We all know about the importance of continuity of care to patient health outcomes, not to mention GP job satisfaction. We also know that building strong relationships with patients is the foundation that allows this to happen.
But how does your practice approach this? Do you rely solely on doctor-patient rapport and good quality care? Or do you look at the entire patient journey and the role it plays in how your patients feel about your practice?
There are many ways of systematically building patient loyalty – and these can be found both within – and beyond – the consultation room.
Think about your patient. What can you offer them beyond the primary purpose of the consultation?
If you’re thinking about sustainability, then thinking about how to build a loyal following among families is an important consideration. And what better place to start than building a relationship with parents?
This will depend to an extent on your location and the associated demographics. But if you do have the opportunity to reach out to parents in every way possible, then you most certainly should. They are the bedrock of family practice and if you focus your energies on them you – and they – will reap the rewards.
This busy time of year is a perfect opportunity to increase the level of engagement with patients who are parents. So how might you do this? Here are three things to try:
- Lighten their load
One of the key problems patients report is getting good quality information. And if you’re a mum or dad, good luck wading through the endless parenting advice factory. If you, their trusted partner in health, can point parents in the direction of trustworthy, evidence-based, easy-to-follow information, you’ll save them precious hours and they will thank you for it. Have your ‘goto’ parent resources at the ready and be quick to articulate how they can help.
Here are three top homegrown resources for parents – you’ve probably heard about them but how often do you and others in the practice use them as a referral tool? Patients sometimes need help navigating their way around health information online. Pointing them to trustworthy information or downloading helpful articles or resources, can help improve health literacy and make everyone’s life easier – and these are Government-endorsed and commercial free.
- net.au is a free, Australian Government-funded, evidence-based parenting website that covers all bases from pregnancy and birth to raising teens. It contains articles, videos and family friendly resources on hundreds of topics on child health, development and behaviour. And it gives parents plenty of tips and tricks to try. It’s also accessible for patients with disabilities and from diverse cultural backgrounds. Information is updated regularly, tailored to different ages and stages and rigorously assessed by subject matter experts and a scientific advisory board. There is also an active Facebook community associated with the site that parents might find useful.
- Health Direct (healthdirect.gov.au) is a public company funded by the Federal Government and most Australian states. It aims to use technology to give consumers the tools they need to manage their own health. As well as phone help lines patients can use 24/7, its website contains a health topics A-Z with ages and stages information. It also has a blog with interesting articles on health.
- Better Health Channel (betterhealth.vic.gov.au) is fully funded by the Victorian Government and offers up-to-date plain language content. It’s a great goto resource for parents with health questions who might be waiting for an appointment with you or a specialist and need further information or reassurance. Like raisingchildren.net.au it has a quality assurance process for its content and uses subject matter experts.
- Think laterally about starting conversations
Think of, and plan for, ways to start conversations with parents about family health issues – and I’m not just talking about the consulting room. What are the common areas you see regularly where being proactive will improve family life? Nutrition? Sleep? Managing behaviour? Talking with teens? There will be some that resonate for you. Think about how you can create touchpoints across the practice that highlight these issues and prompt conversations.
- Demonstrate your family friendly credentials
What are you showing on your waiting room TV? Are there likely to be programs that make parents squirm? Do you have a sad looking set of children’s toys that never rotate? Or do you instead have an inviting story corner that might jumpstart a conversation about the exponential benefits of reading to children every day? Is there anywhere breastfeeding mums can go to get a little privacy if they’d like it? Where can people park strollers or prams? Think about the hassle it can be for parents to get their kids to the doctor. What might make the whole experience easier – and more welcoming – for them once they’re there?
Simply taking a walk through your practice with a mother’s – or father’s – hat on might reveal things you’ve never considered before. But you might be surprised about the benefits that thinking outside the box will bring.
We think these are some great ideas for your Practice and would love to hear your feedback.
- Declaration: raisingchildren.net.au contributed to the content in this column