When it comes to building a relationship with prospective patients, the Internet can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it allows doctors to reach far more potential patients than they ever could through individual consults and office visits. On the other, that same lack of personal interaction makes it that much harder to gain those patients’ trust.
And without trust, the likelihood of building a relationship with those patients is almost nil. As noted in a previous post, 84% of respondents in a recent About.com poll said that a brand or information source had to be considered trustworthy before they’d be willing to interact with it.
So, how do you build that trust? Not by pushing products or procedures or touting your credentials or expertise, but rather, by treating patients as partners, not customers and recognizing that what happens before — and after — a procedure is as important as what happens during it.
Consider the following Best Practices for Building Trust and examples of RealSelf doctors who understand the concept:
Recognize that online consumers are continually evaluating options while making decisions.
According to the About.com study, 85% of online consumers trust brands that walk them through multiple paths to decisions, rather than just giving an answer.
For a woman wondering considering a tummy tuck or laser skin tightening:
It seems that you do have excess skin enough to need some sort of excision (full tummy tuck vs. mini version). Both are great operations. The choice between them depends a lot on the clinical exam and your plastic surgeon will be able to determine that. Laser, radiofrequency, and others, are good technologies that work well for the right patient.
— Dr. Hisham Seify
Extend the relationship by providing support after the fact.
62% of consumers trust brands that provide information and tools to help them use products they have purchased.
To a woman wondering about skincare after Botox:
There is no particular cream that would make the Botox results last longer, however, there are things you can do to make your skin more youthful. Sunscreen and sun avoidance are probably the most important. They prevent new wrinkles from forming and protect from sun damage. Proper nutrition, rest and exercise are excellent for the skin as well.
— Dr. Emily Altman
Demonstrate an understanding that consumers’ lives change.
83% of online consumers, says the report, trust brands that offer resources every step of the way as a consumer’s needs evolve.
To someone inquiring about breast reduction for a teenager:
Breast reduction is a fairly big operation and it is usually done for women who have very large and heavy breasts… If you and your parents feel it is in your best interest to have the procedure and a board certified plastic surgeon agrees, then you can certainly do it. Bear in mind that you probably will grow more with age and certainly with pregnancy, so touch ups may be needed later on. Good luck!
— Dr. William H. Gorman
Three different situations, three different timeframes, three different answers, yet they’re quite similar in one crucial regard. They focus on the patient’s needs and concerns — i.e., they’re patient-centric — and lack any sort of sales pitch or self-promotion.
In other words, patients can trust them.