The best way to reach out is to use online media, but you also need to rely on more traditional methods, such as word-of-mouth publicity, to gain patient goodwill
When a friend’s mother was put on the ventilator in the ICU of a leading hospital, where she had to fight for her life after developing Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) caused by a simple gall bladder removal surgery gone awry, my friend had trouble finding a patient-advocate who would answer her basic questions about her mother’s treatment protocol, insurance coverage and alternative treatment options.
Do you feel marketing is not for health advocates? Think again. Most patients and doctors don’t even know this service exists and they are clueless that a patient-advocate can provide just the right kind of help during a health crisis. If you’re an independent patient advocate, trying to run your practice on a shoe-string budget, you need to advertise to create awareness about your business, which implies that you need to do a lot of word-of-mouth publicity and social media marketing.
Ensure patient satisfaction: Provide quality service and treat clients with respect. In this profession, it’s really important to come across as compassionate and understanding.
Network: Attend hospital events, medical trade shows and local CME meetings for doctors. That’s where you can talk to doctors, and educate them about your unique services and skill sets. Most busy doctors would be happy to refer their patients to you, if you can prove that you can add value.
Social media: This is the cheapest mode of marketing for a small-scale practice. Create a Facebook page and set-up your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. It won’t cost you a dime and can provide rich returns if you put in the hard work needed. Most patients are now online these days – you need to find out where they hangout, and think about how you can help them access better care.
Expand your network: Reconnect with former patients and their families. Make it a point to check up on your ex-patients, even after they have got better. For example, you can send them an anniversary email on the date of their hospital discharge, congratulating them on their good health. You can also send them a regular ezine, educating them about their rights and what they can do to take better care of themselves. They may have friends, co-workers or acquaintances who may need your services, so make it easy for your clients to refer others to you. You may also want to offer a free consultation service, which allows you to meet with confused, distraught or unhappy patients. You can show them how they can benefit from your timely advice on their medical treatment, hospital costs and insurance cover.
Don’t forget to ask for references and testimonials: Get your clients to rate your service on a scale of 1 to 10 and proactively ask for feedback on your services. This way, not only would you be able to get an honest assessment of your skills, this may give you another opportunity to change their perception of a negative encounter. Record all good and bad patient experiences as you can learn from both. Use all these testimonials on your company brochure, blog or website.
Offer to give talks on patient safety and patient rights. Set yourself up as an authority on these subjects. Let people know what business you are in. Write opinion pieces in newspapers, start a newsletter service, run a chain e-mail campaign, so you remain “top of mind” when people need medical help. Grab every opportunity to speak on patient empowerment at local colleges and universities, Rotary Clubs, healthcare meetings and other venues. Quote your patients in your speeches and columns. They’ll feel flattered and will be happy to endorse your services.