qualities of a good doctor

Game-changing topics to discuss on your medical website

Your GPA score, your entire Medical School journey, your fellowships and your experience matter. So how come some doctors seem to build an entirely different narrative in their online marketing that allows them to grow beyond just displaying qualifications? Time to investigate what makes a good doctor narrative. 

qualities of a good doctor

Game-changing topics to discuss on your medical website

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

March 16, 2022

We often misread the mind of the patient

patient psychology

In working with dozens of leading specialist doctors over the years, I have learned a lot about the doctor-patient relationship. What strikes me is that the first filter is often not the surgical excellence that you might love to talk about. It’s that little bit of patient psychology that often makes a big difference in how your entire private practice evolves. 

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Patients, before anything else, are humans who have a concern. Reassurance, trust, rapport, clear communication, empathy, care, authenticity and presence are currencies at play long before your surgical excellence is being discussed."

Do you focus on understanding what is going on in the patient’s mind? Or do you focus on the MRI results? Do you take a breath, look the patient in the eyes and talk about what is on their mind? Or do you take a deep breath, look down at the blood results and give them an outline of something they don’t really grasp? 

Let’s dive into the qualities of a good doctor that keep returning in online reviews, on forums and in conversations with patients, GPs, specialists and healthcare experts.

Focus on listening, rather than ‘communicating well’

doctor skills

One of the qualities of a good doctor to highlight on your website is good communication. You often find it under the practice values and yet… what does it mean? 

Going through hours of strategic work with surgeons and specialists, I would like to propose we reframe these doctor skills, so we talk about ‘active listening’ rather than ‘good communication’.

As a doctor, active listening would mean you validate the patient’s thoughts and feelings. It’s difficult when the patient rocks up with a pile of printed Google materials that they want to present to you as their own DIY diagnosis, I know.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"The underlying thought and feeling when patients do lots of research could be: I am scared. Acknowledging the underlying thought with a focus on the reassurance you can offer, will be a good starting point so your patient feels heard."

The myth about quality communication is that it’s only about giving the patient clarity and lots of leaflets or background information. When we talk about the qualities of a good doctor or surgeon, we love to zoom in a little more. And from experience, we know that patients attach far greater value to this feeling of being acknowledged, heard and understood. 

So when you highlight certain qualities that you know you have, or when you start nurturing these qualities to build a stronger narrative for your online profile, focus on being a good listener and positioning yourself as a good listener, rather than just providing ‘clear communication’.

Make the patient feel important

empathy in doctors

It is often said that one doctor seems to be more caring than others. Empathy in doctors is not the first topic in a Medical School curriculum after all. If you have put a lot of focus on being the best surgeon in your field, chances are that you are not passionate about the fluffy stuff that is often labelled as bedside manners. 

Here’s the thing: You can sharpen the sword and get better at this. This is how.

  • Doctor 1 asks short, directed questions. She thinks this speeds up the process and with a full focus on her checklist, the doctor goes after yes/no answers, numbers. Both eyes are on the keyboard or the checklist document, briefly looking up only when there is a hesitation.
  • Doctor 2 asks open questions at the start of the consultation. He thinks the first 15 minutes is all about building rapport and understanding how this patient thinks and lives her life. The doctor listens and occasionally confirms that he is listening, with a short ‘I see’, ‘Ok’ or repeating parts of the information to confirm he is listening.

When you ask open questions, you are creating a safe space for the patient to open up, share and describe what is going on, in their own words. It still allows for a moment in the consultation where you go over your checklist, but at least you have built enough trust and rapport now to make the checklist session more human and personable.

This is why your online profile will become more attractive when you describe the unrushed consultation style that you may offer. If you only allow 20 minutes per patient, it may be time to rethink this because key messages about really seeing the patient as a unique person contribute to higher conversion rates over and over again.

In other words, knowing that patients value these qualities of a good doctor, why not embed it in your practice values and brand positioning, so every team member considers it a priority when they go about their daily routines?

Make it clear that you are not an island

specialists working with GPs

Patients value your ability to collaborate. In the top 5 qualities of a good doctor, teamwork ranks really high. 

One of the key frustrations in negative doctor reviews is about misunderstandings or errors, that occur as a result of not collaborating.

If your practice has poor communication habits, linking back with the hospital administration team, the referring GP, or any other carer who is involved in the process, then this will backfire on the patient. Specialists working with GPs in a spirit of equality and teamwork will know that when you empower the GP to follow up with the patient, they get better outcomes

The patient is still this vulnerable human being who has a concern. It doesn’t stop when they leave theatre and feeling ‘cared for’ means you work as a team, not as the star surgeon who disappears.

In your online communication, highlight the fact that you work together with the patient’s GP. Talk about the integration between your clinic and other healthcare providers (physio if you are an orthopaedic surgeon, dieticians if you are a fertility specialist). Talk about how you liaise with other doctors, do after-hour calls to follow up on results…all the amazing work that your patient wants to hear to feel assured they are in good hands.

Collaboration means the patient gets more value. If you do it, talk about it as part of your unique selling proposition.

qualities of a good doctor

Be persistent in advocating for your patient

customer service in healthcare

Customer service in healthcare is different to what is needed in hospitality. The impact of a decent cup of coffee is minimal compared to what happens after an excellent hip replacement procedure. 

So it makes sense that patients want you to have their back. They want to feel that you are going the extra mile. Even if it means investigating an administrative aspect, a workers’ compensation claim, a question about prescriptions or test results.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Doctors who understand that helping patients starts as soon as the patient lands on their website, build better private practices. Simply because the patient feels a different energy from the moment they get to know the doctor."

If you think about your online profile, does it reflect how your team works? Does it talk about the unique qualities of your reception team? Does it become clear to me as a visitor, that your team is aware of my needs, questions and emotions as I go on this journey? Check out Dr Alex Koefman’s online profile if you are looking for inspiration. 

It’s one thing to deliver this quality and always advocate for your patient. It’s another thing to clearly mention it on your website in a verbal and visual way, so people feel it.

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Not sure what to talk about on your website?

website tips for doctors

If you are unsure how to make your website come to life as a doctor, speak to our consultants.
Together, we work out the uniqueness of your narrative and discuss online strategies that make more impact. Specialists and surgeons who work with us not only see their visibility go up, they also see higher conversion rates simply because they make a better first impression. I look forward to hearing more about your practice and your story!

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