Marketing your healthcare practice effectively has become more important than ever before. With patients responsible for an increasing amount of their own medical bills, patients are now treating their medical care the same way they shop for any large purchase--research online, read reviews, compare prices, and plan out the best payment options. You can no longer rely on patients choosing to visit your practice simply because you participate in their insurance plan. Your practice is a business within a marketplace. It requires the kind of marketing that helps any business flourish today.
Here are three steps to marketing your practice like other successful businesses:
Step #1 – Improve Your Online Visibility
If patients can’t find you, they won’t be coming into your office. It’s as simple as that. And, the number one way patients search for their doctors is via the internet. This means that improving your online visibility is the first step in practice marketing success.
So, how do you do that?
First, you must claim your online listings and ensure that all information contained within them is complete and accurate. You don’t want an error sending patients to a wrong address or providing a phone number that’s no longer in service. Claiming your listings doesn’t have to be difficult. Some practice marketing technology solutions will do the work for you and even keep your listings up-to-date, ensuring you show up at or near the top of search rankings when local patients look for you.
The second part of improving your online visibility is to create an engaging, actionable website. When a patient lands on your site, you have less than three seconds to show them that they are in the right place and have found the doctor they’re looking for. You must demonstrate what services you offer, the type of practice you run, and what patients can expect when they visit your office in person. This should be clearly conveyed through effective copy and images on your site.
If you don't have a practice website, you can get started today by creating a free online profile.
Optimizing your social media efforts is the third part of improving your online visibility. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social channels can give you the opportunity to directly connect and engage with potential patients. The key is to pick one or two channels that you can commit to using consistently and post content that is interesting to your target patient groups.
Step #2 – Manage Your Online Reputation
Whether you know it or not, you already have an online reputation. You are likely listed on several rating and review sites online. Reviews on those sites are often the first impression a potential patient has of your office. Negative reviews, especially if not managed well can mean losing that patient while positive reviews can bring more patients and more revenue into your practice. In fact, 59% of patients say physician rating sites are “somewhat” or “very” important, and 37% of online review users say they avoided a physician with bad ratings, reports a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
84 percent of patients surveyed consult a reviews website with some frequency to view or post comments and ratings of healthcare staff.
--Software Advice survey
Some providers find it difficult to ask patients for reviews, but there is a simple answer. Marketing automation software in some practice marketing solutions can easily be used to follow up with all patients after their visits to ask for reviews and then syndicate positive reviews across multiple sites. Be sure to thank each patient for taking the time to post a review and recommend your practice.
Look for practice management systems that also provide the advantage of alerting you to negative reviews as they’re posted so that you can respond appropriately. The key to handling these negative reviews is to follow up on them immediately and use the feedback to improve your practice.
If the negative review is specific to the patient, ask to take the conversation offline where you can address it in private without violating HIPAA regulations. If the review is due to a more general concern such as long wait times, thank the reviewer for their feedback and let them know what is being done to address the problem.
Responding to each review is vital to demonstrating your commitment to your patients and setting your practice apart from the competition. According to patients in a survey by Software Advice, 60% felt it was moderately or very important that physicians respond to reviews.
Step #3 – Enhance Your Patient Experience
“Patient experience” is the buzzword in practice marketing right now and with good reason. With healthcare becoming more consumer-based by the day, the patient experience is the main driver behind your patient’s choice of a healthcare provider. The better your patients feel about your practice, the more likely they are to not only return but also to refer others.
Your patient experience encompasses everything that happens to them once they arrive; from their wait time to the care you give as well as the way you handle patient payments--it all matters.
The best way to enhance your patient experience is through the use of patient surveys. Implementing surveys allows you to monitor your patient experience, adjust as needed and improve patient satisfaction.
Your practice marketing technology should provide an easy and efficient way to handle patient surveys. They should offer customizable surveys that allow you to solicit the valuable patient feedback you need to understand your practice’s specific strengths as well as opportunities for improvement.
Also look for features that let you automatically distribute surveys to patients following their visits, when their experience is still fresh in their minds. This kind of automation avoids assigning another task to your already busy office staff. You can even target your surveys to a specific group of patients to better understand how your practice is meeting their needs.
These surveys give you valuable insights into not only what you’re doing right but also ways your practice can improve.
Putting It All Together
Keeping up with all of the marketing efforts required to ensure your practice’s success can be a challenge. Finding a practice marketing software solution can help to automate the process and provide improved online visibility, reputation management and patient experience. Here's a handy checklist to compare the features of your top practice marketing and patient engagement technology choices--discover the features every practice should look for and add your own must-haves.