How To Pre-Educate Patients With Your Website

You may be irritated by patients who ask tons of questions. The fact is that patients ask surprisingly few questions in our offices. This can be a wonderful thing or a terrible thing.

Here’s how having a patient-friendly website for your practice can ensure that your patients ask few questions for all the right reasons.

Why patients don’t ask questions

Stephen Wilkins wrote an article entitled Five Reasons Why People Do Not Ask Their Doctor Questions.

His five reasons are as follows:

  1. Fear
  2. The doctor knows best
  3. Not wanting to interrupt
  4. Not being asked by the doctor if they have any questions
  5. Patient feels rushed

You never want your patients to have these reasons for NOT asking you a question! On the other hand, if your patient already knows the answers to most questions, that’s a fine reason to have a relatively silent patient in the office. How can we use our practice websites to create a question-less patient? Is it possible?

There are two types of questions that get asked in medical practices: Frequently Asked Questions and Should Ask Questions.

Using your website to deal with Frequently Asked Questions

Your website should answer most, if not all, of these questions. Your patients should be able to educate themselves online using your website before they come in to see you. This will take care of 90% of the most commonly asked questions in the doctor’s office.

In this way, your website is a pre-emptive educator and question-answering machine, specially programmed by you to educate your patients.

Don’t you find yourself rattling off the same basic educational information to most of your patients again and again? Think of how much more efficient and effective you could be by pre-eduating the majority of your patients who have one of the ten most commonly treated conditions you deal with every week.

Of course, freeing up that time will let you focus on the questions your patients “should” be asking.

The questions patients “should” be asking

Obviously we don’t practice as robots or machines – the website or printed educational material cannot go into an individualized level of depth with each patient.

Once patients are educated on the basics or foundations of their condition and its treatment, this frees you up to focus on a more detailed level of information in the office.

Examples may include:

  • cutting edge treatments that you have unique knowledge or experience of
  • individual patient concerns like job situation or work restrictions after a procedure that cannot be addressed prior to the visit
  • addressing individual fears or apprehensions that may be unique to that patient
  • answering more in-depth questions about numbers of cases you’ve treated or results you’ve obtained personally
  • any discussion or design of a “custom-tailored” solution to that patients problem – like a particular career demand that would change a surgical or rehabilitation plan

OK, how do I make sure my patients can find answers to common questions about the problems I treat?

Make sure your website has a section called, “Frequently Asked Questions”, or at the very least a list of “Common Problems I Treat”, or “Common Procedures I Do”. Then be sure to make it obvious on your website where you want people to focus their attention. Don’t put the FAQ section at the bottom, hidden in an obscure corner of the site.

The most common place website visitors look when they arrive on a web page is at the top left hand corner. That’s a good place to start putting this kind of information on your practice website.

Did you know that subscribers to my Quick Tip can access all the archived tips I’ve sent out? Click on the “View it in your browser” link at the top of each email – this takes you to a page where you can click on “View Past Issues” at the top of the page.

If you need help with this, just send me an email.

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  1. says

    I am the author of the just released book e-Patients Live Longer, The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology. In the book I list a set of questions that patients should ask when they see the doctor for an annual visit. They are generic, obvious questions that most patients I interviewed are hesitant to ask because they feel rushed and are not so comfortable with their providers. I also talk about the patient’s responsibility how to become empowered and engaged with their providers.. I think your idea of a physician website that addresses common concerns and issues is excellent and a good way, with the right tools, to maintain the type of close communication between provider and patients that is essential to a successful outcome. Thanks for sharing this with the SPM listserve.

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