Points Of Difference That Will Prove The Worth Of Your Medical Practice
When we talk about market commoditization, we most often refer to service providers, tech companies, and other businesses that offer value-driven services. Patient-led healthcare most definitely doesn’t get a look in because it seems crass, perhaps, to consider the nuts and bolts of a service that’s in place to save lives. But, survival in medicine relies just as much on income as any other sector, and commoditization is very much at play in a field that tends to offer the same treatment options across the board.
In fact, differentiation has so long been left off the medical table that the vast majority of patients will attend their closest clinic without once considering whether it’s the best option. While this ensures the steady flow of patients for the vast majority of providers, it’s also one of the most significant challenges facing healthcare businesses because it leaves competitive advantage and patient loyalty very much out of reach.
In a future defined by healthcare shortages, differentiations that ensure patient satisfaction are soon set to become prerequisites of healthcare services that herald much-needed change. The question is, what exactly does differentiation look like in an industry that hasn’t often considered it before?
# 1 – Offer immediate attention
Long waits for healthcare are perhaps the biggest problem in the industry today, with patients in areas like Boston waiting as long as 66 days for an appointment, while only 51% of patients in need of immediate care are able to book same-day appointments. These figures pair very badly with an increasingly young patient base that prioritizes convenience and is continuing to turn to walk-in clinics that prevent the stand in the way of the loyalty necessary for ongoing success.
While the healthcare shortage has facilitated an age where each doctor is dealing with an ever-increasing workload, this highlights a significant differentiation in-point which relies on an immediacy that isn’t evident elsewhere right now. Unfortunately, long wait times have become an industry prerequisite for a reason, and this isn’t always an easy goal to overcome.
So far, healthcare providers who have seen success when offering this benefit have done so by either freeing up a certain number of appointments each day or operating a specific same-day drop-in clinic, and both efforts have seen significant increases in patient satisfaction. Finding further differentiation may also include offering in-person visits, out-of-hours calls, and even investing in the emergency lights listed here to attend pressing cases on the scene. Meanwhile, it’s essential to continue making space for pre-booked appointments and ongoing patient care with a reliable booking system that ensures all potential appointment categories and requirements are taken into account.
# 2 – Don’t just implement technology, adapt it
The trials of 2020 led to the explosion of telehealth processes that were previously a long way into the future. In fact, 46% of patients reported using telehealth during 2020 as opposed to just 11% in 2019. While this was, in some respects, a sign of the times, the quick advancement of medical software, and the success of telehealth implementations overall, means that healthcare providers are far more likely to continue along this tech-heavy avenue moving forward. As well as online appointments, this has led to the implementation of technologies that make it possible for patients to manage and book appointments through online portals, as well as sending in pictures of their conditions ahead of time.
But, as cutting edge and increasingly important as these tech advances are, they don’t offer a point of difference in themselves. Instead, differentiation here means not just implementing the software, but also finding unique ways to adapt it to your specific patient base.
Obviously, selecting software that offers some notable differences including automation and user ease can be a differentiating factor in itself. Customised approaches should also be at your services forefront, and could include data analysis or even the ability for patients to sign in to your clinic online and wait to be called from the comfort of their cars. These are relatively simple changes to make once you have an adaptable, advanced solution already in place, but they can provide small touches of quality service that can make a huge difference to the experiences patients enjoy with your practice, in particular.
# 3 – Stay on the cutting edge of treatments
Telemedicine and changes to the ways you conduct appointments are undeniably important for a continued competitive edge, but even these aren’t going to serve you if you don’t offer cutting edge treatments and medications to the patients who do utilize your services. Far from leaving your education in a classroom that will quickly fall behind the latest medical advancements, it’s therefore essential that you take the time to offer and understand cutting edge treatment options including 3D printing, wearables, and gene therapy to name just a few.
While these up and coming solutions do cost more to implement, being the only healthcare provider in your area to offer a treatment means not only that you’re guaranteed a place as an industry frontrunner, but even that your competitors may end up referring their patients to your services. With all other differentiating factors in place, as well as a treatment that those patients will struggle to find elsewhere, this is the best possible way to impress with lasting results.
An ongoing focus on training is the best way to make this happen while keeping a close eye on medical news sources that make you aware of new training focuses can also provide all-important awareness. Equally, making good connections with research teams, or even implementing research facilities in your own healthcare premises, ensures that you’re ahead of the crowd on any advancements as they happen.
# 4 – Prioritize continuous care
Continuous care was once a given when it came to our health, with the same family GPs typically attending entire families until their retirement when they would hand those cases on to a predecessor. Now, an increasing need for immediacy and convenience means that continuous care is quickly becoming a thing of the past, with most patients left with little choice but to attend multiple clinics, or book an appointment with an available doctor, rather than one they see every time.
That said, the vast majority of patients would still prefer the reliability and trust garnered through an ongoing doctor-patient relationship. Studies showing that continuity of care can actually lengthen life spans has especially seen a resurgence in the desire to return to this healthcare staple. In some ways, the points we’ve already covered can help towards this goal by ensuring immediate, relevant care that prevents patients from having to go elsewhere, and also providing value that your patients will travel for even through house moves and life changes.
From a more practical standpoint, patient continuity is also increasingly reliant on better patient management and full-time office hours. Software that automatically displays only available appointments for a patient’s regular GP especially increases the chances that individuals will easily and quickly be able to access and enjoy the ongoing care that so many healthcare providers have neglected in recent years.
A final word
Effective differentiation in any market is difficult, but achieving points of difference in a highly competitive and ever-stretched healthcare field is especially challenging. For new and established healthcare businesses alike, any one of these pointers can easily ensure services that stand apart from the crowd, driving an age of reliable, trust-based, and quality care that your competitors could never stand up against.
Categories: Outside Contributors