It is not enough to provide excellent patient care and customer service when it comes to growing a new healthcare practice. Many marketing strategies exist, some that are very costly and some that are absolutely free, with many in between. Of course there are the ads in newspapers, magazines, and school yearbooks, or billboards that advertise your practice. Accepting more insurances, especially Medicaid and Medicare now that there is such a huge newly-insured Medicaid population, will bring you a large amount of new patients. However, there are some other ways that are just as, if not more, effective at attracting new patients. I have outlined some of the most successful ones below.
Website with search engine optimization (SEO)/online presence/blog/social media—it goes without saying that most people today use the internet to find anything that they need. It is no different when a patient is looking for a healthcare practitioner for his or her ailments. Besides good word of mouth, your online presence will be your greatest generator of new patients. For this reason, it is important to invest some time and money into working with a professional web designer to develop a great website. Such a website should contain all of the main information about your practice, including your core values and mission and vision statements, pictures and short bios of all of your physicians or other healthcare providers, the services that you provide, the insurances and payment options that you accept, all location addresses, phone numbers, and fax numbers, etc. Ask your website developer about adding search engine optimization—the process of identifying widely searched-for key words and including them in your website for greater visibility on Google and other search engines. Search engine optimization is not a one-time process, but will need continuous up-keep in order to remain relevant on search engines. Professional SEO services exist to help you maintain your online presence.
Utilize your current patient base—your existing, satisfied patients can be a great source of new patients. Ask them to refer you to their family and friends. Some practices have utilized referral cards that the patients can give to potential new patients, with the practice’s address and phone number, as well as the hours of operation. Additionally, you can ask your current patients to share their great experience at your practice—by rating and reviewing you on Google, HealthGrades, Facebook, and many other online platforms. These ratings and reviews will go a long way when new potential patients are looking up your practice online. However, it is very important that you make your existing patients happy first, or they can write very bad reviews and ruin your reputation and online rating.
Create a two-way referral system—Form great relationships with other local non-competing healthcare providers, and establish a two-way referral system where you refer your patients to them and they refer theirs to you. You can do so by attending healthcare fairs and events in the community, personally going to these organizations and introducing yourself (a box of donuts wouldn’t hurt either!), or sending out an introductory brochure with your organization’s information as well as a short bio and your credentials.
Make yourself a source of knowledge—write articles, speak at health fairs and other local events, contact and participate in special interest groups, and inform the public about various health issues. Post all speaking events or written articles on your social media pages and on your website. Some practices implement monthly newsletters, or start a blog that is very informative and relevant to patients and their families. This will make you an expert in your field, and when a patient needs to find a new physician or healthcare practitioner, he or she will think of you first.
Offer extended hours and same-day appointments—most patients, work, go to school, run errands, and do a million other things which may make it hard for them to make it in for appointments during regular business hours. Some practices have found it very beneficial to offer extended hours such as early mornings before work, late evenings, and weekend hours. Additionally, it is a good idea to block off some appointment slots until the morning of, so that sick patients can get seen on the same day instead of waiting or having to go to the ER.
These are some ways that healthcare practices are able to attract new patients. A lot of them may be more beneficial than traditional marketing such as billboards or newspapers, and are also less costly. Additionally, you are becoming more of a resource to your patients, and are creating more credibility for your organization. Most importantly, remember to provide great patient care by knowledgeable and well-trained staff, and cultivate a culture of positivity and enthusiasm in your practice, which your patients will pick up on and appreciate. With happy patients come referrals and great testimonials, and with those come more patients!
About the Author:
Sonda Eunus, MHA
Sonda Eunus is the Founder and CEO of Leading Management Solutions, a healthcare management consulting company (www.lmshealthpro.com). Along with a team of experienced and knowledgeable consultants, she works with healthcare practice managers to improve practice operations, train employees, increase practice revenue, and much more. She holds a Masters in Healthcare Management and a BA in Psychology.