Simple And Inexpensive Practice Promotion
Whether it’s called marketing or advertising or promotion, no practice should be missing the opportunity to create a bond with its customers (patients) and to seek out new ones. Patient loyalty is severely tested every day by changes in insurance coverage, by the continued promotion of other providers seeking to build their practices and by disappointments in the delivery of care.
Give each of your employees a business card. It, of course, has your practice name and number on it, and any other special information that promotes your practice. For many of these employees, this will be the first time that they have had a “business card” and you will gain a team of markers as your employees hand our “their card” to their friends and relatives.
ON THE WALL
Get your diplomats and all that professional recognition’s hanging in your private office or sitting in boxes and move it to the wall of your waiting room. Give your patients some sense of the clinical knowledge that you possess. They may also find that there are links between you and themselves, such as old school ties.
YOU’RE SMILING FACE
Especially in multi-physician practices, put pictures on the wall of each physician, non-physician practitioner. Include the name and a brief biographical sketch. Some offices have included pictures of the nursing staff. Patients are more comfortable knowing whom they are seeing and a bit about them.
ASK FOR THE REFERRAL
If your office is seeking referrals from your patients, especially if you’re an internal medicine specialist that wants to grow a primary care practice, let your patients know. A simple in-office brochure advising them of your availability gets the word out, as does a simple sign with a pile of your business cards.
The patient visit will generally not be long enough to get for you and your patient to become well aquatinted. Jump-start the process with a three-ring binder in your waiting room that tells them about you. If you have published, include a summary of the article. Include your hobbies. Horse lovers would prefer to go to a physician that also loves horses. The same is true for boaters, skiers, hunters, etc.
GET OUT AND ABOUT
The more exposure you have in the community, the greater recognition, the more you will be thought of when a physician is being sought. Get involved in community events. You can do free screenings for skin cancer, blood pressure, or offer to do free (or low cost) camp physicals for the Boy Scouts. And when you think community don’t think geographic only, think ethnic or religious as appropriate. Affinity-based on religion, ethnicity and even interests remains a strong marketing tool.
TAP INTO YOUR DATA
Each patient is a patient and a source of new referrals. They are also a source of customers for new services, or for appropriate preventive services. Send out reminder notices of services they, or their children should be receiving, and introduce them to new service capacity that you are adding.
KNOW YOUR REFERRALS SOURCES
If you are a specialist, you have two customers, the patient, and the referring physician. Know from whom you are receiving referrals and learn what it is they expect in referral consultation reports and communications. A letter? A call? And be sure to thank them. As more specialists compete for patients, a dissatisfied referral source can result in patient losses before you even are aware of the dissatisfaction. Keep the communications up.
YOU ON THE INTERNET
Being able to find you online is becoming a minimum requirement for the under 40 crowd. Make sure you have a presence, and that it represents you well. It should include your practice vision and should tout all the great things about your practice including your physician credentials, special services and anything that makes you special. It is appropriate to add some reference materials about your specialty. The more you can position yourself as a physician and a source of medical information the better positioned you will be.
YOU ON THE INTERNET
Try googling yourself every now and then and see where you are being listed and how. If you find yourself improperly listed, try to correct the information. If you find yourself on a dating site with negative comments, generally you can comment back, even if you are angry, a reasonable and concerned counter-posting presents you positively. (Just be sure you don’t inadvertently identify the patient if perhaps you can from their complaint. And never attack the complainer).
Is your staff functioning like its 1990? Or have you made the transition to putting the patient, as a customer first? Make sure that patients feel welcome and that they made the right decision when the contractor come to your office. A pleasant greeting is needed when they call or walk to start. Listen to how your staff treats patients? Does it reflect what you want?
HOW AM I DOING?
The telephone call to a patient by a member of your staff after the first visit is an unexpected and long remembered mark of a caring practice. It will also be the source of great information on how your practice is doing in the eyes of your patients. Give an employee this responsibility in the evening, after hours, with a script and some questions. Make sure they know if the patient has another appointment scheduled, if not, and they should, the follow-up call can stimulate the next appointment.
Try to call after a patient’s return home from the hospital or the evening after an outpatient procedure. Your call says you care.
Even established practices need to constantly refresh and growing their practice. Primary care patient panels, even without a major disruption such as a change in insurance participation, naturally see the attrition of 10-15% due to relocations and deaths. Specialists’ panels’ attrition much faster, each patient that “gets well” is a lost patient.
Alex Tate has served in various positions at leading health IT organizations for the past thirteen years. Most recently Mr. Tate served as Vice President at a leading EMR organization. He currently oversees product management and revenue cycle consulting for a number of organizations. Mr. Tate oversaw the development of many emerging products and held leadership roles across health-tech strategy, operations, service organization development, delivery, and optimization. His ongoing collaboration with startups and academic research centers are paving the way for the development and commercialization of groundbreaking technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, HCI and other initiatives for a future that offers the promise of transforming care delivery through cutting-edge technology and progressive methodologies.