Answer Patient Questions before They Enter Your Medical Practice

August 17, 2012

Here are some topic ideas that are easy to write about yet build powerful connections with potential new patients via your practice website.

Dreaming up new content ideas for a blog or website article can be a challenge; especially if you’re not a seasoned writer. One shortcut is to put yourself in the shoes, in the mind, of your potential new patient, who has never come in before, but thinking about it.

What questions is she asking before she even gets through your door?

Using the powerful media outlet of your own website, you can build trust in ways that were impossible even a decade ago.

Ordinarily and foundationally you should be filling up your website or blog with frequently asked questions about your area of expertise or specific procedures and services you offer. The problem is, these things are most relevant only after the patient gets in to see you.

One great source of writing and educational ideas is to contemplate what the patient is wondering about outside the medical issues she may be facing.

Here are several topics you’ll want to cover on your website. Even better, create a 200 word to 250 word blog post on each of these. Once you read these, you’ll come up with dozens more that apply to your local practice environment.

Example questions your patients are asking before they visit you

1. What is the process like?

I’m pretty old school in my practice - I don’t use nurse practitioners or PAs. So on my blog, I might write a post describing how I see all my patients myself, I do the surgery myself, and why I think that’s the superior model.

If you do use physician extenders, tell patients all about who they’ll see, how the process works, when they see you, how much you trust your dedicated team, etc.
This builds an accurate picture of what will happen when the patient arrives.

You can get as detailed as you want - from describing the wait in the lobby to the checkout process.

2. What do I need to bring with me?

I’m in a practice where patients bring in outside X-rays and clinic notes all the time, so it’s pretty important that patients know what to bring and why it’s helpful.

You may have similar patterns in your office.

This sort of thing is obvious to you, but may not be for the patient. We’ve all heard patients say, "Oh, my doctor was supposed to fax those to you." Think of the wasted time and scurrying around you could eliminate if new patients knew ahead of time what you expected from them in this area.

Just create a blog post or web page with detailed instructions on what to bring when they come in as a new patient and why it’s important.

Make your post more interesting by telling a story about a patient who you couldn’t diagnose because they forgot to bring a test result.

3. Will I need more testing when I come?

Most patients in my area are used to going to another building to have X-rays done, so are relieved to have X-rays done in the office.

Think about how your testing process works.

Does the patient get the tests in the same building, in your office, or go down the street?

Is it common to send your patients for tests and see them back a few weeks later?
If so, explain all that as a part of a "New Patients" section of your website. This fosters a feeling of trust and eliminates surprises in the office.

4. Will I have painful procedures done the same day?

It’s amazing how flippant I can be about suggesting cortisone injections to patients.

I’m getting better at being sensitive to the fact that some patients are surprised I might stick them with a needle as a part of their treatment. The more we can eliminate surprise and pain, the better.

What apprehensions, fears, and questions will your patient have about potentially painful procedures (minor though they may be to you) in the office?

Try to anticipate those questions and use the power of education to set up your patients for success when they come in.

Think how much more amenable they will be to accept recommendations if they’ve been reassured by a carefully thought-out article online beforehand.

Battling the Curse of Knowledge

In a book called "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die," the authors describe a great evil called the “Curse of Knowledge.” It’s why we become poor communicators after accumulating more and more knowledge: Once we know something it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine NOT knowing it.

So, force yourself to feign some healthy (and profitable) ignorance - imagine what questions your patients are asking before they even arrive at your office.
Doing so will give rise to mountains of good writing ideas for your blog or website, and you’ll build trust and connection with your patients in powerful ways.

Oh, and by the way, mind mapping is a great way to brainstorm this one.

Find out more about C. Noel Henley and our other Practice Notes bloggers.