Swine Flu, Part Deux

There have not been many opportunities, lately, to provide an editorial or instructive message in most of the blog entries.  There is too much important data, too many important stories to pass along that I miss my chance to lecture for a minute.  Not today.

When a topic like swine flu takes over general news and discussion, you know it must dominate the pediatric gathering points.  That is certainly the case on PedTalk and SOAPM.  I’m painting a broad brushstroke, but most of the back-and-forth relates to how offices are managing the high volume of calls (99% of which are “unnecessary”).  Even with minimal griping, the tone reflects a mild eye-rolling, an implication that these calls and communication represent just another chore tossed on the backs of pediatricians.

If you think this way, you’re missing a giant opportunity. Every time a patient calls your office, you send them a letter, you change your on-hold message, etc., it is your chance to re-establish yourself as the trusted source of medical information for your patients.  It’s also your chance to let your patients know about any changes to your practice.  And remind them that you, more than anyone, are looking out for their needs.

You work in a service industry.  Can you imagine if FedEx somehow had a crisis which meant that CNN would talk about them non-stop and tens of thousands of their customers would call FedEx just to make sure everything is OK?  You know that FedEx would take each and every one of those phone calls and turn them into a marketing opportunity.

You’re not comfortable with that language?  I’m not talking about the money – I’m talking about improving your clinical care.  You just wrote out a protocol for your nurses to follow for everyone who calls in – add a single sentence about the importance of those well visits.  Did you add morning or evening office hours but many patients still don’t know? Now’s a good time to remind them, a few hundred are calling this week.  A new doctor in the practice?  Added or dropped an insurance company?  More details on the WWW site?

What’s happening to you right now is a marketing expert’s dream.  Folks get nervous and they look to you for help and advice.  Stop thinking about it as a chore and start thinking about it as your chance to get them back in the fold.  Let them know that you are prepared to help them and that you care.

Anything less is a waste of time.

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