Patient Journey, A Clinical Nescessity & A Commercial Strategy

Using the Patient Journey as a Patient Retention & Referral Strategy

As I have previously vouchsafed, our Patients/Customers have become ever more sophisticated and most Practices really need to adapt their planned Patient engagement and service scheduling to reflect that. You should look at your ongoing Patient engagement strategy as part of your long term Patient Retention and indeed Patient referral strategy. Your existing Patients are your cheapest lead generation tools, the maths is indeed simple. If one of your Patients returns and makes a second purchase, any money that you have invested in them is returned. If they in fact feel strongly enough to return to you for a second set of instruments, they damn sure feel strong enough to recommend you to their friends or associates. Word of mouth leads are qualified leads, these people have not turned up for the merriment as indeed some of your leads from traditional advertising have, they realise that they have an issue and someone has informed them that you are the answer to their problems.
With this in mind, any money or services that you invest in your Patients, is indeed money better spent than probably on any other market channel you may use. I was reading recently that the cost of acquiring a new Patient had risen to $900 in the states. So lets look at what a decent Patient engagement and retention strategy would cost to you in real terms. The general model for Patient engagement I suggest to increase Patient engagement would be:
  • Test and sale
  • Fitting
  • Rehab visit/Fine tuning Visit at one month
  • Possible further Rehab/Fine tuning Visit
  • Service Call at six months to continue at six month intervals.
This journey is designed to maximize Patient engagement with you and indeed your practice which gives you maximum opportunity to shape and enforce a Patient’s perception of both you and your practice. This journey also allows for several communications a year with your Patient, structured mailings that certainly will not appear to be junk mail. I believe that less is better with mail marketing, I have watched for years some elements of our industry bombard their Patient database with mailings about new products etc. with real dismay. How exactly do you feel about consistent mailing from one of your service providers if indeed the mailings do not have any value to you? If you feel this way, how do you think your Patients feel about your mailings?
The introduction of the Patient Journey to your practice allows you to mail your Patient on a regular basis with communications that are perceived to have real value for them. It also allows you to consistently maintain your Patient engagement and keeps you consistently in their minds. The structure of the Patient Journey also allows you to introduce the subject of new technology at a seemingly apt time.
You will mail your Patients every six months to return to your office for service, you can also mail them perhaps twice  yearly campaign offers on ancillary products such as buy two packs of batteries get one free, or buy re-fill drying capsules get cleaning tablets free. It is important that the mailings are structured and well thought out; they must also be pertinent to the Patient. Don’t forget a Christmas card, get them printed, take the time to personalize them, have yourself and your staff sign them and send them out.
If your Patient is returning to you every six months, you do not need to send them offers on new technology, you can tell them about it, show it to them in person. If done properly and at the right time it will not appear to be a sales push, it will merely be more of your famed education and good advice. It will also more importantly be received as such.
What briefly follows is the structure of the service calls that I adopted while in practice, the following structure is scheduled after the sales, fit and rehab visits.
Service Call 1: Review Patient’s experience, clean aid, clean mould if necessary, change wax cap if necessary, change tubing if necessary or change thin tubes and tips, fine tune aid if necessary, ask about need for ancillary products and supply a free pack of batteries. Time scheduled 15 to 30 minutes.
Service Call 2: Review Patient’s experience, hearing scan test, clean aid, clean mould if necessary, change wax cap if necessary, change tubing or thin tube and tips if necessary, fine tune aid if necessary, ask about need for ancillary products and supply a free pack of batteries. Time scheduled 30 to 40 minutes.
Service Call 3: Review Patient’s experience, clean aid, clean mould if necessary, change wax cap if necessary, change tubing or thin tube and tips if necessary, fine tune aid if necessary, ask about need for ancillary products. Time scheduled 15 to 30 minutes.
Service Call 4: Review Patient’s experience, hearing scan test, clean aid, clean mould if necessary, change wax cap if necessary, change tubing or thin tube and tips if necessary, fine tune aid if necessary, ask about need for ancillary products and provide free pack of batteries. Time scheduled 30 to 40 minutes.
Service Call 5: Review Patient’s experience, Clean aid, clean mould if necessary, change wax cap if necessary, change tubing or thin tubes and tips if necessary, fine tune aid if necessary, ask about need for ancillary products provide free batteries, talk briefly about new technology & current offers. Time scheduled 15 to 30 minutes.
Service Call 6: Review Patient’s experience, hearing scan test, clean aid, clean mould if necessary, change wax cap if necessary, change tubing or thin tube and tips if necessary, fine tune aid if necessary, ask about need for ancillary products provide free pack of batteries. Openly discuss changing to a new product and assess readiness. Time scheduled 30 to 40 minutes.
Service Call 7: Review Patient’s experience, Clean aid, clean mould if necessary, change wax cap if necessary, change tubing or thin tube and tips if necessary, fine tune aid if necessary, ask about need for ancillary products, provide free pack of batteries, talk briefly about new technology & current offers. Time scheduled 15 to 30 minutes.
Service Call 8: Review Patient’s experience, hearing scan test, clean aid, clean mould if necessary, change wax cap if necessary, change tubing if necessary, fine tune aid if necessary, ask about need for ancillary products, provide free pack of batteries. Advise changing to a new product and assess readiness. Time scheduled 30 to 40 minutes.
This schedule allowed me to meet my patients on occasions where I was calling them for an appointment, not them chasing me. It increased my engagement with them and allowed me to build a real and strong relationship with them. Whilst this patient journey is a major element of the strategy for engagement, it only facilitates the other strategies and procedures that you put in place.
In all, this strategy will cost you in real terms for products supplied approximately 50 to 60 euros a year. In terms of time spent it will cost you approximately 100 euros more or less a year if you think your time is worth 100 euros an hour. I would sup posit that in fact that investment would be radically reduced or balance by the margin made on ancillary products that your Patient will purchase during this time if in fact you make it easy and sensible to do so. Such as drying tablets, batteries, washing tablets, a new drying case, a new washing case etc etc. If indeed for some reason your Patient does not indeed buy any ancillaries, you have invested approximately 700 euro on your Patient over a four and a half to five year period.
If indeed they provide one new Patient to you only, you are already ahead on traditional marketing costs. In my experience they will in fact provide you two or more, who will in turn become retained Patients and provide you their own referrals. In any mans language, that is a win win situation, your Patients are provided with real service and support and you are rewarded with continuing new business.

Regards
 
Geoff
Related Articles:
10 Best Practices For Patient Retention
Customer Satisfaction, Making Them Ecstatic

About Geoffrey Cooling

my name is Geoffrey Cooling and I am the author here at Just Audiology Stuff. I have been involved in the Hearing Healthcare Profession for several years now. I initially worked as a Hearing Healthcare Professional for a large national retailer in Ireland.

After several years in Practice I was approached to work for a manufacturer, where I was employed for five years. I am now the Co Founder of a business called Audiology Engine. We design websites, undertake content marketing and generally look after everything digital for audiological practices. I am also a contributor to many hearing profession periodicals and websites.

I have written two commercially available books, The Little Book of Hearing Aids which is written for hearing aid consumers and Audiology Marketing in a Digital World which is written for Audiology Practice Owners. They are both available in Paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon. I also write for consumers on the website Hearing Aid Know, which is a website with the mission of demystifying hearing aids, their types and their technology.

I have a great interest in commercial strategy as it applies to Healthcare in general and specifically to Hearing Healthcare. I also have a great interest in the psychology of sales and human interaction. I have been involved with social media for some time, both personally and professionally. I find the engagement and discourse on some social media channels fascinating.

I instituted social media strategy for the company I worked for as an experiment. That experiment soon spread throughout the company and I am proud to say that the company is probably one of the most active in the industry. I would like to point out that all views, opinions and thoughts here are mine own. Unless of course they have been planted by the pod people, you just can’t take your eyes off the pod people. Those views do not necessarily reflect upon any views or opinions held by my employer, if I ever get another one.

I think that our industry is in the middle of a time of huge change, I think that the change will be forced by both internal and external pressure. I think that private Independent Healthcare Practices will have to be smart and lithe of feet in order to meet these changes. I hope that some of my blatherings are of benefit to those Practices, Independent Hearing Healthcare Practices need to survive. I believe that if that occurs it will be of real benefit to Patients.

I hope that I, and my writings will play a small part in their continued success.

5 Comments

  1. Great info! I agree – there is a lack of “dating” our patients – we court them at the start and then often let the relationship dwindle over time. Once we “have them” we tend to not continue engaging them in a meaningful experience for them to be our biggest advocates and further word of mouth. Routine “good service” doesn’t cut it – we need to give them an experience to really talk about. There needs to be that “story” and ongoing experience to keep patients as a vital and fundamental part of our growth strategy!

    Markus Hilbert, Au.D.
    http://www.hearingpages.com
    http://www.earworksinc.com

  2. I think that the concept is an integral part of your ongoing Patient to Advocate strategy. I also think it is a no brainer, it will slash your ongoing marketing budget.

    It is also, the right thing to do, a lot to be said for that.

  3. I believe you are 100% correct! Its easy to sell one set of hearing aids. Keeping pts.engaged and returning for the 2nd set and with recommendations to friends is the true challenge; and a measure of true success!

  4. Exactly and all for a minor investment in real monetary terms and an investment of your time. In fact in my experience and the experience of my accounts who undertake the strategy, the purchase of extra ancillary products such as batteries, drying tablets etc, offset the investment almost immediately.

  5. Amazing post and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading through some of your earlier topics as well and decided to drop a comment on this one!

Let me know what you think