The surprising way email can make you a better doctor

Doctors, you need to improve the patient experience. Your intentions are there, but patients are starving for more.

Office visits offer definitive evidence that patients need to change. Tests results provide real data to make patients aware of health concerns. This is a clear and obvious starting point.

But after this information is gathered, the framework of change gets cloudy. Doctors go from offering clear and focused details like:

” You have high blood pressure.”

“Your BMI is high.”

“You need to lose weight.”

“You need to lower your cholesterol.”

“You are increasing your risk of cancer.”

“Your LDL levels are high.”

“You are at risk of Type 2 diabetes.”

Or offering vague recommendations to address these issues:

“You need to eat better”

“You need to exercise more.”

“You need to take better care of yourself.”

“You need to relax.”

It goes from specific to general. This leaves the substance up to the patient. How do they get the results they need based on your non-specific recommendations? As you can see, this is a flawed system.

Your patients need more. They are starving for quality information from you their trusted doctor. The person they can depend on to help them when they need it.

For most of your patients, their motivation to make these changes do not last long past their annual visit. Those that do try are generally frustrated with the process because they do not know or trust the content.

They need their doctor. But it is not practical to assume a doctor can handle this consistent level of follow up required for change. Large patient volume, minimal number of office visits and administrative responsibilities do not make more frequent personal communication practical.

What does a doctor do to help their patients address these preventable health issues plaguing our society?

The answer is easier than you think.

Embrace technology and increase your level of communication through email. Your patients are glued to their phones. You are likely glued to yours as well.

Think about the simplicity of sending your patients consistent emails containing healthy lifestyle recommendations. This does not have to be lots of complicated emails per month with strategies that invoke change. It can be simple positive habit-forming recommendations like “start your day by drinking a glass of water.” It can progress to include healthy recipes which are all over the internet to exercise plans to follow.

Let’s go back to the recommendations you made during the office visit. What you said was right and necessary. But you likely see that patient one time per year. What does that mean about your message? It fades away after a short time. Your patients push it down and ignore it.

Marketing experts say a consumer needs to see an advertisement seven to nine times before they made a purchase. Using this philosophy, your patient is not going to make significant changes to their lifestyle because of one office visit.

They need a consistent message. They need to see their doctor cares. You need to provide a greater level of communication to keep that change fresh in their mind. Your patient wants to see touch points from you, their trusted doctor.

This will positively impact the patient experience.

This will give them the substance required to change.

This will make your patients healthier and happier.

What is involved? Each month, research two to four healthy recommendations. Include varied topics including exercise, nutrition, studies supporting these strategies, motivation messages, goal setting ideas, etc. Offer one to two pieces of content within each email. Send emails weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.

In addition to these recommendations, you can also include medical recommendations for more frequent screens, nutritional supplements, reminders of office visits, etc.

Doctors of the world, how you offer care for patients needs to evolve. The hopefully, once-a-year check-up is not providing the substance your patients need to live a healthier life.

Patients want more care. They need a heightened level of communication to help change happen. Sending a consistent email keeps the message fresh. It keeps you, their trusted doctor, top of mind. They will rely on seeing your message in their inbox.

They will thank you for the extra attention.

You will make more of a difference.

You, their trusted doctor.

Make the difference your patients deserve.

Joe Bellistri is founder, Concierge Fitness Coach.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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