Healthcare providers have become more competitive over the last decades, improving the quality of healthcare services for patients all over the world. As the industry becomes more innovative, adopting and applying new medical tech, patients have come to expect more from organizations.

Patients nowadays don’t want to be defined by their sicknesses and don’t want healthcare givers to treat them as such. Rather, they want their needs and motivations understood, and treatment plans that reflect those unique requirements.

With this in mind, this article considers the importance of medical outreach programs for patients, as well as how they are implemented, and what to expect from extending your reach.

Why Are Outreach Programs Important?

Strong patient-provider relationships are essential for everyone involved, helping both practitioners and clients maximize the benefits of good-quality healthcare.

Patient outreach is one way to work toward this goal, and involves various actions that engage patients between visits, educating them, and keeping them interested in what you as a practitioner or company have to offer. Generally, they are focused on a range of topics, from

  • General health subjects
  • Relevant or timely medical issues of importance to the community, and
  • Actions your company takes to complement your main service.

There are numerous ways in which medical professionals can implement patient outreach, and health providers can often find adapted programs for their specific service type.

Example Outreach Activities

Some example outreach program activities might include:

  • Reaching patients through online newsletters
  • Sending articles about common health issues and treatment options
  • Keeping them updated on events that your organization is hosting to support the local community.

All of these are good ways to show existing and potential patients that you and your organization play an important societal role.

As outreach programs also play a valuable marketing role, your company’s values and mission should be clear in your communications with patients. Similar, in fact, to the way commercial companies create brands with a consistent voice.

Patient Outreach Programs: Better Population Health

When we think of how to reach out to and engage clients, most people tend to focus on their primary goal.

In healthcare, where organizations have a huge societal responsibility – that primary motivation is a deeply humanitarian: thinking about the greater good to improve healthcare outcomes.[1]

Population health is one great example and a key goal of client outreach programs for many national and global medical units. By demonstrating their important contribution to population health, clinics, hospitals, and more can showcase their valuable role in communities and society.

What To Discuss

With this goal in mind, a healthcare provider might use an outreach program to discuss issues and showcase related services like:

  • Early diagnosis
  • Preventive care and screening
  • Healthy practices, and
  • Affordable treatments.

How Can I Implement an Outreach Program?

Interested in running your own outreach program?

If you’re familiar with marketing, it should be quite easy to understand how to create and implement a patient outreach program. While marketing knowledge alone is not enough, it can be a strong scaffold for building a truly engaging program altogether.

One way to keep clients happy is to give them valuable information on topics they are truly interested in. Healthcare providers have been quite unilateral in the early days, only communicating with patients individually and about the issue, they came for in the first place.

Nowadays, no matter what your industry is, building a trusting, satisfying relationship with clients is essential for build brand loyalty.[2]

So, how do you nurture the relationship you have with your existing patients?

By showing them that you as an organization understand their current issues, and predict their potential challenges, you show that you as a provider are ready to offer solutions.

By showing them that you as an organization understand patients’ current issues, and predict their potential challenges, you show that you as a provider are ready to offer solutions.

Outreach Program Best Practices

Here, we’ve put together some guidelines that can help you implement an effective, enjoyable patient outreach program for your traditional or blended care practice.[3]

1. Be a Thought Leader

While building your outreach program, remember that your competitors are doing the same.

To keep patients coming back to you, becoming a thought leader can be helpful.

Practically, this requires:

  • Outside-the-box thinking
  • The ability to properly address sensitive issues, and
  • Showing transparency when it comes to your business.

If you’ve decided to position yourself as a thought leader, don’t be afraid to express your expert opinions on interesting subjects for your audience.

For example, controversial topics like vaccinations, nutrition, or family planning shouldn’t be seen as risky, but rather, as opportunities to educate the public with your expert opinion.[4]

2. Provide Expert Advice in Your Niche

When it comes to healthcare, what you do is often hard to understand by the people who directly benefit from your services. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to explain your work to them. A medical provider who dedicates time to explaining his services to the audience shows consideration and respect for his clients.

The ways that you can do so are countless, and luckily, the digital world provides a great medium for your creativity to sparkle.

Practical Tips

Think of digital content such as:

  • Video tutorials
  • Video conferences
  • Live chat with your patients
  • Implementing a telehealth line, and
  • Answering the most frequently asked questions about your service, among others.

It is naturally expected of you to know a lot about your service: medical care, healthcare programs, administrative details, and so on.

But how you deliver that information is crucial: will your clients be bored or will they be interested to know more?

Try to formulate your messages in a simple, friendly way, without cutting out too much important information. Explain medical terms in colloquial language and answer your reader’s questions in a timely manner.

Getting your patients educated won’t just keep them healthier in general, but also more willing to visit you again when the time comes

3. Offer Patient Follow-up Care

When someone goes to the doctor, they often end their connection to the healthcare provider the minute they step out of the doctor’s office. In truth, as many of us know from our own experiences, lots of questions don’t get asked in sessions, yet are still really pressing.

If your healthcare unit implements a follow-up care protocol – at least for major procedures or procedures that need post-care check-ups and treatment – patients will be much more confident in your services.[5]

Sometimes, all it takes is having trained staff members who can call the patients and check their state after the procedure.

Even easier to offer is a written patient guide for their specific procedure, teaching them how to manage at home and what to do next. This apparently small thing can mean a lot to patients who are already suffering and don’t want to add up more stress.

4. Preventive and Screening Actions for Your Patients

The same good results can come from offering screening and preventive programs to your patients. Show them that your goal is to keep them healthy and not needing advanced medical care.

Be a part of that by helping them detect certain conditions early on by:

  • Promoting a healthy lifestyle
  • Providing free resources that can help them do the same, and
  • Showing them how to assess their health state.

5. Personalize The Patient Experience

Applicable to any company nowadays, a personalized experience is highly valued by the modern customer. People want their needs to be known and addressed as quickly as possible.

If you, as a healthcare provider, only ask about a patient’s needs during the intake process, chances are that they won’t come again the next time they need medical care.

Having to explain their issues each time can be frustrating, and can make them feel unimportant and not taken seriously.

As such, implementing a program that works with a client’s individual needs is more likely to be successful in the long term.

Reaching Out With Technology

While taking care of such tailored experiences for each patient can sound like a time-consuming practice, involving too many resources, automated solutions such as mental health apps or fitness software can play a role.

For personalized outreach, the task becomes achievable and actually productive.

Another great example of automated personalized outreach is using email marketing tactics to communicate with your clients.

For example, your screening program for ovarian cancer should only be targeted on women of a certain age. Furthermore, if you have an updated electronic medical record for each patient, you can use this information craft custom messages – examples include their previous clinic trips or preferred doctor.

6. Track and Improve Program Results

One of the best ways you can use virtual care solutions to reach clients is by regularly evaluating the results of your actions and programs, then making improvements through that audience feedback.

It can be a good idea to use similar email marketing solutions, calls, or feedback forms to ask about clients’ experiences, and making sure to follow-up with solutions when they have complaints.

Tips For Integrating Feedback

You might need to have a dedicated department or client relationship management software for this job, but these details can be very important for overall patient satisfaction.

The medical staff should also be trained in that sense because the medical act alone can sometimes be invasive, indelicate, or confusing. Good people skills are essential for doctors who are loved by their patients and loyal clients, so make that an important subject to touch when hiring new medical staff.

Medical software is very helpful in collecting and interpreting data, enabling you to come up with solutions in real-time. Fast reactiveness matters for patients, and your competition will also be based on this along with other crucial aspects of the medical act.

One of the best ways you can use virtual care solutions to reach clients is by regularly evaluating the results of your actions and programs, then making improvements through that audience feedback.

7. Organize or Participate in Events for Your Community

Not everything that constitutes good client relationships takes place online – many “extracurricular” actions can be of help physically.

That said, organizing events that bring certain subjects into the public’s attention may take some effort, but the results will match that.

Events like local conferences for peers or public seminars and conversation gatherings for the general public help your company build up long-lasting client relationships within your community, and make a greater impact in the long term.

What To Talk About

When initiating awareness-building initiatives, medical providers first need to answer an important question: What goal do we want to achieve with this event?

With a clear goal in mind, you can build your event much more easily.

For example, you should make sure to invite relevant experts and prospects who might be interested in that topic, accommodate them in a comfortable location, and start the conversation.

Such events can be beneficial for the community, generating lots of ideas and social capital, which can all contribute to the health of the population and bigger investments in the health sector.

Partnering with Outreach Program Patients

Involving your patients in the implementation of your outreach program is highly effective. If you notice that some of your clients are interested in promoting healthy habits and health programs in their communities, give them a hand, and support their efforts.

Health care providers should be flexible enough to reach other types of communities, and partner up with them for the common goal of promoting health services.

Great community stakeholders to partner with may include:

  • Social clubs
  • Religious institutions
  • Schools
  • Local companies, and more.

Let your patients know that you welcome such initiatives and make the most out of the events that take place there.

Media and the press should also be constantly in the loop when something like this happens, and again – gathering opinions afterward is highly productive.

Final Thoughts

Medical outreach programs are definitely part of the future, and medical providers should be aware of their importance, if not yet implementing such programs. Tactics of outreach programs vary from one situation to another and change with the type of provider and services they promote.

Learning about what the patients need in the long term will not only keep them more satisfied but also healthier and more educated about important health and mental health issues. By word of mouth, such valuable information is passed to potential clients that will prefer using the services of an involved provider.

Fortunately, medical providers and patients have plenty of resources that facilitate dialogue between them and include tools for communication, providing feedback, and implementing outreach programs successfully.

References

  1. ^ Health Outreach Partners. (2012). How Outreach Programs Can Improve Health Outcomes. Retrieved from https://outreach-partners.org/2012/02/01/how-outreach-programs-can-improve-health-outcomes/
  2. ^ Zhou, W. J., Wan, Q. Q., Liu, C. Y., Feng, X. L., & Shang, S. M. (2017). Determinants of patient loyalty to healthcare providers: An integrative review. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 29(4), 442.
  3. ^ Graffigna, G. E. (2017). Transformative healthcare practice through patient engagement. PA: Medical Information Science Reference/IGI Global.
  4. ^ Hayes, J. W. (2013). Becoming the Expert: Enhancing Your Business Reputation Through Thought Leadership Marketing. Hampshire, UK: Harriman House Limited.
  5. ^ JUCM. (2017). Post-Visit Follow-up Calls: Improving Patient Satisfaction, Center Profitability and Clinical Outcomes. Retrieved from https://www.jucm.com/post-visit-follow-up-calls-improving-patient-satisfaction-center-profitability-and-clinical-outcomes-2/

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