CLINIC TO PATIENT COMMUNICATIONS (PART 2/5): 7 key questions on whether to use email or not with your patients
Q1: Are the current traditional methods you are using to communicate to your patients non-sensitive related information producing an ROI for your clinic?
It is important to do an audit on your administrative processes to determine what they currently do to communicate to patients regarding non-sensitive information such as the promotion of services, health alerts, health checks and general preventative health information.
Some of the popular ways include:
You need to ask yourself how you are objectively tracking the level of engagement and effectiveness of these campaigns, and how much time and costs are associated with producing such material and pushing it out, as well as weighing up the pros of cons of each ‘campaign’ you administer. Is it the best use of the time of your administrative staff to complete these tasks rather than focusing on higher priority tasks such as ensuring that the customer experience at your clinic is optimised.
Q2: Do you regularly collect patient email addresses?
In your patient registration forms either in paper form or via a technology such as an app or check in kiosk, often there is a field for email addresses, which is inputted by your administrative staff into your practice management system. Booking apps such as HealthEngine or HotDoc can also do this automatically if it is integrated with your practice management system. It is also critical to understand that you will need “implied” or “inferred” consent in compliance with with Spam Act 2003.
Q3: Have you considered asking your patients to see if they would be interested in email communications as a value add?
The quickest and most effective way of doing this is by adding an “Opt in” in your patient registration forms. An example of the content is:
“In compliance with the Spam Act (2003), I am providing consent to subscribe to the clinic’s e-mail periodic newsletter list which provides general health and injury prevention tips, updates on service offerings, special offers and advertising material. Circle NO to Opt-Out.”
From extensive testing in GP and allied health clinics, we have found that giving patients the choice of YES or NO is ineffective as it does not come across as you as a clinic thinks this service is useful to your patients - they do not know any better so they are more likely to say opt out if you are not encouraging it.
Q4: Are there unique and new services at your clinic that you want to promote that patients often are not aware of?
Often, allied health and other ancillary health services at your clinic are looking for new patients and being actively promoted by your clinic is greatly valued by them. Email promotions is an extremely cost effective way to show your ancillary service teams that you are doing your best to support them. It also can promote to your patients the breadth of convenient and valuable health services at your clinic, which can indirectly increase revenue for your doctors from care plan billings. You may even would like your allied health team to contribute specific content such as health tips or educational pieces related to their specialties, driving further traffic to your clinic.
Q5: Do you have FAQs that front desk staff are frustrated about as they need to them again and again?
We highly encourage that you speak to your front desk staff who often feel overwhelmed and overworked what can make their life easier. Are they getting frequent questions from patients that could be sent via an email newsletter for example, about opening hours of a specific health professional or after hour fees when they could be doing higher value tasks?
Q6: Do you want to modernise and improve the professional image of your clinic?
An email newsletter is a great way to show to your patients that you are forward thinking and innovative clinic, that you are always looking for new ideas and ways to improve patient experience and care.
Q7: Do you want to ensure your local community is continuously aware of the services you are offering as well as encourage healthy behaviours?
Having printouts can be carry a heavy administrative burden from researching and updating content, to printing and distributing the materials. An email newsletter is a great tool that can enable you to dynamically update information about your clinic, health alerts and preventative health information you would like your patients to view and trust.
The next article will be some insights on deciding what goals you have for using such email tools and what type of email newsletter you are interested in producing and sharing with your patients.