June 4, 2018
Inside: Turn the most skeptical patients into your most loyal patients by using these simple methods to earn patient trust.
Equipped with more information than any generation before, patients today care about their health.
They no longer rely on medical professionals to get all their health information. Instead, they find it online in a few clicks.
And as patients get smarter they also get more skeptical.
No matter how many titles follow your name, you still have to persuade patients that you know your stuff.
And, most importantly, that you have their best interest at heart.
Mistrust of healthcare professionals has increased by growing evidence of human error in the medical field. A couple years ago, a Johns Hopkins University study unveiled a huge statistic that rocked the nation’s faith in medical experts.
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Even though the eye-opening statistic included far more than medication errors, pharmacies have suffered the collateral damage. Trust in all medical experts eroded.
Other recent incidents, like the discovery of gag clauses in third party contracts, have made more patients less trusting of pharmacists. (Even though you’re legally “gagged,” patients still doubt your motives.)
And all across the pharma industry, companies are pushing profits at the expense of people’s health.
More barriers exist than ever before between you and your patients.
Trust is the only road to customer loyalty.
New patients are skeptical. Earn their trust and you can get them to stick with your pharmacy.
And, at any moment, regular patients can turn to one of the thousands of national chain pharmacy locations and never come back.
But if you earn patient trust, you’ll keep their business. And, you’ll attract those patients who aren’t committed to their current pharmacy (because they haven’t established trust).
Trust also influences the way patients perceive your pharmacy’s care.
High levels of trust correlate with many positive benefits, including:
But patients’ increased knowledge and skepticism make those benefits harder to reach. Which means you need to take proactive steps to overcome and earn patient trust.
Use these 10 effective methods to break down your most skeptical patients’ barriers and earn their trust for life.
Be open with patients about why your pharmacy does things the way it does.
Make sure patients understand:
And, communicate that you’re being transparent. Transparency won’t help build trust if patients don’t realize that you’ve made all the information available to them.
For example, to put patients at ease about gag clauses, hang a sign reminding them to ask you if they can save money by paying out-of-pocket. (Check your contracts to make sure that’s allowed.)
Patients want to know that you’re credible.
One way to build credibility is to offer free medication and health consultations, especially to new patients.
During the consultation, you can address their specific needs and answer all their questions.
Another way to build your credibility is to write a weekly or monthly column for the local newspaper on all things pharmacy. Or, start a blog on your website with quality health content.
Patients hear a lot of information in the news. Make sure you’re up-to-date on current happenings. That way you’ll have an answer to questions and can debunk misinformation.
Even if certain claims in the media seem ridiculous, it’s still important to know about them. Patients will feel more trusting if they know that you’ve got your pulse on the latest medical (and faux-medical) news.
Consider offering brochures with the latest educational health information at your checkout counter.
Finally, if you have extra credentials or certifications, such as a Ph.D., hang them in your pharmacy where patients can see them.
Let patients know they’re more than a customer to your pharmacy.
If your relationship is solely characterized by transactions, patients won’t feel like people. They’ll feel like a number.
One of the simplest ways to show patients you care is to fully engage when you and your staff interact with them.
Ask them questions and listen actively. And pay close attention to your body language. People can spot when you’re antsy to get out of a conversation and get on with your work.
All those small, seemingly unnoticeable gestures go a long way to making a person feel cared about—or not.
How to be a better active listener:
Over the course of time, you should also build deeper relationships with all your patients. Remember their names and the names of their children. And, acknowledge them outside the pharmacy if you see them in the community.
Make your pharmacy about more than prescriptions. Make it about improving patients’ health.
You’ll build patients’ trust when they see you offer them real solutions to help them on their health journey. Sometimes that means prescriptions. And, sometimes it means preventative clinical services, health coaching, nutrition counseling, and more.
For example, one independent pharmacy started its own weight loss program. The program aims to prevent diabetes and other health complications caused by obesity.
Don’t hide your blunders.
You can’t rebuild trust if you get discovered trying to sweep your mistake under the rug.
It’ll not only destroy the relationship with the affected patients(s) but will completely tarnish your reputation.
Although mistakes may reduce some trust in your ability, fessing up is a huge step in fostering trust.
It reveals your human side, your transparency, and most of all your honesty.
Follow these principles after an error to turn a mistake into an opportunity to build trust:
Separate an area in your pharmacy for a consultation room. Investing in a space for patient privacy demonstrates how much you value confidentiality.
If you’re willing to spend time with patients away from the counter and you’re willing to use precious space for their privacy, they’ll know you prioritize their trust.
Let patients see you in the community.
When you volunteer and participate in community events, you remind patients that you’re not just a pharmacy professional—you’re a neighbor. It brings you down to earth.
At community events, you can connect with patients without any professional motivations or incentives. Talking about subjects unrelated to your profession builds an element of trust you can’t get inside the pharmacy.
And, that human-to-human bond will carry over into the pharmacy.
Here’s a revolutionary idea: gain trust by being trustworthy.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. And keep the promises you make.
Promises are powerful no matter how small.
Underestimating a wait time, for example, slowly dissolves trust if it happens more than once. Be honest even if it will make a patient unhappy.
Like it or not, people trust customer reviews.
In one survey, as much as 72 percent of people said reading positive customer reviews increased their trust in a business.
When someone searches on Google your pharmacy, right below your name they’ll see a rating out of five stars. If you have lower than a four-star rating, you’ll have a hard time earning patient trust.
Try these strategies to increase your Google ratings:
All the promises and transparency in the world won’t earn patient trust if you don’t achieve your main goal: improving patient outcomes.
Without tangible health care results, everything else goes out the window.
That’s the whole reason patients come to you, after all.
And, improving outcomes will have the deepest, widest, and most lasting effect on patients’ trust in your pharmacy.
It’ll lead patients to tell their friends and family about you. And because it’s based on real results, the referrals will stick.
But how do you improve outcomes for patients besides handing out medications?
Turn the most skeptical patients into your most loyal patients when you use these simple methods to earn patient trust.
Want more pharmacy business tips and advice? Sign up for our e-newsletter.