Editor's Note: This essay is part of our weekly #TimeLessWisdom series, in which we're highlighting one of the contributions from our 2012 book, Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care. Learn more about the series.
Health care is changing. It’s changing to eliminate waste of money, time, and resources. It’s changing to make more care available with fewer providers. It’s changing to empower patients to participate in their own care. How will you change with the times? Here are nine ideas:
- Make your Web site interactive, clean-looking, interactive, friendly, and interactive. Think of your Web site as your digital receptionist. If all your patients can do on your Web site is look up your phone number, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Patients want to register, make appointments, pay bills, get test results, chat online with a staff member, access personal health records (PHRs), watch videos, and listen to podcasts you make or recommend. They do not want to wander around your phone tree or wait on hold.
- Give your patients information, information, information. According to a MedTera study conducted in September 2010, 95% surveyed indicated they’re looking for more comprehensive information about disease management, and 77% said they hadn’t received any written information about their illness or medications directly from the physician.
- Understand that people have different types of learning styles and offer your group information and medical information in different ways. Offer information via written and digital documents, videos, and podcasts. Offer support groups and group education for the newly diagnosed. Help patients build communities around your practice.
- Take down all those signs asking people to turn off their cell phones. Cell phones are going to revolutionize health care, so embrace them. For all you know the person on the cellphone when you walk in the exam room is texting “gr8 visit til now, wil i <3 doc?” (Great visit until now, will I love the doctor?)
- Eliminate the wait. Patients have much better things to do than wait. It doesn’t matter why a provider is late—you’re cutting into patients’ ability to make money and get things done. Text them to let them know the provider is running late. Text them to let them know an earlier appointment is available. Give patients an appointment range
(between 10 am and 12 noon), then text them when their appointment is 20 minutes away.
- Use a patient portal to take credit cards, keep them securely on file, and stop sending patients statements. Use the portal to deliver results to, chat with, and e-mail patients.
- Stop fighting the tide and let your staff use social media at work—for work. Involve everyone in Facebook, Twitter, your Web site, and blog. Using social media for communication and marketing is not a one-person job.
- Form a patient advisory board and listen to what specifics your patients want from you. If people don’t have time to attend a face-to- face meeting, use Skype.
- Think about alternate service delivery models, both in person (group visits, home visits) and digitally (e-mail, texting, Skype, avatar coaches, home monitoring systems). Emotional technology studies show people can improve health by accepting and utilizing health care technologies.
What do patients want? They want information, communication, and a real connection with you. Use social media and technology innovations to make it happen.
Mary Pat Whaley, FACMPE, CPC, is the founder and president of Manage My Practice.
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