There is one constant in the healthcare industry: change. New rules and regulations, changing technology, additional facilities...very little stays the same for very long. Today, as "Hospitals" become "Medical Centers" that are part of "Healthcare Systems", paying attention to patient communications is crucial. As you move through a merger, acquisition, or renaming effort, here are some crucial communication points to keep in mind:
Your Phone System
Although online communications are growing, your phone system remains a crucial contact point and information source for patients, families, and employees. Here are some considerations for updating your phone system during a transitional period:
- Make sure the phone is always answered correctly. In circumstances where a live human answers the phone, make sure they're adequately trained and using your new name. When you have a pre-recorded auto attendant system, make sure it's updated to accurately reflect the change. Be sure to explain the old and new names (or information) so callers don't get confused. Instill confidence in callers by having the voice prompts professionally recorded. This way, your messages will seem official not not at all hasty... and so will your new information.
- Use hold time wisely. When callers are waiting on hold, they're waiting for information from you...so give them some. As part of your Message On Hold program, you can explain why you are making changes at your facility and what they, as patients, will gain from the changes. You can also use hold time to answer your frequently asked questions and calm an concerns about upcoming changes.
- Be Unified. When things are tumultuous, presenting an unified front is very important. While some people feature many different voices on their phone system, using only one professional voice can make your facility sound secure, stable, and unified, even if you have new locations, a changing name, or any other kind of transition.
In the digital age, many people will visit your website to get more information about your upcoming changes. They will all have different levels of technological experience, so it's important that your website is easy to use, clearly written, and very informative. Here are some tips for updating your website:
- Do Your Research. How do web visitors use your site? Do they rely heavily on your search feature, or do they like your drop down menu? What's a typical visitor's path? You can see all of this information in a too like Google Analytics. Once the code is installed on a website, it's easy to review and analyze data. Chances are the department in control of your website is already using Google Analytics. Be sure to collaborate with them them for information on how to best improve visitor experience.
- Make it easier. At the time of your merger, you can expect more web visitors than usual, and they're probably interested in the merger itself. Direct them to this information from your home page, using a prominent link or graphic, directed to a press release or informative article.
- Take Advantage of Multimedia. Today, you can use just about as much multimedia - audio, video, and images - as you want online. This is good news for your website. Instead of stark pages of text-only information, you can illustrate points, use your own voice to speak directly to web visitors, and use video to show and tell. The options are endless, from video tutorials to virtual tours and more. Adding multimedia to your website helps you draw more attention to the most important information - like news and alerts.
Chances are, your marketing department is already using social media to connect with patients and the public. It's a great way to make connections with people - and a great way to share important news and information. With social media, the emphasis should always be on what can get reshared... and news items are always on that list. If you're updating your website and including good content (press releases, videos, multimedia) about your news, share a link to it on social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Your immediate audience will see it, and it's also a good way to reach journalists looking for a story to cover. Some social media tips for healthcare facilities:
- Keep it Short. In general, people don't want to have to read too much.
- Include an image (or video). People interact better with audio visual content than with text alone.
- Add a link. Because you don't want to put all of the necessary information on a social media posting, include a link for more information. Ideally, this will link will go to your website.
- Ask for shares. People like to be told what to do - click here, fill this out, ask for more information.
During any transitional period, clear communication with patients and visitors is key. What approaches have you seen work in the past?