Fewer than one-third of physicians surveyed report exchanging email messages with patients last year. One theory is email exchanges between patient and physician appeal more to patients than to time-strapped docs.
But doctors who do use email to communicate with patients describe some impressive benefits to incorporating electronic communication into their practices.
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Earlier this week, results of a study in which patients were given complete access to their doctors’ notes was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine . The findings do more than shed light on what patients want. They change our perception about transparency in the patient-doctor relationship.
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There’s no question that social media is taking root in the healthcare field, and will only continue to grow in importance. According to a recent Pew survey, four out of five Internet users have searched for health information online, making health one of the most searched topics on the internet.
While on the one hand, this is good news for doctors since patients are often using the information they get online to get better informed and prepared for their doctor visits, on the other hand it can lead to a glut of potential misinformation. That’s why it’s increasingly important for doctors to get involved in the online discussion.
Participating in a consumer-facing social media platform doesn’t have to be as complicated or time-consuming as you may think. Click here to read the five simple suggestions will help you on the road toward social media success.
Multiple private and public-sector studies all point to a marked decline in the percentage of patients coming to the physician office, and a slip in the growth of spending at practices. And those studies all point to a common cause — patients believing they can’t handle the bill.
Two years after the official end of the recession, the studies report patients struggling to handle medical bills, or fearing they won’t be able to handle them. Physicians might not notice the decline on a day-to-day basis — perhaps it’s one or two fewer patients a day — but the numbers add up over time.
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Want your patients to pay when they visit, and be happy about it? Use the following strategies to help them understand what to pay, to be willing pay, and to walk out of the practice feeling their payment was equal to services received.
- Acknowledge patients are customers – From the moment money changes hands, patients see themselves as customers. Provide value for their visit and make their experience satisfying—which means thinking about their whole visit, including paying.
- Spread the word – Post professional, easy-to-understand messages about co-pays and other costs throughout the waiting room on the walls, as tents on tables, and in communications to your patients. Remember to make messages simple, but explanatory and positive.
- Be flexible – Accept credit and debit cards. Take checks. Offer flexible payment plans for patients short on cash. Have enough cash on hand to change a $50 or $100 bill for those long on cash. Short of accepting a chicken, let your patients know you will gladly accept their reimbursement.
- Be polite – Make sure the staff at the desk smile, and say “please” and “thank you.” Train them how to handle difficult conversations with patients. Hire personalities who will make patients’ visits as pleasant as possible. Take cues from companies known for their customer service.
- Always be pleasant – There are a lot of ways you communicate with patients besides in-person: on the phone, via email, through mail, and via invoices. Always be pleasant and polite, and take the time in communications to acknowledge the patient’s choice to visit your practice.
- Embrace technology – Consider online billing and electronic transfers. If your practice is large enough, install payment kiosk systems. Make paying painless.
Finding the right doctor isn’t easy—and it shouldn’t be. When you trust your health to someone else, you need to feel confident that this is an individual with enough smarts, qualifications and skills to give you the care you deserve.
According to Don Powell, President of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, you should shop for a doctor “the same way you interview a lawyer or an accountant. Powell says you could be starting one of the most important professional relationships you ever have. “People know more about how to buy a car than they do about selecting a doctor,” says Powell.
It’s not so much a matter of labeling a doctor as “good” or “bad”—you want to go beyond just weeding out physicians who have gotten themselves into professional or legal hot water. It’s about comfort level; whether a particular doctor is good for you. Smart questions and a little healthy skepticism can help you find Dr. Right.
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