The healthcare industry has witnessed a paradigm shift in the last few years. The change can be attributed to digital technology and social media paving their way into the industry. Hospitals and healthcare providers are beginning to realize that they cannot control what is being said about them on the internet and social media. It’s time they embrace relationship marketing and leverage it as table-turning dynamics to add value to their practice and attract new patients.
What exactly is relationship marketing and how does this concept apply to healthcare?
Relationship marketing is an approach which focuses on long-term customer engagement by increasing customer satisfaction. It’s designed to manage relationships as a means for extracting the greatest value from customers over the lifetime of the relationship. For the healthcare industry, relationship marketing develops a symbiotic relationship between healthcare consumers and healthcare providers. While on one hand, healthy relationships with patients increase referrals, appointments, develop brand loyalty, and generate better revenues, on the other hand, patients get satisfactory services for their healthcare needs and can benefit from open communication channels with healthcare providers.
Strategic planning and successful implementation of relationship marketing strategies can mean the difference of a waiting room being full or empty. Patients today are more informed and empowered to make their healthcare decisions. With the web and social media available at their fingertips, they have also become more discerning and elusive. For every interaction and communication you make with your patients online, you are carefully evaluated by thousands of others. Healthcare marketers need to embrace this change through patient collaboration and improving the doctor-patient relationship. Positive relationships with patients can make them strong advocates for your healthcare services.
Roadmap to relationship marketing for healthcare providers
Always follow the “patient first” policy
The healthcare sector deals with a very critical aspect — a patient’s health. Therefore, the primary goal of all healthcare providers should be patient care and satisfaction. Providing patients with best possible treatment and healthcare services and sending them back home with satisfaction should be on the top of the priority list. During the treatment, if patients sense that profit earning instead of patient treatment is the main goal, they are unlikely going to revisit the hospital/practice again. When these patients talk about their experiences on social media or physician-review websites, their opinions resonate. Therefore, all efforts should be directed towards providing the best experience for the patients.
The first appointment
They say, it’s the first impression that matters the most. When a patient visits any hospital or physician for the first time, it’s quite likely that he/she has come through a referral or after evaluating the online reviews and ratings. The first visit should leave a lasting impression in patients’ minds. Train your staff to provide the best possible assistance and experience to the patient. If satisfied, the patient will form a positive brand perception and can become a loyal brand advocate about your practice.
Strengthen relationships by touching human emotion
Be a faithful representative of your patients’ interests. While interacting with them, make sure that you always provide information that is scientifically correct, unbiased, and useful. Once people know that they can affirmatively rely on the health information you share, it will help develop a sense of trust and credibility. Developing any serious medical condition is always a sensitive matter for a person. When patients benefit from your consultation or from any information you share on various online channels, they will definitely reciprocate it with trust and share it with their family and friends.
Always be open for communication
The key to any successful business is discovering, understanding, and fulfilling consumer needs. Relationship marketing in healthcare focuses on fulfilling patient needs, wants and desires by listening, responding, providing and adapting. Carefully analyzing and proactively tracking what services patients look for regarding their health needs can give you an insight into their minds. By encouraging open communication, you can build positive relationship with your patients, which in turn will help you understand what they feel about the services offered at your practice. You can improve relationships through feedback in order to remove any doctor-patient disconnect and make communication a two-way street.
Relationship marketing through patient engagement on social media
Social media interaction is all about engagement, participation and relationship building. Healthcare providers, physicians, hospitals and all others in the healthcare value chain should include patient engagement through various social media channels as a part of their relationship marketing plan.
The bottom line
Relationship marketing isn’t a program, is not a campaign and certainly isn’t an email blast. It is a smart approach for healthcare marketers to attain their business objectives. It can be better described as a strategic lever for your marketing objectives and helps manage and create lasting relationships with patients. Most healthcare business success comes from strong relationships with referral sources, relationship marketing goes beyond the marketing activities to help grow your practice by building a foundation of strong physician-patient relationships.
Manish Chauhan is Digital Marketing Manager at myPracticeReputation which is an easy-to-use reputation management solution for physicians to help monitor, protect and promote their medical practices at all times in the simplest way possible.