When considering how to increase patient activation, consider that certain patients may have more questions than others based on health conditions, and attention to detail goes a long way
From falling off the schedule to pandemics to simple patient attrition, many chiropractic and health care clinics are working diligently to bring patients back to care and address how to increase patient activation.
David McNeil, president at PatientPop, works to help practices thrive in extraordinary times. McNeil took time to answer our questions about attracting patients back in, and what follows is our interview edited for length and clarity.
For chiropractors, COVID left them with a number of patients who stopped coming into the office. What is one of the most important strategies for reactivation?
First, if you don’t have one already, appoint a small crisis response team to help manage procedures and communication from your practice as the nation grapples with the spread of variants. Your patients want information that will help them feel safer when coming into your office for care. They also want information that will help them make informed decisions about delaying care, if necessary.
Your crisis response team will serve as the primary source of information for your practice and your patients to keep your messages about chiropractic care at this time consistent, internally and externally. Even if this team is small, frequently meet to review new information to determine how you want to communicate to your broader team and patients. Communicate with your staff first regarding any changes in policies, procedures, and appointments. Also, share the reasons behind why you’ve made specific decisions, and be clear with your staff about what can and cannot be communicated to patients.
Next, communicate frequently with your patients to help them make decisions about their care now. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of medical misinformation on the web. Still, as a health care professional, you can combat medical misinformation by sharing information from reputable sources, including your state government websites for local news, the WHO, AMA, or your state chiropractic association. You can also share information from trusted sources known for their accuracy, including The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.
How can chiropractors deal with how to increase patient activation during pandemic or other health care emergency situations?
As a best practice, provide timely, relevant information about variants to your patients via email, your website, social media accounts, and text messages from your practice. Phone calls may also be necessary; certain patients may have more questions than others based on health conditions, and attention to detail goes a long way.
Finally, when communicating with patients about coming into the office for an appointment, think about what’s most important to them. Put yourself in their shoes; what would you want to know right now? Most likely, your patients want to know about:
- Changes in appointment procedures. Are there any changes in appointment procedures? Since chiropractic care does not lend itself well to virtual appointments, most of your patients will expect to see you in your office. Will they need to wait in their car before the appointment, instead of your waiting room? Will their temperature be taken upon arrival? Are patients allowed to bring anyone? Will masks be worn for the duration of the appointment by the chiropractor and the patient?
- Cleaning procedures. Has the office kept up with or increased sanitation efforts with the arrival of the Delta variant? What’s entailed with cleaning procedures for the office and treatment rooms?
- Preferred methods of contact and communication. If there are any immediate changes in a patient’s or provider’s health and safety, how will that be communicated? Many patients rely on a patient portal to communicate with their chiropractor, but other options may work better at this time, with changing variables due to COVID-19. Text messages and phone calls may be a better option.
How will these strategies make a difference in patients’ behaviors?
Ideally, you are seen as an expert and trusted voice in your community. Communicating often with your patients and community helps instill confidence in patients and promotes regular appointment and visit volumes.
For patients, knowing who to turn to for reliable information among many options can be overwhelming. Determining the most relevant information to share with patients and the best tools for communication is crucial for chiropractors. When considering how to increase patient activation, this is an opportunity to connect with patients, enhance the patient experience, and strengthen long-term practice loyalty.
What mediums should chiropractors use to get the word out?
Use several channels to keep patients updated; you’ll reach more people. Here are the best communication tools to get the word out:
Your practice website — Keeping your website updated with COVID-19 and variant information accomplishes two business goals: First, it improves your opportunities to appear and rank well in search results answering COVID-19 queries. Second, it positions your chiropractic practice as a vital online information reference for local patients.
If you haven’t already, create a dedicated page (or section) of your practice website for COVID-19 updates, add it to your site navigation, and update the content as often as necessary. This makes it easy for patients to find what they need, whether they’re new to your site (that’s the majority) or return visitors.
For urgent or timely information, consider creating a “sticky” banner that appears at the top of each site page and links directly to your COVID-19 page(s) or online appointment scheduler. If you use text message reminders, link to these pages within your messages.
Social media — A comprehensive social media strategy lets you reach patients where they spend a considerable amount of time, especially during the pandemic. Specifically, channels like Facebook and YouTube can be great platforms for sharing COVID-19 information with immediacy.
As a community-minded social media platform, Facebook is ideal for broadcasting information about your practice. Use Facebook to share details with your local patients as soon as you have them. Because posts have a timestamp, people can immediately see the most up-to-date information.
YouTube is an excellent choice for archiving information via video and bringing your personality and brand to the forefront with potential patients.
Two-way text messaging with patients – In the 2021 PatientPop survey research, two-thirds of patients (66%) prefer text messages when receiving medical appointment reminders. In addition, 59% of patients would also like text message reminders to book their next appointment.
If you need to remind patients about regular chiropractic care they may have postponed or avoided, a text message from your practice is ideal. When texting, include direct links to schedule appointments online or call your office with one tap from a mobile device. Considering the pandemic has increased the frequency of text message and smartphone use, a text message is likely to be seen and drive a response when you’re assessing how to increase patient activation.
Blog posts — If you have a blog on your practice website, create posts related to the most frequent COVID-19 questions and concerns you hear from patients. Integrate this content into other blog topics, too. A steady stream of blog posts can educate and inform prospective patients who pose questions about chiropractic care on Google or other popular search engines and help them find your practice.