Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Marketing to your waiting room

By: Ty Thomas, M.D.

Turning your waiting room to a Learning Room

As average wait times increase and complexity of care continues to evolve away from the physician, we can find opportunity to help educate patients and their caregivers about their disease and treatment options before they even begin the dialogue with their physician.  This means more opportunities for a "branded experience".   Visiting the physician is certainly an experience and often not worthy of branding.    This is likely to worsen with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  Branding a worthy experience can be facilitated by marketing in your waiting room.


Marketing  in the waiting room is certainly not new and has been around for many years in the form of paper brochures, wall posters, magazine cover wraps, and more recently television video loops.  Television networks and specialty health care marketing networks have also developed content to stream to thousands of waiting rooms in the form of infomercials.  There has been some patient backlash when it comes to these infomercial type productions gaining reach in the waiting room.  Some patients just want to be left alone and feel constantly bombarded by information aimed to sell a drug, product or procedure.  Many patients long for the good ole days of boring lyric-less music and mindless magazines to comb through while waiting.  So striking a balance can be quite difficult.  However, striking that balance can be accomplished by turning your waiting room into a learning room.


So how can we as physicians help brand the patient experience?  The waiting room is the perfect point of contact to bridge the gap between “doctor-speak” and everyday language.  This can  help patients have a more meaningful conversation once they finally make it through our door.  When we have only 5-10 minutes with each patient, meaningful dialogue has a poor chance to rear its head.  So structuring the patient encounter to climax with meaningful dialogue  is the goal. 


What is it that you, as a physician, do which is going to help your patient?  In short, you diagnose, treat and monitor.  However, you need to be able to do this in little time.  You need  to gather, organize, synthesize, and develop an understandable plan to present to your patient in 5-10 minutes.  That's the easy part.  The hard part is doing it while earning your patient's trust.  This  requires you to sell.  Unfortunately, most of us are not natural sales people and we need all the help we can get.  To brand an experience requires consistency.  To maintain consistency requires the removal of any bias including being tired at the end of the day which I refer to as fatigue bias.  To accomplish this feat, earn patient trust, and improve compliance,  start  marketing in your waiting room. 


How you choose to use the time preparing your patient for your face-to-face encounter will determine your branded experience.  I specialize in pain management so branding a decent experience is an uphill struggle.  I make sure there is ample opportunity for my patients to vet out their own complaints and learn about most of the common pain syndromes while waiting.  I have published an informative magazine to help accomplish this goal.  Most patients do not have a clue why they hurt and offering good understandable  reasons with treatment options makes the data gathering phase more efficient. I have set up a system that gives my patients 3 good chances to get their story heard and organized concisely before I ever step foot in the patient room.  This allows me to ask additional focused questions and perform focused physical exams.  Therefore, most of my time with patient is spent summarizing, outlining my specific plan, and answering any questions.  This is the meaningful dialogue most patients crave. 


Marketing in your waiting room by creating a learning room can help brand you and your practice as a great experience. 


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at ty@bamapain.com. 

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Thomas,

    Well said! We work with companies like American Family Care and Medical West to provide these same types of "Learning Room" solutions will entertain, engage and inform patients while they are waiting to see their doctor.

    I would love the opportunity to chat further with you about the types of services we can provide your practice.

    Chuck Adams
    President of DOOH Solutions
    Highlands Digital Media