The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2018 Large Urology Group Practice Association meeting in Chicago, November 1-3. Renal and Urology News’ staff will be reporting on presentations dealing with various practice management and clinical topics aimed at community-based urologists. Check back for the latest news from LUGPA 2018.

CHICAGO—Patient engagement via social media and digital marketing are vital for growing medical practices, says health care marketing consultant Jennifer Dally, of Attune Marketing Group in Powell, Ohio.

Speaking at the 2018 annual meeting of the Large Urology Group Practice Association, Dally said the physician-patient relationship is about more than diagnosis and treatment. What patients want most is connection, which “brings peace of mind.” Transparency, active listening, trust, convenience, customer service, and good communication are among the attributes that patients say establish connection, Dally says.

“We expect a certain level of experience in general as a consumer, and that has translated into the health care world as well,” she says.

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Attempts to improve the patient experience can be simple. For example, Dally says, when physicians wrap up a patient visit, they can say to a patient, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

Physicians need to understand that patients already have been on a medical journey before a medical encounter. “I’m trying to give them context of the journey patients take before they arrive at their practice and what could they do to influence that journey.”

She emphasizes 4 essentials for every medical practice: a website; search business listings; social media engagement; and review management. A website must consider patients’ needs, not those of the practice. All websites should enable patients to pay bills online and to schedule appointments, as well as provide a link to a patient portal, she says. Website content should be produced with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. The goal is to have a website rank high on search engine results pages. This determines how patients or physicians find a practice “in the digital landscape,” Dally says. High Google rankings matter a lot, she says.

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She advises practices to identify keywords that matter most to a practice. An important tenet of health care SEO is understanding how patients search and use a website and the terms with which they are familiar.

The benefits of investing in SEO include a better online-user experience; measurable return on investment for the website; improved practice reputation; and targeted patient traffic.

A social media presence provides a way to build relationships and a sense of community with existing patients. It also improves SEO. Patients expect to find their physicians in the “social ecosphere.”

Physicians should give priority to Facebook, the leading social media platform. She recommends that physicians maintain separate profiles for their personal and professional personas. Patients should be able to view and engage with physicians’ professional page, but they should discourage or refuse to accept personal requests via their personal page, Dally advises.

Dally also urges physicians to embrace online reviews. Ratings are important. She offers tips for how physicians can deal with negative reviews. Physicians should not take the negative review personally and thank the reviewer for his or her feedback. They also could respond by noting that their practice might not be a good fit for the patient.

Dally advises physicians not to ignore negative reviews. Physicians should provide a brief response that is polite and does not blame the patient. In the response, physicians should validate the patient’s feelings and genuinely try to resolve the patient’s concern.

Visit Renal and Urology News’ conference section for continuous coverage from LUGPA 2018.