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Use Simple Electronic Tools to Improve Communication with Your Patients

One of the most challenging aspects of practicing medicine is ensuring consistently effective communication with patients.

This is particularly true in dermatology, where patient volume is relatively high compared to other fields. Many problems and pitfalls commonly encountered in practice are avoidable. If you and your staff take advantage of relatively novel yet simple methods of transmitting information to patients.

The process of establishing effectual communication between your office and patients begins even before they visit your clinic. Your practice needs to have a website. This website should be updated to encourage patients to walk through your door. As incredibly busy as you may feel as a physician, it is essential to value the time of potential patients as if it were your own. Instead of requiring pre-visit paperwork to be filled out in your waiting room, let patients download and complete forms electronically, typically by employing a writeable pdf format. The fax machine is a dinosaur and your office should not require patients to fax in anything. All paperwork should be securely emailed or uploaded to your office.

Make your website more helpful and attractive by updating tools for providing directions to your clinic and by adding a link to “frequently asked questions” will save you and your staff time. Many practice websites simply list directions from various major thoroughfares, which can be confusing and is not applicable to all patients. Instead, embed an electronic map (this is free!) directly into your website, thereby allowing patients to customize directions to your office from their individual locations. Adding a “FAQ” link with discussions of common dermatologic problems encountered by your patients (biopsy site care, proper use of topical steroids, and so forth), will help reduce time spent on returning the calls of concerned patients. This is a good place to insert details regarding insurance coverage as well. Helping patients evaluate potential costs of a clinic visit beforehand can prevent confusion and frustration when medical bills arrive.

While requiring a bit more work beyond the simple steps above

It may be worthwhile to take your electronic communication capabilities to “the next level” by adding online appointment scheduling, prescription refills, and text messaging. Numerous companies cater online scheduling services to physician offices. Installing them may reduce cancellations and help cut down on staff time spent scheduling. Consider using text messaging to remind patients of their upcoming appointments to further increase visit yield. If you are running late, have your office administrator text upcoming patients. Let them know you are behind schedule (much like airlines use text messaging to make travelers aware of delays). Patients will be grateful for anything you do to recognize the value of their time. You will be rewarded with a growing practice.