The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

Communicating effectively throughout the patient journey: A guide for healthcare practices

What should define effective patient communication for practices? A consistent experience that improves each step of the patient path, fostering both acquisition and retention.

doctor and patient communicating

Many factors come into play when a patient chooses and sticks with a healthcare provider. Top-notch clinical care is a key driver of patient satisfaction. But today’s patients also consider the customer experience when they evaluate a practice — and a significant portion of that assessment takes place online.

The evaluation begins when patients look for a new provider. According to Tebra’s 2023 Patient perspectives report, 77% of patients search online for doctors either often or sometimes. When they do, they assess:

  • The quantity, quality, and recency of your patient reviews
  • Your practice website
  • Whether you’re in their online insurance company directory
  • Provider information from third-party websites

In other words, the opportunity to make a lasting impression begins with a patient’s internet search and continues through scheduling, the appointment itself, and post-visit communications. To drive patient acquisition and fuel retention, it’s important to meet or exceed patient expectations both in your first impression and over time.

Practices that use digital tools throughout the patient journey set themselves apart from the competition. Offering patients digital convenience, communications, and information makes it clear that you prioritize their experience. While there are a variety of tools that can help, an all-in-one platform that includes at minimum scheduling, communications, clinical tools, billing, and analytics can help your practice effectively connect with each patient.

The proliferation of technology across all aspects of life has created a culture of consumers who expect to be able to reach their doctor or healthcare practice whenever they need — to find information, book an appointment, get answers to healthcare questions, or pay a bill online. Practices that meet this demand are better positioned for growth.

Effective communication at every step of the patient journey

To create a thriving relationship with patients outside the exam room, offer them choice. Give patients multiple communication options, including:

  • Online scheduling
  • Secure 2-way text messaging
  • Click-to-call access via mobile devices

Below is an overview of the 4 major phases of that patient journey and how consistent communication can create a better patient experience every step of the way.

1. Search and evaluation

The patient experience begins the moment a prospective patient searches online for a practice. At that step, they need reliable information about healthcare providers and the practice — but first, they need to be able to find you.

Invest in search engine optimization (SEO), including geography- and service-related keywords, dedicated pages for each service and provider, responsive website design, and a fast load time, to make sure that your website appears to patients using Google and other search engines.

Ensure that patients can find you with greater ease by claiming and optimizing your online profiles across the web, including your Google Business Profile, Yelp, and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Make sure that your information is consistent across all sites as well as on your website, and communicate clearly about the services you offer so patients know what makes your practice unique. 

From there, wow them with an informative, easy-to-use website. Create provider bios to let prospective patients get to know your team virtually. Offer plenty of opportunities to contact your practice, including two-way text message and text-to-call. Enable online appointment scheduling to make it easier for patients to book right then when it’s convenient for them. 

Finally, establish proactive online reputation management to make sure your online reviews reflect the exceptional care you provide. Request reviews after appointments when your patients’ experience with you is top of mind. Develop a plan to respond immediately to negative reviews, both to address any concerns and to prevent negative reviews from impacting your reputation.

By ensuring your web presence highlights what sets your practice apart, prospective patients will have a clear choice — and won’t be left wondering whether your medical practice can meet their needs.

2. Conversion and pre-appointment

After a patient decides your healthcare practice is the right choice for them, make sure they have easy, immediate ways to make an appointment, followed by reminders to show up. With the right digital tools and communication strategy, you can manage these actions effectively with little to no additional work by your front-desk staff.

Online scheduling invites prospective patients to request or book an appointment at their convenience, helping you boost volume 24/7. From there, offer secure digital registration and intake to save time for both patients and office staff. Use email and text messaging for automated appointment reminders that reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations, and to tell patients what to expect from their visit.

Using these tactics together signals to new patients that your practice prioritizes convenience and communication — both critical for driving patient satisfaction.

3. The encounter

If your patients have completed registration and other forms online before the appointment, your front desk staff and providers can be fully attentive and focused on care. This sets the stage for the kind of experience that drives patient loyalty.

For virtual appointments, ensure your telehealth platform is easy to use — for both patients and providers. Confirm that your camera angle, lighting, and presentation allow patients to see and hear you clearly in an environment free from clutter and distractions.

These strategies help to ensure a seamless and memorable patient experience, promoting patient retention and an opportunity to receive positive online reviews. 

4. Post-appointment and in between visits

Let patients know you care about their experience by sending an automated patient satisfaction survey after each appointment. By requesting feedback, you can keep a pulse on overall patient sentiment and address any operational issues of which you may not otherwise be aware. Also, patients who are asked for feedback are more likely to submit an online review, which can significantly improve your online reputation.

To forge connections in between visits, practices can use well-timed email campaigns and text messaging outreach that feature practice updates, relevant health-related information, and reminders to schedule routine care. Practices with marketing resources can also create blog posts and social media content to supplement these tactics and stay top-of-mind in the community. 

Lastly, give patients numerous communication options for routine questions, appointment scheduling, and bill payment. Whether via text messaging, email, or your patient portal, you can inspire loyalty and appreciation by letting patients connect with you in ways they prefer.

Streamline patient communication with an all-in-one platform

Healthcare practices that prioritize effective communication at each step of the patient journey are better-positioned to improve patient satisfaction and loyalty — critical needs for long-term growth.

But, how can a busy practice ensure nothing falls through the cracks? There are numerous tools for different phases of the patient journey. But overburdened healthcare providers need simplicity, not a stack of more tools. 

An all-in-one solution that supports your website and online presence, SEO, online scheduling, automated appointment reminders, patient satisfaction surveys, telehealth, and 2-way text messaging enhances the patient experience at every turn — while taking a significant load off your practice staff. 

With all needs in one place, your practice communications and outreach can be cohesive and consistent, reminding patients that you’ve got your act together, and that you prioritize their convenience and access. 

You Might Also Be Interested In

Learn how to create a seamless patient experience that increases loyalty and reduces churn, while providing personalized care that drives practice growth in Tebra’s free guide to optimizing your practice. 


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Written by

Karmin Gentili

Karmin Gentili has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate HR and compliance consulting. She has worked to further elevate her skills by pursuing and receiving multiple certifications, including copywriting, video scriptwriting, effective content positioning, case study writing, and SEO. Her love of writing motivates her to use those skills to develop content for the medical field that ensures others can work toward achieving their goals.

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