By helping create patient-facing communications strategies, we position our medical clients as experts in their field and within their own hyper-local markets. This means communicating proactively with existing patients – not only to maintain good practice-patient relationships, but also for generating word-of-mouth referrals. We produce strategic and tactical marketing programs to develop stronger relationships with local and regional communities, physicians, hospitals and practices, generating specialist referrals, while also managing our client’s personal and professional reputations (online) – which matters when it comes to choosing a physician.

Here are 5 quick ways how to improve patient portals:

1) Describe some of the key benefits of having a patient portal for both the practice and the patients? Key benefits include being able to book an appointment online, inquire about tests and lab results, ask for follow-up appointments or ask questions the patient ‘forgot to ask’ at the doctor’s office.

2) What should a patient portal contain and how should a practice utilize a patient portal? It should always contain a look and feel like the practice itself – it’s an opportunity to create a ‘virtual bedside manner – and they should always have an email inquiry/messaging function to book appointments and links to all social media pages.

3) What can medical practitioners do to design a more user-friendly patient portal? Insure that patient needs are always at the front of user interface design and function; never use too much jargon and be careful never to post links to other medical posts/journal articles without ‘translating’ them for your specific patient audience.

4) Where do most patient portals fall short? What do most lack? Most lack an appointment setting capability, a direct email to the physician and any type of ‘good feeling’ about the practice. They fall short of being the informative and helpful sites that patients – particularly those from the practice itself – want to use to understand their condition better.

5) How can practices make better use of patient portals? What improvements would you suggest? There are many ways a portal can be made ‘better’ – for both patient and practice:

Going forward, there needs to be a better balance of “patient versus practice” on medical practice portals. Some things we are beginning to see now, but will be a necessity by the end of 2013/early 2014:

EHR integration including online records access, appointment scheduling and prescription refills
health education via website and integrated social channels
customer support beyond a phone number in the billing department
projection of the “personality” of practice (read: integrates with marketing and branding)

de-jargonization – but not dumbing down the medicine
an extension of the “bedside manner” via community involvement and development
(One could hope for price transparency … )

Social media will be important too — not a panacea but becoming an integral part of all practice marketing and virtual bedside manner

VP of business & client development Jeff Ziegler was quoted in Medical Office Today’s premium content section in an article about Do-it-yourself – and when not to “DIY” – and medical practice marketing.

Here’s a snippet of the content:

Why not D-I-Y?

Jeff Ziegler, VP of business/client development for Crane Creek Communications in San Francisco, which specializes in medical marketing, adds that D-I-Y is best left for gardening and car repairs (if you are an enthusiast), “although I wouldn’t recommend changing brake drums and pads unless you are very confident in your ability. D-I-Y has always been a popular option for professional practices—doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.—especially when it comes to areas of the practice where the practitioner has a ‘bit of knowledge’. Many say that ‘a little knowledge can be dangerous,’ and in many D-I-Y instances, it’s true!”

Some practitioners who own and manage their practice have an entrepreneurial spirit that encourages D-I-Y. “They run their business with the same commitment and dedication they give to treating patients,” says Laurie Kendall-Ellis, a physical therapist in Alexandria, Va. “They want to do it all.”

5 things in your practice that are not D-I-Y

Experts say you should always get professional input and often execution for the following:

1.       Marketing, advertising and public relations—Marketing issues are far removed from the competencies of most medical and medical-related practices, but because many doctors believe they are experts at everything, they try to take this on as well … “Most do it poorly, if they do it at all. Some of the worst marketing and tactical implementation I have seen in any industry as a whole is in the medical profession.” Instead, speak with several experts in this field to determine which one will best promote your business to the public.

(Read MOT’s article, “Scoping Out the Competition—What are You Up Against?”)

2.       Social media and website design—This arena is still fairly new to most people, especially professionals. Utilizing social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and other online tools effectively can be a full-time job, and, along with website design, falls under the category of marketing, advertising and public relations as something most providers shouldn’t try to tackle themselves. “What are you going to do today: operate on a patient or update your Facebook page?” … Ziegler says a practice’s website, social-media presence and patient views can make or break the decision of which provider to choose for many new patients, so it’s important to get it right. The right professional can help you do that. “A vast majority of medical websites are botch jobs that were done by website designers who know little about what medical practices need to achieve from websites and marketing—mainly because medical practices don’t know what they need to achieve. This is both unprofessional and alarming and shows a lack of understanding of the market, patients and the Internet-savvy medical consumer. In many cases, it is insulting to patients who want to have a greater say in their medical care.”

(Read MOT’s article, “5 Reasons to Use Social Media in Your Practice”)

If you want to learn more – read the article here it’s premium content, so you need a subscription). Well worth it, we think!

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