Between increased competition, decreased reimbursements and insurers dictating coverage, many practices are looking for new and progressive marketing techniques to maintain a steady flow of patients (one hint: stop investing in Yellow Pages!). Here are ten tips to get more patients into your practice:
1. It’s all about who you know
Strong referring relationships are essential in today’s competitive market. No longer can physicians rely on their past reputations; they need to get out and secure new relationships and revive the old ones. A strong referring relationship means that more patients will come your way as a result, since trust and knowledge are necessary for this dynamic to develop. Referring practices want to know that their patients will be in good hands when they refer them to you, certainly as this reflects upon their reputation as well. Focusing on building personal connections at referring practices is the key to strong relationships.
2. Practices that are easy to work with get the most referrals
Practices that are simple to work with will get more patients referred to them. It’s as simple as that. How can this be achieved at your practice? Make it easy to send patients with referral forms that are clear and concise; combine this with prompt scheduling of referred patients and don’t make their patients wait too long for an appointment. Provide a direct phone number for contacts in your office as this will alleviate the frustration of a lengthy phone tree system. After patients have received medical care at your office, send over the progress notes within one to three weeks. Clear communication along with prompt feedback will enhance your reputation and bring more patients into your door.
3. Hire a skilled physician liaison
The responsibilities of building relationships and communicating consistently are timely tasks that are best tackled with a dedicated physician liaison. A physician liaison represents your practice in the referring community to promote your services, treatments, and providers. This responsibility shouldn’t go to your front desk employee who goes out once a quarter to drop off cookies. Keep in mind that a physician liaison can be a full-time or part-time employee, or even an independent contractor. Strategic promotion of your practice is achieved with a skilled physician liaison that has experience in pharmaceutical sales, medical sales, or other similar sales avenues. While clinical knowledge can be taught, personal drive and ambition cannot. Choose wisely.
4. Train your liaison appropriately
Now that you have carefully hired an experienced physician liaison, it is equally important that this individual is trained appropriately. There are two important components of training that need to be stressed: clinical knowledge and strategic direction. Clinical knowledge includes speaking intelligently about your specific medical specialty and practice. Strategic promotion of your practice involves knowing where your practices strengths and weaknesses lie as well as the same components for your competition. It’s also important to establish a list of practices to call on and to devise specific attainable goals for the liaison.
5. Make sure to implement tracking for best ROI
If you are going to market your practice, it is essential that you track the ROI (Return on Investment). All new marketing efforts need a period of time to determine if the ROI is hitting its intended target. Here are some questions to consider that will help determine if you are getting the most from your marketing efforts: what is your percentage growth last year?; did the marketing tactic accomplish its goal?; did your practice gain or lose income across a period of time? In order to track the ROI, the following considerations should be kept in mind: set a specific goal and track the steps towards achieving this goal with either a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software or similar product.
6. Keep your friend close and your enemies closer
Times have changed in healthcare and your competition is getting smarter and more resourceful each day. Competition can both keep you on your toes and it can cripple your referral sources. The challenge is to use it appropriately. It is vital that you know how your competition is performing since underestimating their strengths can be one way to lose referrals. Be aware of what they are offering in regards to charges for similar services, insurance plans being accepted, and availability to schedule patients. It is equally important to learn if they have a physician liaison promoting their services in the medical community as well.
7. If you don’t have a strong presence online, you might as well not exist
Patients often shop online for doctors in the same way they shop online for a new pair of shoes. Therefore, it’s essential you have not just a good, but a great website that can be easily found in the search engines. Investing in internet marketing solutions, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, social media marketing and blogging, is one of the most important investments you can make in your practice.
8. Find your voice through social media
Social media is an ideal way to engage patients online. It essentially acts as a megaphone for your practice since it exposes you to new networks of patients you might have otherwise not reached. Keeping your social media accounts up to date is also a smart online marketing strategy to help your practice rank better in the search engines since Google has placed more emphasis on social media in their ranking algorithm.
9. Don’t neglect your online reputation: patient reviews are a powerful thing
Unfortunately it’s usually the disgruntled patients that are most vocal on online review sites like Healthgrades and RateMds. This can lead to a gross misrepresentation of the great care you provide on a daily basis. That’s why it’s important to monitor your online reviews, respond quickly to negative remarks and dispute comments that are slanderous, etc. You can’t control what patients say about you online, but you can control how you respond. It’s also important to consistently ask your happy patients to share reviews online in order to outweigh the few negative patients.
10. Keep consistent branding to create instant recognition
With so many different avenues to showcase your medical practice, it can be easy for your messaging to become inconsistent across the mediums. Your professional branding should be uniform across all platforms, including both print and online. Standardizing your brand will help develop and increase trust in the medical community. If referring practices and patients can distinguish your name and logo from others, they are more likely to connect with you for their needs.
Know that you don’t have to tackle any of these medical marketing tasks alone. From implementing a physician liaison program to creating an effective website: these tasks are best left to the medical marketing professionals. There are medical marketing companies who have the expertise to assist you on the guidance and execution of your marketing needs while keeping the goals of increasing patient referrals at heart.
By Amanda Chay
TargetMarket specializes in marketing solutions for the healthcare industry, including physician liaison programs, website design, internet marketing, social media, and branding.