How can doctors put electronic communication to good use in reaching out to patients?
Pre and Post Internet Era
In the good old days before the advent of the Internet, any communication that one had with one’s doctor was face to face or once in a while on the telephone. The good thing about that was that the interaction was face to face and there was the famed personal touch to boast about. But what was also true was the fact that most doctors were harried for time and apart from a perfunctory nod here and there weren’t really engaged with the patients in what may be called a meaningful age.
The advents of the digital age has changed all that and how. Not only are the patients these days better informed and more involved in their own treatment, they are quite demanding too and unlike in the past expect their doctors to be forthcoming and upfront in their interactions. Gone are the days when doctors were God and patients mere supplicants.
Medical Profession Wakes Up To the Importance of Communicating With The Patient
The medical profession realizes this and not only are doctors being taught communication in their curricula, they are encouraged to use modern means of communication like emails, text and social media to communicate with their patients. The way things are these days almost 70% of the patients carry out research on the Internet, either before their meeting with a doctor or afterwards.
They are in effect checking out the options available to them in the market. Like any other industry, healthcare has become a consumer product and doctors had better be up to speed if they want to retain clients. Doctors these days use social media, texts and emails to talk about things like the services they offer, or the successful outcomes they have achieved.
That apart they can send appointment reminders, medical updates and even electronic birthday cards on their patient’s birthdays. As a matter of fact there are professional healthcare communication companies that will manage patient communication for doctors. This serves the dual purpose of freeing up the doctors of administrative responsibilities, while also helping in business development.
One of the important benefits of proactive engagements of patients by doctors is that it leads to better patient outcomes. An anesthesiologist for instance might send YouTube videos to a patient due for surgery about what the procedure involves thereby setting their mind at rest and removing any anxiety that they might have harbored. The importance of using electronic media to communicate with patients is underlined by the fact that 64 % of the US population owns a smartphone. This corresponds to a figure of 207 million. This is likely to reach 264 million by 2020.
Digital Age Consumer Needs To Be Engaged Differently
The new generation of consumers is hooked on to the digital way of life and the marketers know that. They are therefore ramping up their digital communication capabilities. The healthcare industry, though not essentially a consumerism oriented one is increasingly viewed as a service provider that has to deliver, in order to retain its clientele. They have to embrace the digital way of communication. There are no two ways about it. The alternative would be to lose one’s clients to those who are able to leverage the tremendous power of digital media effectively.