At the heart of every healthcare practice are the health and happiness of the patients. Sharing those successes can be a great way to build credibility and trust in your practice. However, knowing where to start and how to best share those stories can be intimidating.
Don’t let that stop you from taking full advantage of this invaluable tool. With a few best practices and a little attention to detail, you can make patient stories as central to your practice as your treatments.
Every patient has a story to tell, but that doesn’t mean you should tell all of them. Think strategically about which case studies will best serve your goals. For example, if you’re looking to get the word out about skin cancer screenings, consider reaching out to patients who have received dermatological treatment. If you’re expanding your orthodontia practice, it might be time to talk to those smiling faces who just got their braces off.
You’ll want to keep patient personalities in mind too. Not everyone will be comfortable sharing their experience. Take that into account when selecting your success stories. Ultimately, you want patients to feel comfortable, not pressured, to share.
Be mindful of how and when you request patient testimonials. While certain cases may call for you to adjust and adapt, have a set process in place. That might mean adding a box to new patient forms that asks if they would be comfortable providing a testimonial. Alternatively, you could include the request in post-appointment communications through your patient portal. Find a process that works for you and stick with it. That will make it routine for patients and minimize any surprise from a testimonial request.
It goes without saying, compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is step one of sharing any testimonials. You’ll want to consult with a lawyer to ensure you’re fully compliant, but there are certain elements that you’ll need in most cases. For any and all patient testimonials you’ll need an authorization form signed by your patient (you can find free templates online). This should include a clear overview of what information you’ll include, where it will be shared (website, social media) and any other details you’ll need.
Depending on the patient and your practice, you may choose to craft a story with their input or provide a form they can submit. Whether it’s crafted by your office or the patient, do a thorough sweep for any protected health information.
If you plan to have your team and/or patients share these stories on social media, you may want to provide additional guidelines on what can be posted. HIPAA compliance requirements carry over to any sharing of patient stories, so be sure those who may post online understand what they (practitioners and patients) can and cannot say.
Even if you’re just starting to think about sharing patient stories, odds are they’re already talking about you online. As you begin your search for testimonials don’t forget to get out there on the internet and see what patients are already saying about you. This can be a great way to scout out patients who might be willing to provide an official testimonial on your site or social media.
Bear in mind that this could include some negative comments. Proceed with caution. While it can be good to respond so that prospective patients can see that you’re acknowledging any issues, there’s always the risk of inflaming a delicate situation. When possible, try to move those conversations offline by requesting direct contact information (either phone, email or direct message, depending on where the complaint is posted). Be polite, direct and give them the tools they need to contact you directly. You can never guarantee a positive outcome, but a deliberate, careful approach can help set you up for success.
Just like there’s no one way to treat every patient, there are countless ways to share those stories. Keep in mind that some patients may be willing to share their experience, but only if it’s kept anonymous. While you should prioritize testimonials attached to patient names, there can be value in a well-crafted anonymous story, so don’t discount those opportunities completely. Depending on the patient, you can consider offering the option to only include their first name or initials if you think that would put them at ease.
Nothing will ever speak to the quality of the care you provide quite like the words of a happy patient. By finding the right process, identifying your goals and always keeping compliance in sight you can start to effectively use these success stories to build your practice.