The changes in our Patients.


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I recently read an article pertaining to the changing nature of Patients, and stop harrying from the back, I,  contrary to the rumours can read, but I digress. The article was actually in reference to the changing knowledge profile of Doctors’ Patients, however it was thoroughly valid to the Hearing Instrument sector. It really started me thinking, and after we identified what the burning smell was and the fire brigade had been sent away, this is what I come up with.

When I first entered practice, only a short few years ago, Patients who attended my practice were not particularly knowledgeable about either their possible condition or any of the many instruments that may be available to them. Questions of this nature where nearly always answered with what could be termed a generic answer. If you asked what do you know about hearing instruments? The answer tended to be not much, but I know there is the small ones that go in the ear and the ones that go outside the ear.

Again, if you asked the same question about hearing loss, you would either get a not much or again a generic answer pertaining to age. Over the years I began to notice this changing, it was initially a slow affair, with one or two Patients a month surprising me with more specific knowledge. It still really amounted to slightly more targeted but generic knowledge, such as a brand name in the case of the hearing instrument question or perhaps a clearer definition of a hearing loss.

Usually when I discussed this with the Patient, it transpired that the source of knowledge was usually the internet. At that time it was unusual for our Patients, our Demographic, to utilise the internet for anything, let alone searches pertaining to hearing loss and instruments. But I believe that this has changed radically.

I no longer practice, can you hear the sigh of relief?, but in my function with my present company I get to speak to practising Dispensers every day. What I have found is that Dispensers report that more and more prospective and existing Patients express opinions with real knowledge. Thoughts about their particular pathology of loss and perhaps its’ aetiology, they also express much better knowledge about the instruments that are available, mentioning not only brands but also platforms or indeed instrument configurations.

With this in mind and also my experience on the multiple social platforms that I manage for my company, it has become obvious to me that a large part of our customer base is not only web literate but that number is increasing exponentially daily. They are being taught their new skills through active retirement clubs, government initiatives, even by their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

So where am I going with this, wait for it, wait for it, have I ever let you down before? Ok there was that time, oh yes and that other time, oh yes and that….., again I digress. What this means to us is that a large and growing part of our customer base is now online, not only are they online but they understand how online works. They are searching out information pertaining to their ailment and the possible solutions that may be available. When they search for the centres that may supply them those solutions, you want to be there and you want to dress to impress.

Every practice should sit down and devise a strategy for their internet presence, at this stage, although there is a headlong rush towards social media, social networking is not yet key to our business. Don’t get me wrong, it is important and will become more and more important as time goes by. What is important right now is your traditional web presence and how you use it. Your website! Start with your website, before you enter into any social media networks.

If I have clicked through to your website from a search link, you have about five seconds for me to decide to stay. What will make me stay? Level of production quality, clarity, my first thoughts. With this in mind, your landing page and indeed all the sites pages need to be designed with this in mind. It must look professional, it should have high quality pictures of high resolution. The chosen colour scheme and font should speak of professionalism and sophistication.

So, your page has all of this and you have grabbed my attention, I want to get to the information I need quickly, I want a decent summation of the information with the facility to click through to a fuller explanation. I want the click through and summation to be clear, I want it to wave at me. If I click through to the more in depth information I want a back button, a big one so I can see it and I don’t have to think about it.

I want your site to be intuitive and easy, because if its not, I am sure your competitor or his competitor has a site just like that. If you have a web shop on your site or a blog and you should, because again, they may not be a big part of your business now, but that will change. I want easy links, again in the shop I want big high res pictures of what I am going to buy with clear outlines of what it is. I also do not want to jump through hoops to pay you, you make me jump through hoops and I is taking my money elsewhere.

Your site including your blog and your web shop should be easily searched, even if I put a stupid miss-spelt reference, I want your search facility to offer me the option of the right product or blog post.  I do not want to dig through your site for information, perhaps because I am lazy, perhaps because I have the attention span of a goldfish or perhaps because I am just learning this damned new fangled rubbish and your failure to make it easy for me has irritated me enough to go back to Google to look for another vendor.

I finally get to the point, the most important web presence you have is your website, it tells all your potential customers who you are. Its look and presentation tells of your professionalism and the experience while browsing it psychologically affects somebody’s perception of you. It can be a fantastic tool for you and your practice or it can be an insidious presence working against you, you need to decide which.

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About Geoffrey Cooling

Geoffrey Cooling is an Irish hearing care blogger and the author of The Little Book of Hearing Aids and Audiology Marketing in a Digital World. He has been involved in the Hearing Healthcare Profession since 2007 when he qualified as a hearing aid audiologist. He has worked in private practice and for a major hearing aid manufacturer. He has become recognised as an authority within the field of hearing care and hearing aids.

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