Every bariatric surgery program in America should sponsor an online patient community

I don’t know why every bariatric surgery program in America isn’t sponsoring an online patient community.

Online communities are proven to build tremendous loyalty when they offer real value, and people considering, waiting for, and recovering from bariatric surgery are the perfect target audience.

Here’s why.

Bariatric patients are researchers

The average bariatric surgery patient spends one to two years researching before committing to a surgery. An open online community is a perfect environment for research. Potential patients can learn about your program, interact with patients, subscribe to your news feeds, read success stories, and share their own concerns, even before they become patients.

Sure, they can do a lot of this on your website, but it’s the interaction with actual patients that is the clear differentiator.

Online communities are powerful marketing tools

The most common gateway to bariatric surgery is an informational session. You gather patient information, qualify for insurance, and maybe set an appointment. What if they’re not ready for an appointment? You put them on an e-newsletter list or follow up with phone calls.

How about instead inviting them to join your online community? Watch as they develop online friendships with those who have already completed their surgeries. The emotional ties begin to build.

And what about patients who are going through lengthy waiting periods complying with insurance requirements or improving their health? A supportive community can keep them connected while they wait.

Bariatric patients need help

The glue that holds successful online patient communities together is self-disclosure. The more members of the community share their worries, fears, hopes, dreams, disappointments and frustrations, the stronger the community becomes.

Your providers, dietitians, and psychologists can play vital support roles, but there’s nothing like interacting with others who personally understand what you’re going through.

The results of successful bariatric surgery are amazing

Wow! Testimonials of weight loss patients really are riveting. No more diabetes. No more leg pain. No more sleep apnea. No more gout. I can run again! The list goes on and on.

Amazing results turn bariatric patients into super fans

These amazing results turn your bariatric patients into super fans. As they see the pounds melt away they love how they look and how they feel, and they want to tell everyone about it. What better place to share than in the online patient community?

Bariatric patients are long-term community members

First there are the introductory sessions. Then the insurance compliance or health requirements. Then the surgery. Then the recovery. Then the weight-loss. Then developing new life habits. Patients can contribute to and learn from the community for many years.

A thriving community benefits everyone

Bottom line: Your bariatric center can reap tremendous benefits.

  • More surgeries completed!
  • Search engine optimization for your website from community activity.
  • More patients retained through the sales cycle.
  • Rerrals. Referrals. More referrals. 
  • Online support can lead to greater compliance and fewer post-surgery complications.

Every bariatric surgery program should be sponsoring online patient communities! 

The Value of Building Tiny Habits in Online Patient Communities

Are you looking for a method to motivate members of your online patient communities to make changes in their lives?

Consider the power of tiny habits.

Professor BJ Fogg, Ph.D., has spent a lifetime studying how human behavior works. He directs the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and works to create systems that change human behavior.

Fogg calls his work Behavior Design.

The key to change, Fogg has found, is the right combination of motivation, ability and triggers. He’s taken the system and reduced it to three simple steps.

Start small

 Think of something you want to do. Make it as simple as possible. For instance, if you want to start flossing, your goal is to floss one tooth. A tiny goal like this makes it more likely you’ll actually accomplish it. “The easier the behavior, the less it depends on motivation,” Fogg explains, since constant motivation is unreliable.

Find an anchor

An anchor is an activity you are already doing that you can tie to the new habit. It follows this pattern: After I (routine), I will (tiny behavior). For example, after I (brush my teeth) I will (floss one tooth).

Celebrate immediately

To reinforce your success, add a little celebration when you’ve done your tiny habit. Say “Yes!” Raise your arms. Thumbs up. Big smile. Whatever makes you feel good.

Repeat each day for a week.

That’s it. 

Fogg says “the results are the best I’ve ever seen in any program.” Why? Because these tiny habits are so simple they don’t rely on unpredictable motivation. And that dramatically increases the success rate. Over time, tiny habits lead to bigger ones.

Search #tinyhabits on Twitter for tiny testimonials. And if you want, give it a try by signing up (it’s free) for Tiny Habits.

How can you incorporate Tiny Habits into your online patient community?

  • Introduce the concept in your community news section or in a blogpost.
  • Start a conversation: What tiny habit would you like to start?
  • Share some examples of tiny habits:
    • After I answer the phone I will stand and walk while I talk.
    • After I (routine) I will take my meds.
    • After I use the bathroom I will think of one thing I’m grateful for.
    • After I take a drink of water I will take a deep cleansing breath.
    • After I eat my dinner I will put on my exercise shoes.
    • After I feed the dog I will open my health journal.

Sometimes you choose a “before” action.

  • Before I go to bed, I’ll put my blood glucose meter on my nightstand.

 And although it’s a bit more than a tiny step:

  • After I eat my breakfast I will log on to my community.