In a totally unscientific sample, about half of the doctor marketing business cards in front of me include a physician’s email address. The other half does not; those cards are silent about an email communications channel between the practice and the real world. And, I fear, that’s an unfortunate choice these days.
Scientifically grounded studies say that the majority of doctors—far fewer than my 50 percent sample—have embraced the use of email for patient communications. I’m fortunate to work with forward-thinking doctors. Maybe that skewed my business card sample. It could be that some providers have business cards for patients (without an email address), and another version (with email) for selective distribution.
But on a strictly personal note, I chose my doctor, in part, because I could communicate with him via email. It’s a benefit to my busy schedule, and it’s a productivity-plus for the provider’s practice. Sadly, most patients (including prospective and would-be patients) don’t have that selection option.
I respect the long-standing concerns and physician resistance about the use of email, both financial and cultural. Some practices are less short-sighted. They have adopted new means, methods and technology and the wider use of email, text and other tools. Here are a few marketing-smart reasons:
Differentiation/Distinction: Having and using a unique point of distinction puts you ahead of 75 percent (or more) of the competition.
Patient Convenience and Satisfaction: Increasing numbers of empowered consumers are attracted to convenience; the new currency of healthcare service and delivery.
Education, Compliance and Outcomes: Patients who are closely engaged in their health decisions are better educated and take a proactive role in their care plan.
Advance of Consumer Technology: Patients are quickly outdistancing medical practices. Last century’s old-school provider attitudes are giving way to wearable tech health and medical devices for the consumer.
The Apple Watch is smart and sophisticated. Your phone collects health data. But your doctor’s office doesn’t have email? That’s a digital disconnect. And, for most medical practices, there’s plenty of open field opportunity for greater patient connectivity and provider interaction.
Patients want and would benefit from the convenience of:
- Phone call appointment reminders
- Portal to see information
- Online appointment scheduling
- Email appointment reminders
- Email correspondence about health
Consumers are sophisticated Internet, email and text users. It’s standard fare outside of healthcare. Where technology is available (which is almost everyone and everywhere), people routinely use email in their social and shopping activities.
In one recent example, “email between patients and physicians improves health and impacts efficiency of care,” according to a Kaiser Permanente survey published in The American Journal of Managed Care.
For additional insight on this topic, read:
- Patient-Physician Email: An Untapped Competitive Advantage
- Physician Entrepreneur and Patient Email Access
- Barrier or Blessing: Patients and Providers Use Email for Healthcare Communications
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, CEO