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13 AMAZING reasons digital marketing is not your priority

Recently, in one of my mastermind groups, I posed the following question - “Digital marketing has its place, but what if you created an experience so amazing, no digital marketing was necessary at all?”

I immediately had to turn around and apply it to CareConnections. I now have several projects underway or waiting in line (only so many hours in the day) in response to this question. At CareConnections, we’re looking at the onboarding and training experiences to start. Other answers include integrations, user interface, automatic report generation with suggested interpretation, and getting practitioners direct access to relevant risk-adjusted data through an app on their phone.

Without winning the lottery or raising subscription rates 10,000%, this will not all happen at once. I do believe, however, that it has helped me prioritize 2019 a little differently. I have picked two areas of focus and will be investing a bit more in our digital presence and doubling down on customer delight.

I’m not saying everyone should stop all digital marketing efforts immediately, but as a mental exercise, this has merit.

Let’s look at a typical physical therapy clinic. When it comes to customer experience, they have two customers, their referral sources and their patients.

The first step is to turn your empathy on max and really dig in to what the customers want, not what you find convenient to do. Map out the touch points for each customer, then break down the answers to the question step-by-step.

Below is my outline of the different touch points and a little brainstorming on how to get the words “That was amazing!” flying out of the patients’ mouths. There are so many differences - from clinic cultures, to urban/rural divides, to patient populations, and on and on – so you’ll have to do your own legwork that will give you the results you want.

I recommend working with your staff to pick one or two touchpoints at a time. Refine until you nail them! Play around until someone on the planning group spontaneously says, “That would be amazing!” Then implement. Where appropriate, I have referenced CareConnections Reports or EMR stats as metrics to measure your success. If you’re making changes, you need to be measuring outcomes to make sure there’s an ROI.

Patient/Customer Touch Points for an AMAZING Experience

  1. Initial phone call – Metric is Patient Satisfaction: Office Scheduling, Helpful, Caring/Compassionate
    1. Do you get the pronunciation of their name, note it in the electronic medical record (EMR) phonetically, along with their preference for first name use or Mr./Ms./Mrs.
    2. Do you get their whole story or just go for their calendar? How do you make them feel safe and welcome? Do you ask them an open-ended question like, “Tell me about what you’re coming in for?”  Do you listen without interruption?
    3. Do you converse with them to determine their understanding and expectations of physical therapy?
    4. Do you set the expectations for the first visit, from where to park to what will happen step-by-step?
    5. Are you in a rush or do you feel like you can make the person on the other end feel like the #1 priority of your day?
  2. Reminder(s) and possible paperwork before arriving at the clinic – Metric is show rate
    1. How many reminders, and in what reminder format suits your patient?
    2. Do you reiterate your conversations about what PT is and what to expect?
    3. How do you talk about paperwork? Do you share the value it provides? Can you do less?
  3. Your parking lot and storefront – Metric is Patient Satisfaction: Facility
    1. How is your signage? People hate feeling stupid. If they feel like an idiot because they can’t find your clinic and then arrive late…that’s not the emotional state we’re going for in our new customers/patients!
    2. Could you reserve a spot especially for them?
    3. What can you do to your storefront to make everyone who sees it look again? I know there’s someone in your office who will use this post to spend $1000 on holiday decorations. I support you!!! Just put up a menorah for me, will you? (; I actually recommend seasonal decorations since we all have nature in common.
  4. Your reception area and how they are greeted – Metric is Patient Satisfaction: Facility and Office Caring/Compassionate
    1. Have you ever walked into a space and it transformed your mood? It’s usually a museum, place of worship, Disneyland, or Starbucks. What mood do you want to create and how can you do it? What’s the furniture like? What’s on the wall? What’s the lighting like? Is it clear where they should go and what they should do?
    2. Are patients greeted by the name they prefer, and is it pronounced correctly? Are they thanked for choosing your clinic? Is the receptionist smiling and making direct eye contact or is he or she overburdened and underpaid?
    3. Is there small talk? Are important facts noted in the EMR so receptionist can have a reminder the next time they come in that their first grandchild might be born any second or their precious Fifi is ill?
    4. Refreshments? How can you spoil them? Smell can be a huge mood influencer. A friend of mine used to bake muffins in the toaster oven twice a day in her office.
    5. Do you have a giant desk separating staff from patient to create an unwarranted power dynamic in a healthcare facility where the patient is supposed to be empowered?
  5. Paperwork at the clinic – Metric is Patient Satisfaction: Office Helpful, Caring/Compassionate
    1. Is the value of the paperwork communicated?
    2. Do you stand behind that desk or walk around to be next to the patient while you go through the required paperwork?
    3. Is there a special and wonderful space for them to do the paperwork where staff is easily accessible for questions and they are checked in with? I’m thinking maybe a massage chair, green smoothie, and some aromatherapy. I know that’s over the top but we need them to say, “That’s AMAZING” about paperwork. We need some big guns here.
  6. Meeting the practitioner – Metric is Patient Satisfaction: Practitioner Caring/Compassionate
    1. Is there a handshake, proper name usage, and eye contact?
    2. Are they thanked for coming in and choosing your clinic?
    3. Is the “What is PT?” question answered again?
  7. How the practitioner works with them – is it truly patient focused? Metric is Patient Satisfaction – Practitioner Answer Questions, Access to Resources, Caring Compassionate
    1. Does the clinician feel they have enough time to really listen?
    2. If they run out of time, do they have the skills to pause, commit to returning to the rest of the story next time, and providing some value (besides the HUGE value of being listened to)?
    3. If a home exercise program (HEP) is prescribed, is the patient asked to contribute to building it to foster buy-in? Are they asked what is realistic and who will support them? Are they offered additional support from the clinic by automated texts to aide phoning them?
  8. How they exit the clinic – Metric is EMR patients with next appointment scheduled
    1. Do they have to make their way back up to the front after the first visit or are they like me and somehow always end up in the bathrooms, not the reception area? (True story, more than once, although sometimes it’s the breakroom or supply closet.)
    2. Are they asked if their next appointment is scheduled?
    3. Do you close with another thank you, genuine optimism, and excitement to be working with them and looking forward to seeing how they do between now and the next visit? Do you touch their shoulder or shake their hand?
    4. Does the front office have a similar process for scheduling and sending them away? Do they get a small gift for choosing you and showing up?
  9. Reminders part two – Metric is EMR no show/cancellation
    1. How many reminders and in what format suits your patient?
    2. What can you say/text/email that makes them look forward to the reminder?  A quote? A funny meme? A personalized reference?
  10. Visit part two – Metric is EMR no show/cancellation
    1. Name and eye contact again?
    2. What about those key facts noted in the EMR for showing that they are important? 
    3. Does your receptionist feel like they have time to connect for real? Even if it’s just two minutes of real, genuine connection?
  11. Benchmarks through the plan of care – Metric is HEP compliance
    1. Are there benchmarks in your plans of care at which patients can be appreciated for their hard work? Maybe completing a certain percentage of their HEP gets them included for a monthly drawing for a prize.* If they get to put their name in, are they also getting a high five from clinicians AND front office?
    2. Are they asked for advice on how to encourage other patients to be as successful as they are? Is that advice featured on the website, social media, or company newsletter?
    3. When they’re stuck, do you have a protocol that involves exploration, not blame? Is listening key?
  12. Final visit and discharge – Metric is CareConnections Self-Discharge Report
    1. How do you celebrate? How is their empowerment acknowledged?
    2. What do you send them away with?
    3. How do you make them feel appreciated in front of their new PT community?
  13. Follow up and ongoing relationship maintenance – Metric is percentage participating in ongoing programs, providing WOM advertising, testimonials and online reviews (You’ll need to develop your own system to track this!).
    1. How can you say thank you again?
    2. They miss you! How can they remain connected? Further cash or no cost maintenance programs? Mentor other patients?
    3. How often and in what format do you stay in touch with them? Birthdays? Holiday contacts? Newsletters? How do you make those AMAZING?

How patient-centered care can guide your digital marketing

What if we reframed digital marketing as a tool to remind customers and patients about their amazing experience. What if it was a tool to extend and build on that experience. If retention and word-of-mouth advertising are key to a healthy bottom line, then our first step is to build the AMAZING experience.

Your Facebook posts remind patients of what their hard work and successes look like, and they will be more likely to like and share their success (social proof!). Your online reviews are written by them. They will answer questions for your marketing staff when someone poses one on Google. Your newsletters feature them and their success stories. Your Instagram tips remind them when the aches and pains start, that they know the place to go to feel empowered around their health. They know where to go when they need someone to listen to them and not interrupt them after 18 seconds

An AMAZING patient experience can be the basis to inform and direct all your digital marketing endeavors…if you end up needing them.


*This idea comes from an article about people with addictions having better success rates if they got to enter their name in a drawing for each clean urinary analysis (UA). Most rewards were a positive comment but a few were monetary. Part of me thinks this is pitting a gambling addiction against a drug and alcohol problem but your clinic needn’t worry so much.