If you’re running a medical practice, you might see medical tourism as your mortal enemy, but there’s no denying that it’s a growing industry, and is even pioneering some innovative systems we can all learn from.
Gaining trust is one of the biggest challenges to medical tourism, and one of the main barriers to its growth. We’ve all seen the tabloid newspaper reports about botched medical procedures from overseas practitioners, with little or no recourse for the patients. So it’s not surprising that the medical tourism industry is working hard to overcome these negative perceptions.
One way they build trust is through online communities and videoconferencing. For example, an innovative South-East Asian company “Tab a Doctor” helps patients from Indonesia find suitable doctors in Singapore and Malaysia (which have better health care systems than Indonesia). This is a slightly different approach than in Australia – where patients are looking for cheaper alternatives – but the same issues of trust still exist.
To help build trust, Tab a Doctor provides an online community that lists their affiliated providers in Singapore and Malaysia. But this is more than just a directory of providers; it’s an interactive community. Users can ask for basic medical advice, compare profiles of doctors, get price quotations, and even chat privately with doctors via messaging and videoconferencing.
Of course, this is quite a different model from the way patients interact with medical professionals in Australia. But don’t reject it outright just because it seems extreme. What are some lessons you can learn for your own practice? Here are five ideas you can take and adapt – to build trust with your patients and prospective patients.
1. Show your faces online
Does your Web site show the names and faces of the people in your practice – the specialists, the support staff, the friendly faces at reception, and so on? As much as patients want to know you’re professional, they also want to know you’re personal. They already have to deal with the indignity of being poked and prodded, prescribed medicine and procedures they don’t understand, and filling in interminable paperwork. So anything that makes their experience friendlier and more personal will be welcome.
2. Create welcome videos
Ask each of your specialists to record a short welcome video for your Web site (and YouTube). This doesn’t need to be a professional video shoot; in fact, it’s better if it’s not. Simply set them behind their desk and record a 2-3 minute video on your iPhone. The only technical trick to keep in mind is to ensure the room lighting is shining on their face, and not coming from behind them.
The purpose of the video is for each person to introduce themself, mention the biggest problems their patients have (for example, “wanting to have a great smile but not wanting to wear ugly braces”), and explaining how they solve it.
Keep it brief, make it personal and conversational, and end by inviting the viewer to contact the practice.
3. Give them proof
Patients like knowing that you have helped others like them, so provide as much evidence and support as possible. For example, show Before and After pictures of your procedures. Of course, there are strict ethical and professional rules about the use of testimonials or endorsements in medical professions, so you have to do everything within these rules.
Of course, if you have access to strong evidence-based proof, provide that clearly on your Web site.
4. Answer their questions
Create a Frequently Asked Questions page on your Web site and answer the most common questions. Although what you do each day is familiar to you, it’s a strange (and sometimes frightening) world to patients. Just providing information alone can help to reassure them, and increases their trust with you.
There are two types of questions: administration questions (your reception staff can advise you on the most common questions) and technical questions about medical procedures.
Review this page regularly and update it as required.
5. Be accessible and current
Finally, if people do end up trusting you and want to get in touch, make it easy. That sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many practices make it difficult for prospective patients to take that final step.
For example, list full contact information (including a phone number!) on every page.
You should also include your street address, of course. You can make this even more useful by adding a map (use Google Maps), a photo of the entrance, and perhaps even public transport information.
Help them choose an appointment time before they pick up the phone to call you. At the most basic level, this just means listing your opening hours, but if you want to take this a step further, invest in online appointment software.
Which of these ideas could YOU use?
It’s easy to assume you don’t need to build trust with patients because they rate medical professions highly anyway. That’s true to some extent, but it’s risky to do nothing. Patients are better-informed and have more choice than ever, so there’s no guarantee they will choose you. Use these ideas to build trust before they contact you, and you increase the chance that they will.