Heard the one about the patient seeing another healthcare professional?
Yeah, not many have.
If your surgery is like most, it might not be fully accustomed yet to patients who are happily signposted onwards to a plethora of healthcare professionals other than a doctor or nurse. That’s all about to change (with you spearheading it).
Starting from July this year, GP practices will receive funding to expand their practice teams under the new Network Contract DES. Soon to be walking through your surgery doors could be clinical pharmacists, social prescribers, physios, physician associates and community paramedics.
But if you thought it difficult to efficiently signpost to a community pharmacy – to which almost every patient of every age is accustomed, then the unique challenges that come along with this new team must be planned for.
In a country where two-thirds of GP appointments ‘don’t need a doctor’, this change will demand a careful approach (and a powerful patient communication strategy).
Pharmacists – the most underutilised tool of the NHS?
Last February, NHS England launched a major campaign to promote the use of community pharmacy. The mission was a seemingly simple one: urge people to consult pharmacists first for minor illness, instead of GPs or A&E. The ultimate end-goal is well-known and deeply understood – to reduce pressures on those services.
And yet as you know, getting patients to see the right healthcare professional is an age-old mountain to climb, and overcoming it begins with…
Education, education, education
The most fundamental aim you have is simple – help your patients to trust the new professionals at their disposal.
Otherwise known as ‘What’s in it For Me?’ your communications must begin by explaining the benefits of seeing the new specialists in your team:
• Like faster healing time, still with a Fit Note and painkillers if you need them by seeing the first contact physio.
• Like same-day appointments and a thorough medicines review with the clinical pharmacist.
• And like support to get out of the house, sort the practical things and connect with a local group after a dear loved one has passed away with a social prescriber.
As well as making use of as many communication channels as possible (such as email, social media, letters, flyers and waiting room posters), your entire team can also help to introduce your new health professionals.
The patient-GP and patient-nurse relationship is special. There is trust, perhaps nurtured over many years. This trust can prove instrumental in convincing patients that your new team of pros are to be trusted.
Let your happy patients speak for you
Communication from surgery-to-patient is one thing, communication from patient-to-patient is quite another. After all, patients have no vested interests in promoting your new team.
Ask the patients who have seen your new specialists to share their thoughts with you (remember to ask explicit permission to use their thoughts in your promotional material).
Let your new pros toot their own trumpets
If some of your healthcare professionals are confident enough, consider asking them to create a video using their smartphones where they talk about their new role and how they’re already helping patients.
Or if they’re reluctant to speak, ask whether you can record them going about their daily business. This footage could then be used with overlaid text.
Whatever the format of the video, short and sweet is best, and you should open with a punch (73% decide in less than 30 seconds if they will watch to the end of the video). And remember, 85% of Facebook Videos are watched with the sound off, so you should also subtitle it if you do decide to go with the speaking video (this will also help to improve accessibility).
All sound like gobbledegook or need a hand? Speak to healthcare marketing specialists and Primary Care Direct members, Yorkshire Medical Marketing.