Is Your Healthcare Practice Making These Digital Mistakes?

When running a successful healthcare practice in the digital age, most administrators focus on HIPAA regulations and strictly following them to keep patients’ PHI safe.

But there’s more to digital than what you can’t do online!

With the public face of your digital presence (website, social media and online listings), there’s a lot you can do to market your practice successfully (while still adhering to HIPAA).

We’d like to share five things many healthcare practices are missing or using incorrectly in their digital presence:

1. Have bad NAP?

  • NAP refers to “Name, Address and Phone Number” — the core to all online business information. These three data fields represent your business’s most valuable contact information.
  • When you originally set up your digital listings (social media, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.), you may not have listed your information consistently across all sites. The listing service may have also auto-generated a page by pulling information from your website.
  • When your NAP is inconsistent across the web, it creates SEO havoc. You may not be getting as high on Google or other search results pages, thus losing potential customers.
  • If your patients and clients are seeing your name or address inconsistently listed, it confuses them and erodes your brand.

2. Your site is abandoned (and sad)

  • Back in the “old days” of websites, most companies paid someone to put their brochure content online, thus building their first website…and never updating it until it was time for a new website. Luckily, websites are now easier to update with new, fresh content. It’s critical that you invest time and energy into regularly refreshing your site with new blog posts, updated doctor bios and videos, new staff listings, new services and other relevant information.
  • An abandoned site hurts your marketing efforts. When you don’t update your website frequently, search engines like Google think your site is stale and outdated which lowers it’s SEO ranking.
  • Tip: Use a content calendar to plan what you’ll post to the website, and plan to post at least a few times a month. Each time you post a blog, you create a new page on your site (and updated content for your customers).

3. Got link juice?

  • “Link juice” is what happens when you link to other sites from your site (outbound links to referring clinics, partners you work with or associations you belong to). It also accounts for links coming into your site (social media posts, online listings, partner clinics or associations you belong to, the local Chamber of Commerce or a board linking to your site).
  • Without inbound and outbound links, you can be disconnected online—floating around with no digital friends. Search engines like Google don’t like that because it makes you seem less trustworthy. Link juice shows them that you play nice with others, and that others find you relevant (like when a trusted site such as LinkedIn is linking to you 50 times—one for each blog post you’ve shared and linked back to your site). Link juice is great for SEO and will help your site get to the top page of search results.

4. Your site and social don’t match your marketing

  • Going hand-in-hand with an outdated site is a site that doesn’t match your business’ current marketing campaign. If you’ve updated your billboards, TV ads or other mass marketing messages, but your website doesn’t reflect or echo any of the current campaign, it will cause a disconnect between you and your audience.
  • This same rule goes for your social media accounts—you’ll want to match your current campaign on your Facebook cover image, especially if you have a direct offer or call to action you’d like people to take. Remember—if people see one thing in the media and another thing online, it can cause confusion, and confusion causes inaction!

5. Getting too fancy with “micro-sites”

  • Micro-sites originally seemed like a great solution to launching a new campaign or product without adding a new section to your primary website. A company would buy a new URL (web address) and build a completely new website for just one aspect of their business on this “micro-site,” then spend money to send traffic to it. This is actually detrimental to your overall user experience because it splits up your web traffic and trains your audience to go to a different website other than your primary site. Since most micro-sites were usually temporary, long-term benefits were never fully realized.
  • Don’t split hairs with your marketing. Keep everything on one site–your primary website. Then, interlink to areas you’d like your audience to see or use in-bound links directly to landing pages created for specific promotions. This will help keep your brand strong, your message clear, your SEO optimized, and your audience happy!

As a healthcare professional, you’re doing well to focus on keeping your patients’ PHI safe. But beyond HIPAA, more attention to your digital presence will strengthen your brand and allow your practice to take advantage of all the benefits of digital communication and marketing.

Once the Dust Settles: A Post-ASCRS Review

Recently, a few members of our team made the west coast trek to Los Angeles to participate in the annual spring ASCRS conference. The conference is an opportunity for ophthalmic professionals to learn, grow, and network with peers.

As attendees, we had a lot to take in, from the exhibit floor to the classroom. We had the opportunity to hear excellent doctors present on their life’s work and to see live surgery being performed with the industry’s newest technology.

Exciting new refractive technologies, such as SMILE from ZEISS, were available for education and hands-on learning. Healthcare regulation and reform were hot topics of conversation, as we all wait anxiously to see what emerges regarding MIPS and changes to the ACA. And, as always, we were all learning and hunting for new innovations in patient care, surgical offerings, and best practices in ophthalmology.

The biggest challenge for exhibitors at ASCRS is getting your product or offering to “cut through the noise.”

With hundreds of industry partners present on the convention floor, the biggest challenge for exhibitors at ASCRS is getting your product or offering to “cut through the noise” and reach new potential consumers.

So how do you set yourself up for success? How do you ensure that your product and your booth will stand out above all others?

Do it well

If you’re going to spend the money to be present at the conference, you need to do it well. How do we define “doing it well?” There are four key components:

  1. Focus on cohesive branding and materials.
  2. Offer pointed messaging that clearly outlines your value proposition and ideal customer.
  3. Have something “actionable” at your booth; something for visitors and customers to do immediately to improve their skill, practice, or thinking.
  4. Learn from your successes and mistakes. Audit every conference you attend and determine what worked and didn’t work from a booth presence perspective. Ask your loyal customers what they thought of your booth. Ask what others thought the best parts of ASCRS were this year. Learn, learn, learn.

If you “do it well,” you will shine at meetings like this.

PRN booth at ASCRS

As part of their presence at ASCRS 2017, PRN included a number of materials intended to educate their consumers and to show how their unique offerings stand up against competitors’ products.

Create space for conversation outside the exhibit hall

Some of the best conversations we saw happen at ASCRS happened outside of the exhibit hall and over a shared meal. Relationships and trust are built when real conversation is allowed to happen, and the best place to build relationships and trust is over dinner.

Relationships and trust are built when real conversation is allowed to happen, and the best place to build relationships and trust is over dinner.

Some options for holding these coinciding events include round tables or additional presentations. As you plan your event, create goals of the amount or type of feedback you hope to gain. In this way, you can measure the success of your event. Answers to these questions should affect your materials, your way-finding, your room set-up and your presentations.

Another exciting option at national events like ASCRS is to plan “experiential meetings” where you combine some form of learning or content sharing with a locally sourced experience. The goal of these events is that attendees would become actively immersed in your brand and product. For example, work with a local tour group to book a double-decker tour bus of the city. Before or after the event, offer some exciting new thoughts about your product or company. Because ASCRS has many vendors and meetings competing for the attention of doctors and staff, give people an added incentive to attend your experience.

Visiometrics booth at ASCRS

With these long standing banners, Visiometrics extended the visual impact of their booth’s presence. This modular approach also allows them to reuse those elements separately in other events.

Your booth layout matters

Depending on your product and presentation, the floor plan of your booth matters. In smaller booths, like a 10×10, the options are limited. However, there are still decisions to be made. Some questions you should ask yourself as you design the layout include:

  • What’s the one message you want people to see and understand?
  • Do you want a table separating you from your potential customers?
  • Do you need a private space to meet with interested buyers?
  • How does your floor plan affect your ability to draw in passersby?
  • What will people be able to stop and do at your booth?
  • How can your booth be unique and different from any other?

Answering these questions clearly before you begin working on your booth design will help ensure you create the ideal booth for your meeting goals, at ASCRS and beyond.

Patient Experience Training

The amount of time a patient spends with a doctor is a small percentage of the time they actually spend in the office. On average, patients spend about seven minutes with the doctor. If a consult appointment is two hours, what do you do with the rest of that time? Doctors and other team members are central to properly harmonizing the patient experience.

The experience is the marketing and not the advertising.

The importance of hidden systems

It is important to develop hidden systems so you can engage everyone equally. A hidden system will enable you to know who a patient is and what they do without them having to tell you every time they are in front of you.

“50-80% of the information provided by the clinician is instantly forgotten. Of the balance of information that is remembered, only 50% of it is remembered correctly.” –Greg Korneluk, Physician Success Secrets

What a patient remembers

For patients, 25% is remembered at best post-meeting. We go into the office and we throw all of this information at them like driving distance astigmatism, presbyopia, etc. A patient could potentially leave feeling completely overwhelmed. That patient goes home and says all I know is that my insurance only covers part of it. It will cost $2,000 and I have stigma.

We have to remember that our jargon dissuades people from understanding what we are talking about. Over the course of that hour or so conversation, they are burdened with information, then we dilate them and make them sign stuff.

What can we do to make it better?

In his book, Secret Service, John DiJulius III says that Americans have 1/20th the human interactions we had just 20 years ago. Rather than shopping at a store, we are online. Instead of meeting in person, we are doing webinars, video calls, etc. Rather than going to a bank, we do mobile banking.

“We are serving people that are starved for human interactions.”

When people are coming in, they are expecting more than just a great refraction. They want to talk with you. They want you to ask them about their family life, etc.  And they haven’t had a chance to tell anyone that and you may be the only they can talk to. We owe it to people to do a better job of interaction because they want meaningful interactions.

People are paying for experiences—for those interactions. You can drop this into any business model as these are the foundational elements of how businesses have changed over time.

Progression of Economic Value

  • Commodities (Agrarian Economy), which turns into…
  • Goods (Industrial Economy), which turns into…
  • Services (Service Economy), which turns into…
  • Experiences (Experience Economy) — such as Starbucks

As much as you grow, what are you going to try and do at all times? You cannot be standard. You have to be unique.

So, what does this mean for doctors?

From a patient standpoint, they are concerned with the following:

  1. Was I treated well?
  2. Were they trustworthy?
  3. Were they organized?
  4. Did they say thank you?
  5. Was the doctor nice?
  6. Was the office clean?

The patient is saying, I care more about this than technology. Obviously, I care about outcomes as well, but I want these things also.

A patient expects that you will have the best technology and a pristine outcome–these are known commodities. It is the steps above that take you above and beyond and will be the reason a patient chooses one doctor over another.

How should our teams adapt?

John DiJulius nails mass customization in his book What’s the Secret, “With the amount of intel healthcare has on its customers, it should be the best experience on earth.”

By being in healthcare, we have more information on our customers than most organizations and we rarely use it. We need to use it!  “You cannot be experientially excellent until you are operationally excellent,” DiJulius says.

You don’t get credit for having warm cookies in your waiting area if the trash can in your public restroom is overflowing because someone hasn’t been in there for awhile. It’s the overall experience that a patient will remember. The entire experience from the front door to the checkout needs to be worth every penny.

Details are everything: From the minute a patient walks in, your staff members are on stage. Be personal and warm.  You want the experience to be so wonderful that rather than a family member just dropping off the patient, they also want to join in on the experience of having good conversation, eating warm cookies and drinking a customized, Starbucks-like coffee.

A lot of people won’t take the leap if they don’t know where they’ll land. The market already believes that you are the best around at what you do. I just know if you pay attention to these kinds of things it will be even better — it will be world-class.

The Importance of Branding in the Medical Practice

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”

Branding in a Medical Context

How does this relate to a medical practice? Our patients today have access to more information than ever before to help them make a decision as to whom they choose for their medical procedure. There are markets and target audiences for everything but it’s your job as a medical practitioner to be crystal clear about the image for which you’re aiming and how that influences everything from services performed to pricing to patient experience.

Maria Ross, in Develop Your Brand Voice, Three Keys to Killer Messaging says, “The goal of the brand-building game is to get prospects to know, like and trust you so that when the need for your product or service arises – when they are most ready to buy – they think of you first.”

According to Laura Lake in What is Branding and How Important is it to Your Marketing Strategy?, the objectives that a good brand will achieve include:

  • Delivers the message clearly
  • Confirms your credibility
  • Connects your target prospects emotionally
  • Motivates the buyer
  • Concretes user loyalty

To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact.

Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions.

Branding and Social Media

How does social identity affect your brand? A patient’s first encounter with a physician is often through its online presence. 90% of 18 to 24 year olds surveyed said they would trust medical information shared by others on social media networks. 41% of patients said that social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility. 60% of doctors say social media improves quality of care that patients receive. Providers should take advantage of the trust consumers have for them over other health companies.

Creating and establishing a brand takes time and effort. Maria Ross offers:

“Brand is a three-legged stool: It is conveyed visually, verbally and experientially. Visually is the easy part: your logo, your colors, your design, your packaging. Verbally is how you talk, what you say, and which messages you convey. For example, do you lead with price, or do you lead with value? Does your company speak in conservative, authoritarian tones, or are you more playful and whimsical in your copy? Ideally, your visual and verbal promises should align and lead to where the rubber hits the road: experience. In other words, once you’ve promised me the potential customer or client, something verbally and visually, does the experience match that promise?”

A Consistent Brand Builds Trust

Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Look to what you do know about the very essence of your practice and emulate that in a simple statement that can guide your brand in every aspect of your business. Be consistent and use that brand to define the visual image, verbal communication and the patient experience in all encounters.

If you fall short in maintaining the customer promise of your brand at any stage, the relationship and implied trust will be at risk. Instead, create the best possible experience for your patients and establish a long-lasting brand that will work for you.

4 Things Fatherhood Taught Me About Healthcare Experiences

At MJM, we work with many healthcare practices and vendors and one of our primary roles in this work is researching, understanding and improving the patient experience. For a vast majority of patients, the quality of their overall experience is just as important to their satisfaction as the quality of the medical care provided. It’s remarkable that at the end of 2015, most healthcare practices still focus so little on creating the best possible patient experience. Practices that want to grow in 2016 will be wise to deeply understand the experience their patients are having with their staff, building, and processes.

Being a father for two young children has taught me many valuable lessons that translate to great experiences in healthcare. Here are four of those lessons, which any healthcare practice can use to consider new staff training, tactics and patient touchpoints:

1. Build and honor trust

Children have an intrinsic trust in their parents, that they will do what’s best, provide safety, and offer comfort. As a father, I’ve learned that such trust is a fragile thing and that building and honoring this trust requires daily work. Maintaining trust with children creates space for them to grow, make decisions and be honest about their feelings and concerns.

Patients often enter a healthcare practice fearful of what they may find out. They can be scared, unsure, and anxious about learning bad news or making big decisions around their health. Doctors and staff that focus on building and honoring the trust of their patients create invaluable space for healthy patient experiences. And patients who have their trust honored become lifelong fans and champions of the practice.

Much like parenting, the skills required to build and honor trust are time and listening. Honor the time of your patients, be present with them and listen to what they are communicating both verbally and non-verbally.

2. Create space for asking questions

One thing every parent craves is the discovery of the right environment for their kids to open up and discuss the thoughts, questions and concerns deep in their minds and hearts. It can be a different environment for each child—a long car ride, laying in bed at night, going for a walk or playing with stuffed animals. A key to finding that space for conversation is awareness and openness to your child, leaving time and opportunity for them to share, ask and talk.

Too many times in healthcare, the urgency of getting a patient through the clinic schedule reduces or eliminates any chance of our staff members creating space to truly listen to the patient. Beyond the occasional (and obligatory) “Any questions?” the process is actually structured to reduce the time each patient spends in each room. Without the space for conversation, practices lose much of their opportunity to really connect with patients, understand their fears and goals and best meet their needs.

As a father, I’ve found that I need to create specific times and cues to slow down, make space and listen deeply. Healthcare staff members likewise need to create cues during patient visits to slow down, connect, and listen.

3. Use language that the listener understands

We don’t expect young children to understand the exact language explanations of politics, sports, car repairs or why they can’t eat candy for every meal. Yet, healthcare staff often forget that their patients don’t have the knowledge or training to understand much of the language used during consultations.

Studies have shown that when patients feel overwhelmed by or don’t understand what they’re being told, they simply shut down and quit engaging the conversation. That’s unhealthy and dangerous for both the practice and the patient.

Much like being a parent, practices should constantly be aware of the language they are using and prepared to explain in more general terms what is happening with the patient. Practices should role play this often and create a list of phrases and language they use that will be challenging for patients to understand.

4. Know when to make a personal recommendation

As a parent, you know that you will need to make decisions and rules for your kids, especially when they are young. Yet, you also try to create space for them to make their own decisions and live with the results. This is an important part of growing up and functioning as an adult.

When people come to their doctor, they are looking for guidance in making big health decisions. More than ever before, doctors need to be prepared to offer a personal recommendation for a care plan for each patient. This plan should take into consideration all that they’ve learned about each patient.

On this point, the worlds of parenting and healthcare come together—doctors and staff should be doing their best to make recommendations to each patient as if they were part of their family. What would you recommend if it were your son? Your sister? Your father or mother? This kind of personalized, deeply committed care makes a world of difference in providing the patient with an experience to share with others.

Parenting has much to teach us about growing in our skills of listening, creating space, and personalizing care for healthcare patients. Let’s make this the year we truly focus on improving the patient experience across all of healthcare.

Millennials and the LASIK Experience

Laser vision correction is transformative. A patient can enter your office one day with a visual acuity of 20/400 and return the following day 20/15.

That is no small feat. Years of research and development, FDA approvals, and just plain hard work have made LASIK one of the safest and most effective surgeries in the world. That is a big deal. LASIK is not the only option for correction; if a person is not a candidate for LASIK, there are implant procedures as well as flapless techniques. The capabilities that accompany using advanced technology are truly awesome, and no other field of medicine can boast similar effectiveness and safety.

When it comes to LASIK surgery and millennials, however, it is important to remember two things beyond other more philosophical generalizations about what they want, how they work, and how they will contribute to society. First, millennials are going to be alive for a long time, and they have their entire adult lives in front of them. Second, as specialists in refractive and implant vision correction, you can help them see and, ultimately, experience life as it happens. In short, LASIK is an experiential offering.

LASIK will not change a person’s lifestyle, and it will not change who he or she is as a person; it will, however, transform how he or she sees the world or observe the detail on a butterfly’s wings. Your practice has the technology and the experience to make it happen. How can you invite millennials to learn more about LASIK and, perhaps, schedule appointments for LASIK consultations?

Reaching Millennials

Millennials use a whole cohort of social media tools to learn about news, catch up with friends, and view videos, television shows, or stream music. They are digital natives, after all, having grown up with the boom of the Internet and all the gadgets that have popped up since. If they are watching a show on television, it is likely that they are simultaneously interacting with another device such as a phone or tablet. If their phone is not in their pocket, it is likely nearby.

What does this mean for your practice? It means that you need to have a mobile marketing plan and you need to be mindful of how your website looks from a phone. Your website needs to have a responsive design that will accommodate viewing on devices with varying screen sizes. Google has announced that responsive websites will rank higher in searches than websites that are not, and that makes responsiveness even more important for your practice. Do you want to rank highly in Google searches for LASIK? Your practice’s website needs to be responsive.

In addition to the responsive site, your practice needs to be mindful of how your social presence looks for mobile users and consider if you are sharing content that is easily accessible from a mobile device. Is your practice’s Facebook profile image easily read from a mobile device? Are you making sure that the links your page shares are easily read from a mobile device? What is your social strategy? These are important questions.

Along with the increasing use of new devices, faster Internet speeds, and more intuitive website designs have come more helpful ways to measure how many visitors your website attracts on a daily basis and how they interact with different pages of your website. Using Google Analytics, for instance, we can see that the Vance Thompson Vision website attracts several hundred unique visitors every day and that those visitors most often move from the website’s homepage to biographical pages about our doctors. From the doctors’ pages, we can see that they then might jump to pages about LASIK, cataract surgery, or glaucoma treatment. Knowing how people use our website informs our team how they can improve it.

At a Glance

  • When it comes to LASIK surgery and millennials, remember that millennials are going to be alive for a long time and they their entire adult lives in front of them.
  • As a refractive and implant vision correction specialist, you can help them see and, ultimately, experience life as it happens. LASIK is experiential!
  • Millennials care about costs, positive referrals, brand reputation, and the experience. Most importantly, they trust their friends.
  • Millennials want to be remarkable, and they want to spend their money on experiences worth talking about, worth sharing with friends, and worth sharing with their families.

Brand Loyalty and Millennials

A recent survey conducted to learn more about millennials, media consumption, and brand loyalty, found that “60% of Millennials said that social advertising has the most influence over them in how they perceive a brand and a brand’s value. This compares with TV at 70%. Traditional media outside of TV fell flat.”1

When a friend sent this survey to me via email recently, I knew it was significant. Although billboards and newspaper ads may still be relevant to our mature customers, for whom traditional media has always been significant, there is no question that the eyes of most millennials are on smaller screens.

Even on our practice’s Facebook page, we have consistently seen that more users interact with our page from a mobile device. In a Facebook ad campaign for our practice, with equal emphasis on serving ads to desktop and mobile users, 95% of the people interacting with our ad did so from a mobile device. The number of people served our ad on a mobile device was more than 10 times the number of people served ads on a desktop.

Importance of Digital Referrals

Just because our practice is active on Facebook does not mean what we post holds a higher value than word-of-mouth posts. The same study referenced previously found, “Fifty-five percent of young shoppers said that a recommendation from a friend is one of the strongest influencers in getting them to try a new brand. Forty-seven percent consider brand reputation to be almost as important. Product quality ranks fourth at 35%, while price has the most sway at 62%.”

In another recent study, milennials showed that their generation favors exciting, firsthand experiences in lieu of money and careers: “Seventy-eight percent of Millennials would rather spend money on a desirable experience than buy coveted goods.”2 When asked where they plan to spend their money in the next year, millennials overwhelmingly respond with events and experiences in lieu of physical items (Figure).

We can learn a lot from these findings:

  • Millennials care about costs.
  • Millennials care about positive referrals.
  • Millennials care about brand reputation.
  • Millennials want an experience.
  • Most importantly, millennials trust their friends.

Creating Remarkable Experiences

By any estimate, these are not groundbreaking findings; we have known for a long time that referrals are gold and that money is important to our customers.

Millennials want to be remarkable, and they want to spend their money on experiences worth talking about, worth sharing with friends, worth sharing with their families. In our practices, we need to be diligent about how we stage our customer experiences so that a laser vision correction experience is remarkable—not just in the actual transformation of the patient’s vision but also how the experience is designed and how it is possible for it to be captured.

When millennials call your office, do they have to listen to a recording and press buttons, or are they immediately in touch with a person from your office who can answer questions and schedule appointments? When millennials arrive for their consultation, are they welcomed like honored guests? Can they sit in a private area? Are there customizable beverage options? Do you offer public WiFi? When a millennial is going through the appointment, do your doctors and staff take the time to answer every question and address the risks involved with treatment? How do you educate millennials on the variety of options available for vision correction?

Create opportunities for patients to capture their experiences. If a patient expresses excitement about his or her eyes or about watching the surgery, make sure he or she has the opportunity to have a photo taken with the surgeon along with a video of the procedure. During a consultation, show and explain the topographical images of the patient’s eye, so patients can see what your instruments capture and see their eyes from a new perspective.

Keep in mind the friends and family members who accompany your patients. What do they see and hear during their experiences in your office? In our office, we have specially designed observation rooms that overlook our laser suites. One of our staff will narrate the procedure so that everyone watching can know what is happening. Ultimately, you should craft your patients’ experiences for all involved parties.


Although patients’ experiences should be important for all visitors to your office, the lean toward experiential spending will likely increase as more Millennials start families, relocate for jobs, and work toward making their lives remarkable.

Patient Pay, Patient Wait and the Customer Experience

As the cost of health care from the patient perspective increases, so will patients’ expectations of their providers. Out-of-pocket expenses have always been a point of contention in the health care industry, and this tension only increases as the field of health care takes a more dominant stance in what we talk about each and every day. Patients are very aware of how they are treated at every step of their journey through the doctor’s office, and they are expecting more from their experience as their personal costs continue to rise.1

Waiting is inevitable in eye care. Efforts should be made to turn “wait times” into something else entirely.

One of the key measures of patient satisfaction in the health care sphere is how long a patient’s wait time is before seeing his or her provider. Patients often cite their wait time as a measure of the quality of care and overall satisfaction they feel while in the doctor’s office. A recent study by Michael McMullen, MD, and Peter Netland, MD, PhD,2 correlation between the amount of wait time and patient satisfaction. In fact, the study authors found that satisfaction with the amount of time spent waiting was the strongest driver of overall satisfaction. This is keen insight into the minds of our changing consumer.

Patients are now paying more than ever for even simple things such as X-rays, routine exams, and follow-up care. Even if the visit is not associated in any way with an elective offering, they are paying more. Therefore, their consumer-like preferences will be even more acute. In addition, patient customers report that their strongest consumer-like preference is to “not wait.” With this in mind, it is helpful to look at your clinic environment through the lens of the patient and create for them an experience that can satisfy this key driver.

Setting Standards for a Better Customer Experience

Waiting is inevitable in eye care. Efforts should be made to turn “wait times” into something else entirely.

You can begin this review the same way a patient might come in contact with your health care system. First, evaluate your phone standards:

  • How long does it take before someone picks up when you call your own office?
  • How many dropped calls or calls where the patient hangs up before you answer do you have?
  • How many total calls do you receive a day?
  • Is there a call center you rollover to when the heightened call volumes occur?
  • What is your standard number of rings?

Many practices use a phone prompting, or a phone tree, system that can frustrate the patient customer. Although having one of these systems may allow for more modest staffing expense, it typically starts the relationship on a bad note. These systems are difficult to navigate, programmed too quickly, not revisited, and often lead to dead ends, where the caller is placed in the back of the queue or disconnected altogether.

After you have reviewed the standards of your phone team during the call, it is important to review the standards your team has before and after the call. Many practices believe that when the phone is hung up, the responsibility of the phone team is finished. Not so. Days and weeks before the patient customer appears in your office, it is nice to make a reminder call, pre-visit contact, to reiterate what was discussed on the phone, review any questions that may have arisen during the patient’s exploration of your offerings, and/or review any remaining materials or doctors’ instructions in preparation for his or her upcoming exam. It is also important to ask patients about their concerns regarding the exam.

This reminder call also serves as an opportunity to remind folks to bring a loved one or family member along to their visit. This can help the patient-customer to not only have a good experience but also properly make their educated decision while with the provider in your office.

The Day of the Examination

Now, it’s the day of the examination. Everything needs to be thought through, from how patients arrive at your center to how they’re escorted back into the diagnostic area after the check-in process. Let’s begin with how patients arrive. Every effort should be made to make this process as smooth as possible. Maps, GPS, radio signals, call-ahead reminders, and texts should be used to help patients feel like they’re on the right track when traveling to your practice. In the northern states, one of the number-one patient concerns during the winter months is road conditions. Patients worry about the drive to the center, if the sidewalks will be icy, and whether they can find a parking spot close to the front doors of your practice. While designing for the optimal customer experience in health care, heated sidewalks might be something worth considering if you live in a region that has inclement weather.

Customer experience: the welcome area

Words are important: use “atrium,” “welcome area,” or “lobby” instead of “waiting area.”

There is nothing more powerful than the first impression. The first time the patient-customer walks into your office or clinic will leave a lasting impression as to how he or she feels about your offering. Be very, very picky about what you allow on your walls and how you design your atrium space. (Notice I did not say waiting room. Words are important, so the terms atrium, welcome area, or lobby should be used instead of waiting area.)

Explain the process

Once it is time to have measurements taken of the inside and outside of your eye, the clinical team or technicians should be mindful not to use jargon that might leave patients wondering what is going on. Rather than simply doing advanced diagnostics, it is important to explain to patients what is happening at each stage of the process. We use a simple method of laminated sheets to articulate the three major points of any advanced diagnostic. With these sheets, whenever we’re doing a test, team members can explain the highlights of the technology being used, and this ensures that everything is explained in roughly the same way to each patient.

These first few stages and ideas only cover the first few areas of the customer experience in ophthalmology. We all know that there is a lot more to be done after the diagnostic work is complete. We still need to take the patient to the exam room, explain his or her surgery options, counsel the patient, and discuss different payment options. Finally, we need to cover what happens between when the patient leaves the office and later returns for surgery.

1. Bouchard S. Patient payment responsibility increases. Healthcare Finance News. June 11, 2013. Available at: Accessed March 21, 2013.

2. McMullen M, Netland P. Wait time as a driver of overall patient satisfaction. Clin Ophthalmol. 2013;7:1655-1660.

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Video Testimonies: DIY or Hire a Pro Team?

In our work, we do a lot of customer/patient testimonies, doctor bio and education videos, and group interviews or conversations. Clients often ask us which option is better for their video project — a do-it-yourself approach, or hiring a video team? There are pros and cons to each option. Here are the things to consider when making this decision:

1. How much technology and time do you have?

Creating your own video requires, at a minimum, a camera to record the footage and a computer to edit the footage. Most clients who are thinking about DIY have both of these things. For basic videos, these technologies are sufficient. But the added technology you receive with a pro team – audio, lighting, advanced editing, and more options for file exports—can create a much more polished final product.

Additionally, we find that most clients drastically underestimate the time they will spend shooting and editing their videos. Depending on your DIY editing ability, one 3-5 minute testimony video could require 5-10 hours of editing. Considering whether you have the time to edit the videos you want is an important consideration.

Of course, if video editing is a hobby or interest and can be done off-hours, that is a consideration as well. Editing time can drop with more practice and training.

2. What’s your brand image?

When people think of your business or practice, what do they see? A premium offering with the best staff, technology, and facilities in the region, or a low-cost offering with average offerings? The technology additions offered by a pro team – improved audio, lighting, and editing – move the final product from a home movie to a professional movie. This improves your brand image and the perception that people have of your business or practice.

One additional word about audio. Perhaps the biggest mistake people make when creating DIY videos is not using, or improperly using, microphones. I’ve seen countless video interviews with decent lighting, a good camera, nice framing, and horrible audio. It ruins the entire video and can make it virtually unwatchable.

The care you show in these little aspects of your video reflect the care you show your customers or patients.

Occasionally, groups succeed with a DIY approach because it feels more “authentic.” By this I mean that it feels more natural, not coerced and not edited or altered. With customer/patient testimonies, authenticity and trust are vital. A good pro team captures this authenticity as well.

3. How will you troubleshoot?

As with any project, there are a number of things that can go wrong or affect your video. In the world of video, here are just a handful of things to consider: Having a clean camera lens and sensor, camera and audio batteries, sound control, camera settings (white balance, focus, brightness, resolution, frame rate), camera card or tape, file transfers, file backup, editing properly based on camera settings, color or audio correction, exporting for web vs broadcast, and adding titles, photos, or b-roll.

Depending on the scope of your video project and skill of your DIY team, having a pro team to troubleshoot may be of immense value in these areas.

4. What’s the end product?

We always start with the overall goals of the video project. If indeed the goal is simply to record a couple patients or customers talking about their experience, A DIY approach is reasonable. But we often discover that, over time, clients want to build a library of interviews and create longer videos featuring doctor or narrator education woven together with patient/customer experiences. The larger the scope of your project, the more value a pro team brings to the table.

The value added by pro video teams — music, lighting, audio, advanced editing, troubleshooting, efficiency, modern equipment, proper shoot settings, file export experience — can add a ton of value for businesses and practices and save a lot of heartache. Unless you have a skilled DIY team and a significant investment in quality equipment, I believe hiring a pro team both provides value and reduces risk.

MJM has worked with pro video teams around the country and is happy recommending video partners to meet your needs.

The Educational Process Empowers the Staff

There are many different approaches to educating your staff. Although various tactics may be effective, be certain to ensure that your staff is involved in designing their own education within the areas that it affects them. We suggest trying some of the following strategies.

Our staff members here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, really enjoy their time with the physicians. We have therefore created many different tactics by which the staff can carry out the doctors’ wishes every single day. Our first strategy is setting aside regularly scheduled time for the doctors to meet with the staff. This is a top priority in staff training and education. Topics of discussion include not only what staff members should say to patients but also how they say it.

The next strategy is to evaluate staff members’ command of medical terminology. We want staff members to have discussions with patients similarly to how we would interact with them. Once a year, each staff member takes a test on 200 to 300 terms related to the care we provide. We create the test throughout the year. Every team member must pass this test with a score of 90% or better. He or she keeps taking the test until that goal is achieved.

Staff members also complete an oral version of the same test. This is for when they field questions at church, family reunions, a bar, or other social settings. Conversations tend to revolve around what we offer at the practice, and as providers, we trust our own answers. It is important that our staff members respond in a similar fashion to the questions they hear.

We also regularly give the staff an opportunity to showcase what they know through co-teaching at educational events, making presentations to our referring doctors, and being shadowed by visitors, referring providers, and their staffs.

As a result of these efforts, our team members’ firm foundation of knowledge enhances our patients’ care and experiences. We believe this educational process also empowers the staff in a way that improves their joy and satisfaction in the workplace.


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.

3 Web Metrics Doctors Should Be Watching More Closely

We work with doctors and health care practices around the country, and there are a couple basic metrics most clinics don’t watch closely enough. If they did, it would change the way they built their site and the type of content they shared. Here are 3 metrics doctors and administrators should be watching more closely:

1. Mobile Device Usage

Like every industry, I think health care understands that more people are using their site via mobile devices than ever before. In reality, our experience is that nearly 1 in 4 visits is now mobile. That’s a lot of mobile visitors, and the number grows every year. This number is startling because so few doctors in the ophthalmology/optometry space have responsive websites that work well with mobile devices. Ask your web provider what your mobile device percentage is, and take a look at your website on a phone or tablet. If, like many doctors, you are getting 25% mobile visitors and your site is impossible to use with a mobile device, you are creating a poor experience for a bunch of current or prospective patients. It might be time for a web redesign.

2. Keyword Search

Your web analytic report can tell you the exact words people search to find you. If you need a quick and easy place to start understanding your market and what people think of you, this is where you look. Some people spend $10,000 on a “market study,” and they can be helpful. But start with your keyword list and see what words people type when they end up choosing your link. You might find that people are choosing you for reasons other than you think.

3. Top 5-10 Pages

Again, not rocket science — You should know the top pages on your site. These are the pages people are natively drawn to, the ones they send to friends to read, the ones they bookmark for future reference. These pages are working for you, and if you understand why, you can improve your overall site. Perhaps the content is great, perhaps the menu option or link is compelling, or perhaps a tool you include is helpful. Figure it out. If you combine keyword search with a look at your top five pages, you’ll have a nice start to updating your web strategy in a way that gets results.