Consumers choose doctors and hospitals for deeply personal and emotional reasons, not always rational ones.
You can trumpet your quality rankings and other measureable data all day long; it’s just noise to patients who make health care decisions with their hearts.
Try these five steps to earn patients’ confidence:
1. Build your reputation with a compelling story
Patients pay attention to what their neighbors are saying, what they read about you online, and how you’re perceived in the community. Word-of-mouth is crucial. If you tell your story authentically and keep your message consistent and relevant, your reputation and your organization will benefit.
Your reputation grows naturally from personal recommendations and your brand image. Naturally, that’s what your patients trust most.
2. Create a seamless care experience.
When patients encounter your organization, they don’t want to spend time figuring things out or trying to understand your hierarchy. They’re looking for care, and they’re counting on you to deliver it.
There are a lot of steps in the process, and how you communicate can alleviate confusion. Start by becoming proactive and efficient in the backroom. Provide clear direction that helps patients move through the experience quickly and intuitively.
Create easy-to-understand tools and resources that show patients the way. Be transparent; be informative. When patients know they’re walking into the right office, they’ll feel confident they’re in the right place.
Your patients don’t care about the health care system. They care about their health (and trust that you will, too).
3. Address concerns before patients are even concerned.
A visit to the hospital or doctor can be a stressful, even scary, proposition. Many patients worry about bad news, poor treatment, or other unfortunate possibilities, and these concerns weigh heavily on their minds. To them, there’s no such thing as a routine procedure.
You can use your marketing messages to assuage these fears and anxieties. Think from your patient’s point of view as you craft communications that present your health care facility as a safe, caring, and dependable place to receive care.
Don’t underestimate the fear factor, nor the ability of a powerful brand story to alleviate those fears.
4. Deliver the information that patients are already seeking.
Welcome to the world of “no symptom left unsearched.” When considering treatments, costs, and medications, patients trust information that comes from a doctor or hospital. Before they even make an appointment, they will often consult online resources, whether that’s your website or the thousands of others dedicated to health care topics.
Be up front in providing access to information. Use your online presence to provide relevant, reliable communication. By becoming their go-to source, you’ll gain their confidence and trust before they even meet you.
Start the conversation before your patient walks through the door, and it will be your door they’re likely to walk through.
5. Speak with one brand voice.
People tend to trust other people most, certainly more than any marketing message. Your brand doesn’t exist only in brochures and ads; it’s a part of how you look, feel, sound, and act. It’s manifested in everything you do, in every interaction your staff has with a patient.
It’s important, then, that your people are trained to engage with patients and build relationships in a way that’s consistent with your brand. They don’t always have to read from the same script, but they must speak the same language. As your team brings your brand to life, the service they provide will be more authentic, more effective, and, ultimately, more trustworthy.
When you tell an authentic brand story, it becomes compelling. When actual people deliver it, it becomes real.
Nathan Thornton is executive creative director at Ologie.