Building trust is a necessary component of any doctor-patient relationship yet studies indicate that it’s becoming harder, rather than easier, to build. A survey from the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that nearly one-third of Americans don’t think doctors are trustworthy. Doctor-patient relationship trust takes time to build. With the combination of a more digital economy and the COVID-19 pandemic, more things have to be done online.
It’s true that nothing can truly replace the value of personal contact in building trust, but that doesn’t mean medical offices can’t take substantial steps to develop the relationship with patients online. It all starts with decisions that digital marketers can make.
Make sure the website is professional
A Stanford University study showed that nearly half of all people see the quality of a website as a sign of whether the organization is trustworthy. A website’s quality can be addressed by the following steps.
- Ensure the basic aesthetic. The “look and feel” conveys the image you want. Have friends and family log on to the site and give you their gut reactions. Listen to any comments made around the office about the online experience. People really do experience emotional triggers when a homepage loads; you want to make sure yours screams “professionalism.”
- Update the content. A vibrant blog, updated at least 1-2 times a month, tells visitors that someone is paying attention to the website and that the office is up-to-date with modern practices. While it’s unlikely there’s any correlation between how updated a website is and how up-to-date physicians are in their field, it’s at least possible that a potential patient could make that connection.
- Use video. As part of your content strategy, have the doctors address patients directly in video. They can showcase their professional competence and their bedside manner.
- Ensure security. If you don’t have an SSL certificate (where the URL comes up as https rather than http), any web-savvy visitors will wonder how good your site security is when it comes to records and other personal information.
Any shortcomings in this area create issues well beyond your marketing efforts, but a bad first impression will be one of the consequences.
Security also applies after a patient comes in for their first appointment. It’s become customary for medical offices to allow online access to records and your patients need to be confident those are both accessible and secure. Another study showed that secure communications increase patient satisfaction.
Engage on social media
If people ask questions on your Facebook page, respond to them. Even if it’s a difficult medical question and your answer is that they need to call the office, people notice when you engage.
Even more important, make sure you work diligently on monitoring your reviews on places like Yelp. If there’s negative feedback, give a polite response. Encourage your happy patients to load up the reviews with positive feedback.
Building doctor-patient relationship trust takes time and while it may be harder online, it’s worth the investment. It’s more cost-efficient to hold on to an existing customer than to find a new one. The patient who trusts you will accept your treatment plan and that can lead to better word-of-mouth referrals. You’re certainly less likely to be involved in costly litigation with a patient whose trust you’ve earned.