India has the largest number of medical colleges in the world, churning out 30,000 doctors and 18,000 specialists per year1. A new medical practice setup is the most common choice for most physicians. The challenge of attracting patients commences right at the outset of this noble profession. Increasing competition and standard of living necessitates that the so called “waiting period” be reduced to a minimum. Thus arises the need for an efficient and sound marketing method for a new medical setup.
A general practitioner sees numerous cases of different diagnosis and age groups daily and the marketing happens usually by the word of mouth. In India, as the local general practitioner doubles up as the family physician, entire families sign up for treatment and there is rarely ever a dearth of patients or need for advertising. However, a specialist’s practice is largely composed of referrals and less of walk-in patients. Hence, marketing is necessary to increase the awareness among the general public.
For successful marketing, a physician needs to be aware of the demographics of his potential clientele, i.e. population age groups, disease prevalence, socio economic status, religious mindset, and sociocultural aspects. Once this is clear, a well planned marketing plan has to be put in place. Following are 6 ways to effectively market a new medical practice.
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A physician has to see that he maintains a website3 or a blog, which enables him to be in touch with the masses beyond the immediate locality. Good medical information, auxiliary management and several articles regarding prevention of diseases need to be posted to attract more readers. Detailed information about the doctor, his education and licenses, facilities offered, contact information should be readily available on the web page.
Creating a Brand
To create a niche for your practice that distinguishes you from a city thickly populated with doctors, it helps to create an individual brand consisting of logos, website and published materials. This is a sure shot way to ensure that your practice has a place of its own amidst the masses.
Regularly writing medical columns in newspapers, small magazines, giving speeches in religious or medical societies, etc will ensure marketing across a wide area of patients. TV interviews regarding specific disease conditions and management can help a physician connect effectively in a small time to a much larger population.
Relationship with other doctors
Maintaining sound relations with other doctors4 is a vital component for a successful marketing plan for a new practice. This ensures referrals from them, which forms the crux of a bustling medical practice. This can be done by becoming a member of medical organisations and active participation in medical camps.
A good clinical set-up, with good interiors and ambience will give patients a good feel which is vital to your practice. Receptionists should be encouraged to be polite and receptive to the needs of the patients for e.g. sending reminders of their appointments or rescheduling appointments. Make cost effective health plans to attract committed patients.
Strive to constantly improve, by taking feedback from the clinic staff and patients. Patients should be encouraged to give their feedback periodically via email or as reviews regarding treatment satisfaction.
Time spent in formulating a good marketing technique is worth it and is the need of the hour for a new medical practice, to ensure a steady flow of patients.
Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD
1-Human resource for health.
2-The Times of India. PG medical seat auctioned for 4.5 crores. Seethalakshmi S.TNN. Sept 13,2013,01.29 AM IST.
3-Physicans Practice Resource Centre Medical practice marketing.