Any good marketer would have known that Meaningful Use stage 2 would be a challenge for many small practices. It isn't because getting patients more engaged is a bad thing or because patients don't want to use a patient portal. It is more because a project like getting patients to your portal is not a clinical effort. It is a marketing effort. And marketing is a skill that requires a certain amount of strategy. I recently talked about this in a post on EMR and EHR.
In addition to having a better understanding of marketing as I discussed in that post, following this checklist when building your next website, or when making the next website edit can boost patient engagement and registration rates significantly.
- There are multiple security methods that now obviate the need to have cumbersome, lengthy registration forms. Such technology is commonly available to web developers as open source software or as low cost services. Get rid of the long forms!
- If your website does not rank well for the name of the provider or the practice name, launch a Google Adwords and Bing! campaign and use the names of the doctors and practice as keywords. These are remarkably cheap clicks (the search engines charge per click) that can be as low as $0.25 per click, in other words – cheaper than a stamp!
- If you want patients to be able to book an appointment online, read your stellar patient reviews, send a secure message or register for a patient portal, make sure those features are highly visible, possibly even brightly colored buttons that are on the homepage of the website. Burying such items in the navigation menu or on a child page will see far lower patient interactions as many users will simply revert back to the ingrained behavior they’ve known all along - looking at the phone number on the homepage and calling the office.
- There are multiple website template marketplaces and vendors who are now offering responsive, mobile-friendly designs at affordable rates. There are also many legacy website vendors who do not offer responsive designs, and they should be avoided, especially now since Google is penalizing those “legacy” websites. Also, remember that services that build a copycat version of your website that live on a different URL such as “mobile.ABCpractice.com” are actually seen as different websites entirely by Google, and again these types of services should be avoided.
- One of the most clever and effective methods for obtaining more patient email addresses was by one of my clients, an OB/GYN in Fremont, California. Simply, he offered his staff $2 per patient email collected and paid them in the form of Amazon gift cards. Within a few months he went from less than 20% of patient records with emails to over 50%! The benefits of having such emails for patient engagement (newsletters, re-care messages, appointment reminders to reduce no-shows, etc.) had tremendous ROI for each $2 he spent.
In today's competitive marketplace, healthcare providers have to think a little bit like marketers not only to avoid Medicare penalties but also to retain and recruit patients.
Use these tips to help. And if you need more help, look at implementing a practice marketing platform.