Take-charge attitude toward marketing helps retain patients, increase referrals

March 18, 2013

Physicians have a lot on their mind these days and, of course, some of it stems from the tenuous concerns about healthcare reform at a time when they are so busy trying to manage their schedules they don’t have time to come up for air.

 

Physicians have a lot on their mind these days and, of course, some of it stems from the tenuous concerns about healthcare reform at a time when they are so busy trying to manage their schedules they don’t have time to come up for air.

When we meet with clinicians concerned about a changing environment and suggest that they market their practice, we hear comments like this: “You can’t be serious, our phone is ringing off the hook; we don’t have enough time to care for the patients we already have, yet alone add more to the schedule. The last thing I need to consider is marketing.”

Wrong! It’s time to take a serious look at the important role marketing plays in improving the future health of the typical medical practice.

Consider long-term stability

The fact is, marketing your practice can be a lifeline for your future success. Despite a reported shortage of dermatologists in the U.S., it’s important to understand the critical need to market.

Consider the long-term stability of your practice, the changes coming with healthcare reform, and the fact that patients are on the Web, sharing their thoughts with potential new patients and creating your online reputation.

On top of all that, there are retail medical clinics popping up everywhere. They offer quick, inexpensive primary care, grabbing a share of the healthcare pie and sending their patients to other specialists in the process.

The reality that healthcare reform and accountable care organizations are changing the landscape is also cause for concern. Add to this the payers’ attention to patient satisfaction ratings, which can be linked to reimbursement in some cases. Are you prepared to deal with these potential threats to practice growth and your financial security? It’s time to take control, and marketing can give you the upper hand.

Another consideration is the cost of attrition. It’s often underestimated, especially when considering one’s reputation and the hit to potential new growth when an unhappy patient leaves your practice. At minimum, your ex-patient is no longer a potential referral source. At worst, they become a source of de-marketing your practice as they tell others about their dissatisfaction.

The process of taking on a new patient is costly as well; profits often don’t begin to add up until a patient is seen at least twice in order to recoup initial costs.

Internal marketing

Internal marketing is marketing to your existing patient base. You may ask, why would I need to do that; they are already sold?

This kind of patient-centered activity is exactly what keeps your bottom line growing, putting you in the driver’s seat by building a core group of desirable patients who remain loyal and become your community referral sources as they tell their friends and family about you, drawing more of these like-minded patients to your practice.

An organized, proactive approach to marketing leads to strategic decisions that will have an impressive impact on the future of the practice - strengthening your position and increasing the ability to withstand the winds of change in health care. Here are some key reasons urologists need to get serious about marketing:

  • ‡Attracting patients from better-performing payers allows you to strengthen your financial position, possibly allowing you to let go of less-attractive, high-maintenance insurance plans that keep reducing your reimbursements.

  • Marketing to existing or desirable patients will give you the opportunity to consider adding revenue-boosting services that appeal to them.

  • Satisfied patients will tell referring physicians, online review sites, friends, and family about their experience with your practice, boosting your reputation in your community, online, and among referring physicians. This positions you for growth and greater control.

  • Marketing will help you showcase added services and new providers or allied professionals - growing these new modes of revenue quicker, reducing a costly lull before these services or providers are well known.

  • ‡Part of marketing is understanding your competition - keeping your hand on the pulse of the market and adjusting your practice accordingly, in order to maintain your competitive edge and high patient satisfaction.

These are just a few reasons to make marketing one of your primary initiatives for 2013. Talk about it and act on it - make this critical investment in your future. A proactive approach to patient service and marketing will lead you to greater success.

Properly marketing your practice can reap benefits for years to come by making the practice more visible and opening doors of opportunity. Strengthening your position can help you make welcome changes, rather than changes forced on the practice by external forces.

A strategic approach to marketing will portray the practice in a way that reflects your culture and your mission, support building desirable relationships with new and existing patients, improve patient compliance rates, facilitate better patient-doctor communication, improve the employee environment and boost job satisfaction for everyone - including physicians - and contribute to more satisfied patients who become loyal referral sources. Make marketing a key strategy to protect the future health of your practice. DT