Recently, we discussed the importance of doing a market and practice analysis before moving forward with your marketing strategy. As Scott mentioned in his whitepaper, without a thorough understanding of market conditions and successfully implemented patient tracking measures, your marketing strategy will not be nearly as effective. One of the most important things to consider is to conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to gain a better perspective of your business.
We recently launched a patient satisfaction survey for one of our orthodontic clients and wanted to share just how powerful this measurement tool can be if used correctly. We immediately gained a clearer understanding of the practices’ strengths and weaknesses with regards to patient care. We also gained valuable insight on the patient experience while validating the success of the clients’ marketing programs. Surveys play an integral role in helping our clients quantitatively measure the patient care experience, as well as provider/patient communication. Also, the information they yield enables a practice to monitor its performance and implement quality improvement measures, two elements necessary for providing excellent health care.
What We Learned
In the whitepaper, we asked the questions: Where are your patients coming from? And what sets your practice apart from the competition within your area? After surveying an active list of 500+ patients we examined the answers.
We learned which two avenues were driving the most new patient consultations and why people stayed with the practice. 51% of the referrals were from other practitioners and 45% were from patient referrals. This data proved that the amount of focus dedicated to practice referral programs, including educating referring dental practices through face-to-face marketing, was well worth the time and investment. The amount of patient referrals confirms the extraordinary value of the current patient file. The result validates the importance of patient retention programs, engaging patients through social media, newsletters and the website as well as offering rewards/contests programs and having a friendly and educated office staff to create a pleasurable practice experience both in and out of the office.
The survey also provided us with valuable insight on improvement measures through two simple questions: How can we improve to better meet your needs? And what expectations of our practice are we not meeting for you or your child? The questions offered patients the opportunity to write candid answers in a free-form text box. The responses speak for themselves, so I will post a few here:
“Your office is very kid friendly, the staff is well trained and extremely courteous, appointments have always been kept on schedule, the doctor is very informative and great with the kids. All over a great experience, no improvement needed in my opinion!”
“The office environment is fantastic. You make having braces a great experience for the kids. The staff is so nice, understanding and patient. The contest and Points programs are such a great idea too.”
“Would like, at the end of the visit, a summary of overall mouth health. What’s my status (healthy, not healthy, etc.) and what do I need to do to make improvements. The little sheet that I got when I left was great, but it doesn’t talk about what I need to change, just what’s wrong.”
Although we only share a few comments here, the complete list demonstrated a clear picture of the practices’ strengths and weaknesses in terms of patient satisfaction. Patients were allowed the opportunity to offer specific suggestions, comments and inquiries about the practice, providing us with a clearer understanding of their experience. The end result? Honest feedback for us to examine and learn from.
So we’ve learned about some of the things that are working and what needs improvement with our orthodontic client. So what does that mean for you? My advice is to take the time to listen to your patients and make those improvements for your practice. Focus on the specific improvements that your patients share with you. After all, the main reason for this exercise is to improve your practice and learn where to focus your priorities. After you’ve put your changes in place, make sure to communicate with your patients. Post office news on your website and social media sites, or communicate the changes in your next newsletter. Above all, make sure your patients feel heard by taking action with their requests. As we’ve said before, the easiest way to improve upon your practices’ marketing success is to sustain and improve the continuity of care with established patients.
And don’t forget, utilizing the results of your survey to gage the success of marketing programs will encourage you to continue, alter and/or expand your marketing efforts. Get permission to use positive survey responses as testimonials for your marketing materials and on the website. Survey your patients on an annual basis and learn what programs are working, and which ones are not as part of an integrated marketing plan.
About Wendy Hamel
As co-founder of Med-Marketers, and serving as Director of Client Programs, Wendy is directly responsible for guiding creative strategy and overseeing client services for the company. Wendy has over 10 years of marketing and management experience serving technology, healthcare and retail. Wendy’s background includes consulting and strategic marketing for orthodontists, plastic surgeons, pediatricians and primary care physicians in the Greater Boston area.