You hear a lot these days about the empowered patient – you know, the ones who read online reviews, rate their providers and generally take a more involved approach to their healthcare. Today’s patients are so empowered, in fact, that it can leave some doctors feeling, well, a little disempowered.
Smart doctors, though, don’t eschew patient empowerment; they recognize that it’s no passing fad and that the best way to turn it to their advantage is to become, you guessed it, empowered doctors.
A lot of doctors talk about how by the time someone comes in for a consultation, they’ve encountered so much misinformation that it makes the doctor’s job so much harder, says Maureen Ezekwugo, executive vice president, doctor community, at RealSelf. But you can actually become empowered yourself when you take advantage of your ability to go online and have a voice.
The good news is that there is no shortage of ways to be heard. A blog, videos, sharing your expertise by answering consumers’ questions. Yes, it take time and a concerted effort — and, yes, you’re essentially giving it away — but it’s still the most (cost-)effective way to reach today’s empowered patient and, just as important, begin to differentiate yourself from every other technically adept practitioner out there.
Bottom line: Aesthetic consumers are looking for doctors they feel they can trust and participating in the online conversation is how you build that trust when it matters most (i.e., before they’ve made a decision). This is especially true when you realize that one in three consumers are still judgmental about cosmetic surgery, leaving many potential patients to pursue their research in private. Instead, they’re dependent on the information they find on the web and use it — and, by extension, the people who provide it — as their support network.
The result is a golden opportunity for doctors and a win-win for all concerned. Doctors who participate in the process become more empowered; that participation dispels consumer confusion and builds trust, and trust plays a crucial role in what prompts a potential patient to choose one provider over another.
Likewise, it should come as no surprise that the converse is also true: Empowered patients don’t respond well to doctors who don’t participate. Or, to put it another way, they’re not just responsive to the presence of information, they’re also sensitive to the absence of it. According to RealSelf research, more than 85% of aesthetic consumers say they wouldn’t consider having a procedure performed by a doctor who didn’t have visible reviews or before & after photos.
Contrary to the old aphorism, (your) absence does NOT make (today’s consumer’s) heart grow fonder.
What does is being present — helpful, empathetic and non-promotional — and sharing your expertise. When you do that, when you act proactively as opposed to letting things just happen to you, you become empowered.
You become part of the process by having a voice while they’re doing their research, says Ezekwugo. You become part of the solution.
Maureen and other experts will elaborate on The Rise of the Empowered Doctor and other issues involving aesthetic marketing at the 1st Annual RealSelf User Group Symposium, which will be held at Bellagio in Las Vegas, Friday, June 20. To register or find out more information, visit http://realselfdoctor.com/.