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Medical Practice Business And Marketing Articles

Article #D - Jan. 2009

“How To Improve Patient Compliance Using
     Persuasion Tactics”

Persuasion is the ultimate marketing tool for
physicians because you are good at it.

No doubt about it.  Persuasion, in all its forms, is a formidable medical practice ally and marketing strategy which gives physicians the ability to move a patient from skepticism to one of agreement.  Depending on your persuasion knowledge and your use of the factors that makes it work, your effectiveness will vary considerably. 

Of course, you may in your mind be quite confident you have the bull by the horns on this issue.  Remarkably, most physicians are practicing with persuasion approaches they learned earlier in life by trial and error.  They may do a reasonable job for you most of the time.  But, wouldn’t it be more profitable to you to have it work every time? 

Every doctor has had a patient who refused to agree to a certain treatment or surgery procedure which the doctor knew would cure a medical problem or disease process.  Yet, all the health information given to the patient, pro and con, didn’t phase the patient’s decision one bit.  

You ask yourself, “Why am I not able to convince this patient I’m sure of what I say and know it’s the right advice, given at the right time, however you slice it.”

My patient in 1975 was a registered nurse about 34 years of age, former cheer leader, blustering with life, slender, healthy, and complained she had noticed unusual vaginal bleeding that was persistent.  Five years ago her last pap smear was reportedly normal.  This time it wasn’t.  A cervical biopsy proved the Class 5 pap result was fact.  With her husband we discussed all the appropriate therapies for treatment of a Stage I cervical cancer.

I advised total hysterectomy and to go for a high assurance of curability—she refused.  She refused radiation as well, and her husband didn’t hesitate a second to agree with her decision, even understanding the probable outcome.  She had worked for a herbal medicine doctor for many years and knew she could cure the cancer with herbal medication.  Mind you, she was quite intelligent, and believed totally in alternative medicine cures.

After she agreed to an Oncology consult (my last ditch effort), kept the appointment, and we never saw her again.  Almost 2 years later, the local hospital emergency room physician called to tell me he had one of my patients there in distress. 

Five minutes later on arrival at the emergency department I did not even recognize who it was, until I saw her husband.  Although moribund, she recognized me, could only talk in a whisper, and could barely lift her arm off the stretcher.  After our tearful reunion, she died the next day in the hospital.

For two years, I hadn’t forgotten her, but I kept asking myself the same question doctors ask themselves.  What I know now about persuasion might have made a difference in her survival back then.

Effective approaches are:

  • 1.    Get the patient’s non-distracted attention. You change
       the moment for them with words.

  • 2.    Transform the patient into a pleasure mode.  Use a
       body metaphor.

  • 3.    The power of free. Give patient something that’s valuable
       and free (like next visit free).

  • 4.    Induce clarity. Describe exact details of the treatment
       or advice—vividly clear.

  • 5.    Positioning. Pick a position to take (like “peace of mind”)
       and use it extensively.

  • 6.    Overcome resistance. They just need more information.

  • 7.    The “Look”.  Your face expression, tone of voice, body
       language transfers confidence.

  • 8.    Empathy pitch.  You’ve been there and felt similar pain.

  • 9.    Contact mind-reading.  Body language of the patient leads
       you to the solution.

As you undoubtedly understand, each of these has many facets which you can use for implementing your verbal effectiveness on the patient in a persuasive positive way.  This is not a list of theoretical gibberish.  These are well documented maneuvers used for eons by wise practitioners who are willing to put some effort into learning them.  Incredibly, each works extremely well 90% or more of the time. 

And yes, I’m not here to sell you on these things or make you believe them, it’s up to you to prove it to yourself.  My view is that every physician continues to seek new and better ways to communicate with their patients thereby becoming more effective in the treatment of their patients, and, at the same time, increasing you reputation in the community.

Persuasion is not a tactic taught in medical school.  But, it’s a tool that can be very effectively used to improve your professional expertise, provide far better medical care, and improve your personal self-esteem.  If you do what no other doctors are doing---it’s called marketing your practice.

Joel Bauer, Mark Levy, David Lakhani, Kevin Hogan, Robert Cialdini, Michael Masterson, and many others have spent a life-time learning, researching, teaching, and using persuasive and influential techniques which make a huge difference and improvement in people’s lives—including doctors.

What’s in it for you--and your marketing expertise?

How many times a day in your practice do you think you use persuasive tactics, influence strategies, and your mind power to entice your patients to accept you advice and follow your treatment options?  Actually, you probably in one way or another, using one persuasion strategy or another, use persuasion on every single patient—and probably are completely unaware you are doing it.

All you need to do is improve on those abilities. Read the books by those experts mentioned above.  Let it sink in.  Use it.

These same marketing strategies add passion to your public speaking, credibility to your comments at hospital and peer group meetings, and competence to your patient’s eye.

You gain respect, admiration, and referrals.

Did you ever consider persuasion anything more than a patient walking out of your office with your advice under their arm and a smile on their face—let alone a marketing tactic?  That was me for too many years.

Marketing strategies are what makes the difference between owning a Buick or owning a BMW, a family vacation twice a year instead of once, an income that matches your lifestyle dreams or one which compromises your needs and desires, your kids college education paid for or requiring them to work their way through, among others.


Patrick Henry had it right when he said, “Give me marketing, or give me failure.”  .... Or, have I misquoted him?

The author, Curt Graham, is a highly experienced business and marketing expert, copywriter, and entrepreneur who has been published in various media over 50 years while in medical practice and after.

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© 2004-2011, Curt Graham M.D., All rights reserved.

Word Count = 1,177

Keywords = marketing, marketing strategies, health information, medical school, emergency room physician, persuasion strategy.



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