1. Adjust Your Attitude
The first thing you have to realize is, the biggest obstacle to the growth of any business is the owner. And while 20% of that resistance may come down to the mechanics of running a business, a staggering 80% has to do with your attitude–that is, your own fears and limitations about why your practice isn’t where you want it to be.
Most people think they need to redirect their focus toward new strategies in order to make a difference. But while strategy is absolutely important, it’s the wrong objective with which to start. What’s the strategy for being fit and healthy? It’s not that complex, (eat right and exercise), yet 70% of Americans are technically considered overweight. It’s not a strategy problem; it’s a mindset problem.
Take a moment and think about your perceived limitations. (It might help to think of them as “reasons” you can’t achieve something). For medical practice owners, here are some of the common “reasons” we’ve heard:
It’s so hard to find a reliable, long-term receptionist. They either leave after a few months or a year, or I have to fire them. The cost of that kind of turnover is killing my bottom line.
I have to stay in urban areas to keep volume of patients up, but then the overhead I’m paying on my space cuts deeply into my profits.
Patients get so frustrated from dealing with their insurance, they can’t ever be fully satisfied from start to finish. They subconsciously blame us for their insurance troubles.
It’s easy to throw your hands up and say, “I’ve tried everything.” But if you keep saying that, then you will undoubtedly convince yourself that your growth is limited, and simply quit trying. The reality is, the only limits that exist are the ones that you create for yourself, and it is those self-imposed limitations that prevent you from reaching your business goals. Once you come to understand what your limiting beliefs are, you can begin to shed those fallacies.
It’s time to decide you are no longer going to tolerate the way you’ve run your practice in the past. It’s time to decide you deserve more. Your staff deserves more, too, and they deserve to see that there is a different way. Step out of the state of learned helplessness and resolve that you are going to arm yourself with the tools and strategies necessary to make real, lasting change in your practice.
2. Improve Your Referral Process
Strong referral relationships are essential in today’s competitive marketplace. Physicians can no longer simply rely on their reputations. They need to secure new relationships and revive 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, as this reflects upon their reputation, as well. Focusing on building personal connections at referring practices is key to developing strong relationships.
Practices that are easy to work with will get more patient referrals. It’s that simple. How can this be achieved at your medical practice? Make it easy to refer patients, with easily accessible referral forms that are clear and concise. Combine this with prompt scheduling of referred patients. Don’t make them 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. Understand Your Competition
Times have changed in healthcare. Your competition is getting smarter and more resourceful every day. Competition can keep you on your toes, but it can also cripple your referral sources. The challenge is to use competitive intel appropriately. It is vital that you know how your competition is performing, since underestimating their strengths can be a sure 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.
4. Create a Strong Online Presence
Patients often shop online for doctors in the same way they shop online for anything else. Therefore, it’s essential you have not just a good website, but a great website that can be easily found in search engines. Investing in internet marketing solutions, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, social media marketing, and blogging, are some of the most important investments you can make in your practice.
Undoubtedly you’ve gotten questions and misinformation from patients who consulted Google or WebMD, and told you about it during an appointment. In fact according to Rock Health, 56% of patients bring in what they found online to their doctors, and according to Pew Research Center, 53% of people who attempt to self-diagnose a medical condition through online information talked with a physician or medical clinician about what they found online. This confirms that people are seeking out information about their healthcare online. You can be at the top of their search results when they type their question into Google, by buying ads.
5. Find Your “Brand 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 not have otherwise reached. Keeping your social media accounts up to date is also a smart online marketing strategy to help your practice rank better in search engines, since search engines have placed more emphasis on social media in their ranking algorithm.
6. Improve Trust and Reputation Through Online Reviews
Unfortunately, it’s usually the disgruntled patients that are most vocal in online reviews. 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. Start asking for reviews from happy patients, today.
7. Track your Marketing Results and Web Analytics for Best ROI
If you are going to market your practice, it is essential that you track results. All new marketing efforts need a period of time to determine if they are hitting their intended target. Here are some questions to consider to 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.
8. Keep Branding Consistent 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 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.
9. Engage With a New Crowd
When was the last time you or your staff participated in a community service project or fundraising event? Community engagement is a great way to project a charitable, positive image of your practice to others.
If you already have events on your calendar, but they are always the same cancer walk and silent auctions, branch out! Accept an invitation to a networking conference or speaking engagement that you’d otherwise normally decline. Providing support to the community through unexpected means will get you noticed by people you don’t know, who could ultimately become future patients or referral partners.
It’s also a good idea to build rapport with the emergency room physicians in your area. They are often asked for recommendations for care after their patients visit the ER. It is all about networking.
10. Expand Your Services
Pay attention to shifting demographics in your patient population and community, and make changes to align with those shifts.
For example, if you’re treating many adults with young children, consider adding a dedicated pediatrician to your practice. If a major employer in your town just completed a large round of layoffs, think about offering reasonable direct pay pricing options to the newly uninsured. Losing business to a mini-clinic at a nearby drugstore? Add a physician assistant to your staff to do standard exams and prescribe antibiotics and maybe even lengthen your days and hours of operation.
Additionally, try to pay attention to the needs of people in your community. By meeting a demand at the right time, you can win patients and boost the success of your business.
It is important to understand that you don’t have to tackle any of these medical practice or healthcare facilities 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 guide and assist you on the execution of your marketing, while keeping the goals of increasing patient referrals at heart.