and one of the most respected corporate leaders in America, our president couldn’t wait to hear what Tindell had to say. That’s when the CEO shocked everyone in the room.

Tindell said the secret to The Container Store’s success was putting customers second and putting his employees first. Tindell believed they had a “moral obligation to make sure employees looked forward to coming into work each morning.” From his perspective, employees who were positively engaged and challenged delivered excellent customer service; while disengaged, under-compensated, under-trained, unappreciated, and unhappy employees didn’t. It was as simple as that.

Think about what medical staff like yours have been through in the last year. If you’ve been on the front lines of the pandemic, no doubt your team has been nothing short of heroic.

In medicine, you do everything you can for your patients, and to do that long term, you have to ensure you are also supporting your staff.

Consider the galvanizing effect it would have on your employees to focus as much on their well-being as the patients you entrust to their care. Caring for both your patients and your employees isn’t mutually exclusive. Putting your staff first is a long-term investment in your health, your team’s health, and, ultimately, the health of your patients. Culture matters. Happy, motivated, supported employees deliver better results. It would be completely understandable that if, during the unrelenting COVID-19 chaos, your focus had been wholly on treating patients. If that’s the case, make an intentional shift back toward your team. Make sure they know they are valued. And don’t look back.

CORIE STAGNER is managing director, strategic initiatives at  LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

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Corie Stagner

at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency

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