The last six weeks have been a blur for most medical offices. For those who were not able to quickly launch telehealth, many patients have gone to their insurance-provided telehealth service and revenue has significantly eroded, often resulting in furloughs and layoffs. Due to stay-at-home orders, patients have canceled or rescheduled visits, electing to use telehealth for sick visits or follow-ups.
With news that a few states have opened for elective procedures, it’s important to get back in front of your patients as they begin to make plans to re-engage with providers. Patient care has changed, and it will be important to offer a hybrid delivery model where visits can be done both onsite and through telehealth services in the future – a model that allows for excellent patient care and is sensitive to the “new normal” we have yet to fully understand. Over the next few weeks, it’s prudent for you to develop a medical practice marketing action plan focused on getting revenue in the door so you can continue delivering on your mission.
Marketing has classically been an afterthought for medical practices. Often, practitioners rely on payers, long-time referral sources or word of mouth to fill their schedule. In this new digital age, patients are armed with a plethora of information and choices, and successful practices are taking advantage of the opportunity to meet patients where they are.
Medical practice marketing strategies now include social media, as well as website and medical practice reputation management to ensure that prospective patients can find you and to keep current patients engaged. When constructing your action plan to “re-open” your doors, it’s imperative that you focus on new methods to recruit patients as well as engage current patients. Whether you are a specialist or primary care practice, there are steps you need to take to win back your practice. The most important thing is to find a way to engage with patients and future patients that fits with your population and your mission. So where do you begin?
Step 1: Develop A Current State Medical Practice Assessment
There are broader strategic decisions you should make upfront to inform the business goals of your marketing tactics for your medical practice. To develop an effective marketing plan, you must determine what your business goals are, who you want to talk to, and what you want to say. Your messaging must not only meet the wants and needs of your target audiences (both current and potential patients and referral sources), but also serve the mission and capabilities your practice wants to, and can, deliver. Such business decisions to ensure an effective medical practice marketing plan for the future include:
- Where do you stand? Take a step back and provide a realistic view of where your business is.
- Brainstorm what the future holds. Spend some time thinking through multiple scenarios of what the future could look like for your practice, including new delivery models and services.
- Create a path. Design what your path to success looks like; include new ideas in delivery, technology needs and staffing.
- What actions must you take? Elaborate on your strategic moves across each scenario.
- What are your critical factors? Identify measurements which signal that important changes are necessary.
Step 2: Develop a Tactical Marketing Plan for Your Medical Practice
Once you know where you’re going, and what you want to project in your market, here are some critical tactical marketing actions to take:
- Reputation Management – Unfortunately, one bad online review can have a huge impact and keep new patients from visiting your practice. Focus on your online reputation and eliminate false or negative information related to you or your practice. Invite satisfied patients to leave positive reviews.
- Medical Website Design – Review and update your website or hire a firm to make recommendations. Some elements that patients appreciate are videos, provider bios, and seeing that you have connected your patient portal and your social media.
- Social Media – Reach your patients where they “live”, on social media. Social media networking is very efficient and effective. Tell your patients about exciting things happening in your practice, launch new products and services, and you can even employ cost-effective paid advertisements.
- Branding – Have you pinpointed what your brand is in the market? When a patient in your market thinks of your specialty, do they think of you? Alternatively, when they hear or see your name, do they know you to be the expert in your focus areas?
- Email Marketing – There are many email marketing services available which can allow you to keep in touch with your patients and provide them with important updates. Great practices have kept in touch via email with their contacts throughout the pandemic to provide information about community involvement, telehealth, and emergency services.
- Marketing Management – Connect your EHR to a CRM and launch a true lead generation campaign. Also, continue to use this outbound communication for patient engagement, product launches and quality (HEDIS) campaigns. Many patients with chronic conditions appreciate the extra reminder of upcoming appointments, or steps they can take to maintain their health.
One thing we know is that patients will come out of this pandemic looking for a more technologically advanced partnership for their health needs. By spending time now to develop an action plan, you can launch your new hybrid service and win your patients back – in a way that meets their new and changing expectations. Be creative, keep your mission in mind, and if you have questions about healthcare marketing strategy – reach out to a consulting firm like Medical Advantage who understands the rules and regulations and can offer affordable and experienced advice.
As we have seen with COVID-19, plans become obsolete very quickly. It is extremely important to understand when it’s time to pivot and modify your medical practice. Resisting change can result in a loss of business, and likely your patients or referral partners. Medicine has never been a leading industry when it comes to change, especially related to business operations. In this case, focus more on making change quickly, and less on perfection. An iterative approach allows you to make incremental improvements and build on those. This will be a learning curve for the entire industry, and in this case you want to be on the cutting edge. Fortunately, you have an experienced resource with whom to partner in Medical Advantage.