Let’s be honest here…something needs to change. The “care for health” model is flawed! Preventive health issues are increasing annually and something good needs to happen.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
- A third of the country is obese.
- Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, but preventable.
The American Cancer Society is projecting over 1 million new cancer cases in 2017.
Many of the leading causes of death in the United States can be prevented or delayed by society making healthy lifestyle choices.
But let’s look at their situation first.
Unhealthy lifestyle options are everywhere and much easier! You drive down main roads and fast food options are every few blocks. Going food shopping takes time! Working a full day leaves little motivation for additional activity. As a society, we are tired. Family responsibility, commuting, work, and the need for more sleep all tend to take priority over health.
Most people don’t have the fortitude to make these changes by themselves. Some make the decision to find other health-related professionals for help, but this is a small percentage compared to the whole.
Ultimately, everyone checks back in with their doctor for something—whether it’s a check-up, to get regular blood work completed, or to address an acute issue. As a medical professional, this is your opportunity to help.
The value of the doctor visit is you get to provide hard data to represent health concerns.
“Your blood pressure is high.”
“We need to lower your BMI level.”
“You have to watch your LDL.”
“Your blood sugar has gone up.”
These statements, and many others like it, are based on tried, tried, and proven research that allows you to provide very specific information. As a medical professional, you know when the test results require more intervention from you.
However, this is where the level of care goes from very specific to extremely general. You know lifestyle change is required. You know your patients need to do more or they will be dealing with very serious issues in the future.
But, in many cases, what you say or recommend next does not have the substance a patient requires to change. The recommendations made next are vague and general and, unfortunately, leave too much room for interpretation to the patient.
“You need to lose some weight.”
“You have to eat better.”
“Try and be more active.”
“Eat more fruits and vegetables.”
Let’s take a look at these two sets of examples again. You will see the criteria for tests and office visits is very specific. However, the recommendations for change do not match the same level of specificity.
Here are the 2 main reasons why this strategy does not work.
Reason #1 – Too vague
The general recommendations you can make during an office visit are too vague. Using the examples above “lose weight”, “eat better”, “and be more active”, the first question to ask is “How”.
It is often not practical to answer the “How” during the office visit. It requires more detail and, to be fair, this is not the strength of most physicians. You cannot design a complete strategy during that time.
You could refer the patient to a partner health professional such as a fitness professional, gym, nutrition center, etc. But, from experience as being one of those professionals and collaborating with doctors for years, only a small percentage of patients follow through with this option.
Patients need more detail!
Reason #2 – Only hearing your recommendation during office visit
How many times per year do you see the average patient, 1-2 times? Even if it’s a couple more, it is a low number of visits.
Take a moment and think about a change you might have made in your life, whether it be personal or professional.
Did you immediately hear or think of an idea and immediately act on it?
Think about this for a second. Marketing experts say it takes a consumer more than 8 times to see an advertisement before they make a purchase. Using that analogy, how many times does it take you to hear or think about a new idea before implementation?
Now let’s go back to your patients using this logic. Although your in-office recommendations are right, your patients need to hear them more frequently for the change to occur.
Here are a couple of questions for you…
- Do you want to build the doctor-patient relationship?
- Do you want to improve the patient experience?
- Do you want to be the trusted doctor your patients can always rely on to help?
If so, you need to increase your touch points with your patients outside of office visits. To be fair, the changes you are recommending, and they need to take, will happen during the other 364 days a year (assuming you see patients once a year). It is the time between office visits that consistent healthy strategies need to be implemented if real change is to occur.
How do you increase the touchpoints?
So how do you do this? Don’t worry. It’s easier than you think. Send consistent emails containing healthy lifestyle recommendations.
As a society, we are glued to our phones. Are you reading this on your phone right now? Don’t ignore this form of communication…embrace it!
By emailing your patients with consistent frequency, they will begin to depend on seeing your name in their email box. It will be a regular reminder for them to be healthy, and your recommendations will have more substance and directions for patients to follow.
You don’t have to overcomplicate this. Determine an email sending strategy…weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The internet is full of information you can use and send to patients.
Research topics including:
- Meal plans
- Studies on healthy eating strategies
- Healthy daily habits (i.e., drinking water, writing in a journal, etc.)
- Exercise routines
- Benefits of exercise
- Motivational messages
You can also send reminders for more frequent screens which help to increase accountability between office visits.
Are you getting the idea? This does not require too much time. If you have an office staff, you can designate one person to handle this responsibility and the content gets approved before it is sent out. If you are a small office or want to be more directly involved, this may require 1-2 more hours per week to set up.
But the result is more touch points with your patients. This means they are seeing your name consistently. They will associate your name and email with a reminder to do more every day to lead a healthy life.
Instead of just treating illness, which is invaluable to your patients, you are now incorporating a proactive level of care that they truly need.
The “culture of healthy” starts in your office, but the daily changes required to achieve this will happen when your patients are not with you. They need you more outside the office. Adopt this easy strategy, embrace technology, and have a better connection with your patients.
You will be more fulfilled and make more of an impact.