I can’t compete with large medical groups on access, volume, or resources. But creating a fantastic patient experience is something I can do. Mastering the patient journey is my goal with my Heart Health Coaching and my virtual telemedicine practice.
My girlfriend paid 150 euros for a cash-pay orthopedic surgeon in Madrid. She had her visit with him 2 weeks ago, and just this morning, he randomly called her cell to check in on her. This is an excellent example of mastering the patient journey.
In this article, I will discuss the ideal patient journey and how to map it out. The goal is to deliver the kind of patient care that large medical groups could never offer.
Defining Your Practice
Each of you reading this likely has an ideal medical practice in mind. Defining that practice is vital to mapping an appropriate patient journey for your ideal client.
- What will the patient get out of your practice?
- …better skin
- …lower total cholesterol
- …fewer medications for their autoimmune disease
- …less constipation
- How will they receive this value?
- Are you mostly empowering them?
- Do you have a unique treatment protocol?
- Are you mostly adjusting medications?
- How much contact can they anticipate?
- How can they reach you if they have further questions?
- How long will the visit be, and will you cut them off at some point?
- What if they are unhappy with the service?
- Is there a refund?
- Will you refer them to others?
If your patient doesn’t like or trust you, they won’t open up; that’s a clinical and a potential legal problem for you.
I am constantly checking in with the patient in my virtual private practice, which is a mix of urgent care and primary care.
- Is there something that remains unclear?
- Did I answer all of their questions?
- Are they worried about something we haven’t addressed?
- Do they know how to get a hold of me after our appointment?
These little points close the deal. And when you like the patients you work with and enjoy the practice model you have built, this doesn’t feel like a chore.
This level of care is why patients sign up for ongoing care with you instead of using their insurance with their in-network doctors.
The Patient Journey
On the eMDs site, they break the patient journey down into the following:
- searching for care
- the doctor visit
This is one of the many ways to break down the patient journey. And we break it down so we can map it out and improve each step.
My Online Presence
Some of you don’t like to put yourselves out there too much. Before the insurance system took off in healthcare, you had to be the only doctor in town or make a name for yourself.
What my patients see and read about me online dictates what doubts and hesitations they will come in with. They might look for factors to feed that belief if they believe I’m a fraud or don’t know much.
If they believe I’m caring, confident, attentive, and communicate well, they’ll look for signs to feed that belief even more.
Mapping the Journey
1. Patient Type
I need to spend time getting to know the person. Each of us approaches health differently and has different health fears they wrangle.
Choosing the right patient is even more critical. I advertise strategically online, so I don’t have a personality type with whom I might clash.
2. Patient’s Expectations
- What is the patient hoping to get out of the visit?
- What is the central question they want to have answered?
Before I start the clinical questions or offer my assessment & plan, this discussion must be had. Otherwise, there won’t be a buy-in from the patient, and they will likely be disappointed.
Paraphrasing back to the patient what they are hoping to get out of the visit will ensure that we are on the same page. Any miscommunication at this point can be more easily rectified later.
3. Patient’s Buy-In
I have to meet the patient where they are. If they are 300 lbs and believe that drinking wine is good for them, that’s where we need to start.
And if you’re uncomfortable dealing with patients at this stage of their health journey, go back to #1 because you must choose the right patient type for your practice.
I can get patient buy-in by getting them to agree that where they are at in life and what they are doing isn’t working.
- Are they open to a new method?
- If this new method meant they could spend another 30 years living a healthy life, is that worth whatever sacrifice they might make?
4. Patient Results
If I know the patient’s goals from the outset, I can point out the results we achieved to them.
If they were worried about the sore throat and now that’s gone, it’s important that I follow up with them with a phone call and ask about that sore throat.
If they wanted to get their total cholesterol below 150 because they realized from point #3 that it would prevent a future heart attack, then we need to discuss this goal they achieved.
Mastering the Patient Journey – Real-World Examples
If you can set yourself apart, it’ll make advertising easier. Imagine you are a plant-based physician, working with patients to improve their health through a whole plant-based diet.
To master the patient journey, these are the steps you’d follow.
The Patient Finds You
You write and create online content talking about plant-based nutrition and health. Patients find this information because they face yet another stent and read more about you on your site.
They Book a Session with You
This patient clicks to book a session with you at $400 and reads that you have a 100% money-back guarantee.
On the FAQ page, they have read what the entire journey will look like moving forward.
The Initial Conversation
When you get on the call, you introduce yourself and explain that the first 15 minutes are free, and if they are happy with the service, they can continue.
After the first 15 minutes, you check in with the client to see if they want to continue. If so, the fee is no longer refundable.
During these 15 minutes, you also decide if this is the right patient for you to work with.
The Virtual Visit
You aim to get as much information from the patient as possible. You figure out they are relatively self-motivated, so they mostly need the correct information for their cardiovascular disease profile.
You have already inquired what this client wants as a “deliverable” to consider this visit a success. This is the patient’s buy-in. This is also empathy.
You two discuss the patient’s cardiovascular profile, PMHx, and potential future interventions.
Checking in With the Patient
The last 15 minutes of the visit is for you and the patient to reflect on the patient’s initial goal. Did this visit achieve that goal? If so, how? Getting the patient to state it in their own words is ideal.
If not, can you extend the time or book another session to see where the results fell short of the initial objectives?
What’s Happens After the Visit
You tell them that they can text you or email or you call you at their convenience. You will get back to them when you are available.
1 week later, you check in with them briefly and ask if new questions have come up. You check in again in 2 weeks and ask if it’s the right time to follow-up. If not, what’s the hesitation?
If it’s the cost of the visit, perhaps you can offer them a discount.
The Second Visit
The second visit is similar to the first. To master the patient journey, it’s essential to come up with clear goals and end the visit by demonstrating to the patient that the goal was met or is on the right path to being met.