Marketing a medical practice within regulatory guidelines has always been challenging. While there are many new marketing avenues (see free online marketing for medical clinics) available today, here are some of the best marketing practices for medical clinics & hospitals that have stood the test of time.
Why marketing is important for medical practices
Setting up and maintaining a medical practice is far tougher than it initially appears. With an ever increasing array of advanced techniques, research updates and health care options available, physicians face considerable competition. Gone are the days where a mere telephone book listing or hospital affiliation would be enough to sustain a strong patient base. Today’s physicians have to modify their thought process and have a more entrepreneurial approach towards marketing their clinical skills and medical setup. This does not necessarily mean that these methods have to be expensive, and marketing does not only mean the stereotyped methods such as advertising in newspapers, billboards or emails.
Marketing encompasses any activity which takes your practice in a positive direction. To market your practice, it is critical for you to formulate a marketing plan with a goal either for 1, 3 or 5 years, where you focus your time, energy and resources on what you want to achieve during this period. It could be anything ranging from increasing income, retaining or increasing market share, ways to set up new services, recruiting new staff, or opening more clinics.
Here are some simple and cost effective practices which can make a significant difference in expanding your patient base as well as maintaining it.
1. Distinguish your practice
Physicians have to be sure to differentiate themselves and focus on their specialisation to create a niche for themselves. One must make sure that patients as well as referring physicians notice what they are able to treat effectively. A doctor could emphasise on their special and unique approach in managing allergies. It will help the physician build a strong patient base by his safe and effective approach. It is necessary to highlight and advertise whatever you specialise in apart from the regular services offered.
2. Make referrals the best source of patients
A personal equation with general physicians will always help you get more referrals. It goes without saying that if a general physician knows the specialist personally and understands his approach, he would be more comfortable in referring his patients. He would rest assured that his patients are in safe hands.
Easy ways of doing this could be having a lunch presentation with all local and nearby physicians or attending CMEs. A visit to a physician’s clinic could also be useful to get to know your local physicians better.
3. Offer free or discounted health checkups
Offers are effective in any industry; it will be highly advantageous if a specialist made use of this. Free whole body health checkups on certain days or blood pressure checkup camps can also help get new patients and let them get a bird’s eye view of your approach towards consultation. Thus, it is important to formulate strategies which can help you attract more patients.
4. Offer patient-friendly service
With an increase in retail chains which are providing greater and more convenient services to patients, it is of great importance for a physician to rethink his patient services. Our post on the best practices in managing patients and customer service tips for medical practices will help you manage your patients better while delivering a great experience.
Small changes which can improve patient experience and comfort can go a long way. Try to keep waiting time as minimum as possible, if the schedule is running behind see that your staff calls and informs the patient. Patients who come for blood tests should not have long waiting periods, especially when fasting. Follow up on critical and sick patients and schedule their appointments. It is seen that clinics with good patient service always attract more patients as the maximum number of referrals come from existing, satisfied patients. Here are some tips for great patient satisfaction at your medical practice.
5. Use technology for a better medical practice
With everything being virtual these days, setting up an online profile for your clinic explaining the various services offered with a brief introduction about you and your specialisation is another important step towards a opening the doors to a larger patient base. The more information about your practice you publish online, the more patients you will attract. See why an online presence for doctors is important.
Taking appointments, filling out forms and viewing test results can all be done online which will not only save a lot of time of your patients, but also reduce manual work for your staff. This will also allow your staff to focus on other important tasks. Consider a practice management software that will allow you to do this.
The last word
It is important to be consistent in whatever marketing method you use as steady progress is the key to entrepreneurial marketing. Drop out whichever methods do not work for you, but maintain the practices which are helping you. Physicians should adopt only ethical methods of marketing, avoiding any kind of blatant advertising or negative publicity. Always remember to focus on the goals, track referrals and steadfastly measure everything.
Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD
- Güldal D, Semin S .”The influences of drug companies’ advertising programs on physicians”. Int J Health Serv 30.2000; (3): 585–95
- Goldstein, D.; Lee, Y. “The rise of right-time marketing”. The Journal of Database Marketing & Customer Strategy Management.2005; 12 (3): 212–225.