How Efficient Is Your Patient Education Model?
For our society to overcome the huge health challenges that lie in wait for us, most agree that a mass re-education effort is going to be necessary. The word ‘doctor’ has been used for millennia, and its origin in the Latin means ‘teacher’. Now given that the majority of the long-term cost to society is set to come from chronic disease with a lifestyle component, it seems that NDs should have a significant role to play in this education revolution.
Over the last 25 years the majority of naturopathic patient education has been delivered either one-on-one in the office, or via book or printed material. Looked at objectively, this has been a pretty inefficient system for the following reasons
- People only retain 5-10% of what they are told
- Your one-on-one time is valuable, and paid
- 50% of the American population do not read for pleasure after high school
- Printed information is shared inefficiently
Last Spring, when I was teaching ND students at University of Bridgeport, my talk focused on the Unlimited Opportunity for NDs in the Digital Age (click for audio), and in November I will be speaking to Primary Care doctors at Heal Thy Practice in Long Beach California on a similar topic.
The potential of the ‘long tail of the internet’, when aligned to the need for an education revolution, in the face of a fiscal and clinical cliff means that the stage is set for naturopathy to spread into the middle of the societal bell-curve. So here are my top five tips for developing a more efficient, digital, patient education system. Who knows; if you get it right, you might change the world forever!
5 Tips to Transform your Patient Education
1. In Person, Focus on Inspiration
Although a lot of information can be delivered digitally, the time you spend with your patients is crucially valuable. Spend it asking questions, identifying needs and inspiring, rather than lecturing. As the old saying goes ‘Give a Man a Fish….’, and this applies directly to patient care.
“Educate a patient, they’ll be healthy for a week.
Inspire a patient to educate themselves, they’ll be healthy for a lifetime”
2. Content Creation via Blog / Vlog / Glog –
Firstly, let me explain the words you just read.
“Blog” is short from ‘weblog’ and you are reading one now
“Vlog” is a video blog, and is becoming more and more widely used.
“Glog” is a word I just made up and it means “graphical blog”.
The old adage read ‘content is king’ is becoming more and more outdated as we get flooded with content from all sides. Content creation is important, but it has to look good too!
Those NDs that are creating professional, quality content that is well designed are floating to the top. For instance, have you seen Dr. Holly Lucille’s TV show?
For those of you not suited to the video format, you will want to get good at either writing, curating or designing interesting and valuable content.
What to blog about? Try starting by answering every question you have been asked by more than one patient. For an example of what can be achieved by this process, check out this blogpost.
By creating your own content, not only do you develop deeper relationships with your patients, but it also doubles up as amazing marketing material. If your intention is that your brand will go beyond your clinic, this is a must!
3. Curate Content for Your Patients via Newsletter
You don’t need to write all of the content yourself in order to educate your patients efficiently. There is a lot of great content out there; you just have to know what your patients are interested in. Some ideas could include…
- Recipes for health
- New studies showing efficacy of natural treatments
- Practice updates
- Health news and advocacy
- Case studies and testimonials
One of the benefits of modern email newsletter marketing is that you can go in on the back end and see who opened what and with what frequency. Different patient populations will be responsive to different types of information, so just follow this simple formula
CURATE -> SEND -> REVIEW DATA -> PRUNE and IMPROVE -> REPEAT
4. Harness the Power of Group Education
Some NDs have used patient orientation evenings to deliver basic information about the practice or methodology in a group setting. This strategy still works well for those who have honed it.
However, imagine doing it digitally! You get all the benefits of scale without the cost of your time, space and effort. Here are some tools to make this work efficiently
- Google+ – Use the ‘hangout’ to get together via live video (Free!)
- StealthSeminar.com – Record a webinar once, have it ‘live’ every month! (People stay longer on webinars if they think it’s live!)
- Gotomeeting.com – Solid online meeting software
5. In-Practice Education: Patient Advocate or Front Desk
If your time is worth $300 an hour, every minute you spend doing something that one of your team could do for you, you are costing yourself almost $5 a minute.
Many advanced practices are employing patient advocates to educate their patients one-on-one before checkout in the clinic. When properly trained, this person can then not only provide education, but also answer questions and make sure the patient is feeling confidant and empowered before they leave the office.
This person can also be trained to do patient follow up calls, a strategy that has made a huge difference to the clinics and doctors that use it. You can see more ideas on best practices for patient compliance in last month’s post.
We would love to hear your success stories, please feel free to get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org. If naturopathic medicine is to spread and take its rightful place in an optimal medical system, we need you to bring the gift that is yours to give. Vamos!
James Maskell is CEO of Revive NYC, a Brooklyn-based digital media, practice development, and branding company that helps holistic practitioners bring their message to life. To connect with Revive, please visit: www.revivenyc.com.