Marketing Strategies for Healthcare Practices

Originally published on www.lmshealthpro.com.  By Sonda Eunus, MHA

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, including Medicaid and Medicare 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!

 

Leading Management Solutions helps medical practice leaders identify ways to improve operations to increase revenue, employee engagement, and patient satisfaction. Learn more about us at www.lmshealthpro.com.

About the Author:

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.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sonda-eunus-6895067b

 

 

 

Marketing Your Practice with Social Media

Originally published on August 20, 2016 at www.lmshealthpro.com.  By Kristen Brady

:-  There is no question that social media has changed the way that businesses are marketed. As a healthcare provider, privacy is extremely important which may be why many practices avoid the use of social media as a marketing tool. However, by following a few tips, any practice can tap into the many options for marketing in social media and still maintain the privacy of their patients.

 

 

Why Use Social Media?

 

Before learning tips for using social media, it is important to understand why a medical practice would want to use it as a promotional tool. One of the best reasons for using social media is that it provides an easy way to connect with patients in a real-time manner. It may be easier to think of social media as word-of-mouth promotion as many people ask their friends and family to recommend a healthcare provider. Social media is another way for people to ask for referrals and get information about healthcare providers in the area. It also allows physicians to engage with patients in an informal way.

 

Demonstrate Thought Leadership

 

Social media is a good way to share medical information. Posts about wellness, weight control, diabetes or other medical conditions can provide information to patients and even those who may not be patients. Social media can help set a doctor up as an expert in certain medical conditions which can increase patients for the practice. Ending posts with a call-to-action that encourages readers to contact the office for an appointment can also increase the chance someone may choose the practice to treat a condition.

 

Keep HIPAA Regulations in Mind

 

It is important to remember that a healthcare provider cannot post items the same way a retailer or art gallery can on social media. Violating HIPAA rules can be very expensive and can actually damage your reputation with patients. Be sure that the people who can post on social media pages is limited and that they clearly understand HIPAA rules. It is recommended that staff members be offered refresher courses on HIPAA if they are permitted to post on social media.

 

Understand Patient Population

 

A pediatric practice will have a different approach to social media than a podiatrist. Many medical practices are age-specific and social media posts should keep this in mind. A geriatric specialist may not have many patients who are active on social media beyond Facebook while a pediatric practice may want a social media presence on several different platforms including Instagram and Snapchat. Posts will be different depending on your patient base as well so always keep that in mind when using social media.

 

Keep It Up To Date

 

The old saying “build it and they will come” is not true when it comes to social media. It is not enough to set up a page and then only post on it once every few months. Social media requires commitment so it is important to designate specific staff member who will be responsible for updating social media on a regular basis. Define a specific strategy such as increasing patient numbers by ten percent over the next year as well as a mission statement in order to create a working social media strategy.

 

Avoid Personal Commentary

 

It is tempting when posting on social media to respond to or post personal beliefs and commentary. However, it is important to look at the practice’s social media page as a business page and not a personal page. In fact, the AMA Code of Ethics has strict rules about some personal discussions like politics. The social media page for a practice is not the place to express views on politics or religion. Instead, keep that commentary to a personal page and avoid all discussions on the practice page, even if there are politically connected staff members in the practice.

 

Choose the Right Platforms

 

There are many options available for social media marketing and it is important to understand which is the most appropriate. For patient engagement, sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram may be beneficial. If the goal is to provide education, YouTube or LinkedIn might be the best option. There are also social media sites available on physician networks if the goal is educating peers. Adding a blog is another way to provide information and set up the practice as an expert in the medical field. Press releases are also forms of social media that can be used to announce changes in the practice or added services.

 

Public Forum

 

It is important to remember that all social media platforms are public forums. They should not be used to discuss private matters. It is fine to connect with patients on general health matters, but doctors should never discuss specific patient information, even in private messages. Even though Facebook and other social media sites offer the ability to discuss through private chat messages, it is not advised that doctors use that service to discuss personal matters as it may be accessible by others. This could risk the confidentiality of the patient. Instead, suggest that the patient call the office or reach out to them through a patient portal if the practice has one.


Branding is Critical

 

When creating a social media presence, it is important to keep the branding of the practice in mind. Use the practice logo or a picture of the building as a profile and cover photo. Use the same voice when posting messages. Be sure to end each post with a similar call-to-action that asks patients to call for an appointment.

 

Generate Interest

 

The best way to use social media is to generate interest and participation. The medium is designed for people to review, share and contribute information. It is a place for people to comment, support and even report negative experiences. Posts should be informative, interesting and encourage people to comment. Open-ended questions about healthcare, wellness or other aspects of the practice that encourage people to respond are excellent ways to encourage responses. Links to articles that support the practice or photos of success stories, with the proper permissions, are another way to encourage participation.


Legal Information

 

Defamation, libel, slander and plagiarism rules apply even on social media. Never make false statements that could harm a person or organization or post defamatory statements. Doing so could open the practice up to libel or slander charges. Be sure that all information posted is accurate, true and correct. Although linking to someone else’s article or blog post is perfectly acceptable, never use someone else’s words in a post or try to use someone else’s article as a blog claiming authorship. Plagiarism and copyright laws apply in the online world just as they do in the printed world.

 

Develop a Policy

 

The best way to handle social media in a medical practice is to develop a written policy that outlines exactly what social media will be used for. Explain if it is just to engage patients, to provide information or for other reasons. Be sure to include whether physicians in the practice will answer certain questions on their own. Be sure to communicate the policy with patients and obtain the appropriate releases if there is a chance that patient photos or other information will be included on social media.


Privacy Breaches

 

No matter how careful a practice may be, security breaches can occur. Even in physician-only groups, privacy breaches occur so it is important to have a plan in place for how security breaches will be handled. Occasionally review privacy policies on all social media platforms to be sure they meet HIPAA guidelines. Update any privacy settings in the practice that must be adjusted and avoid any chance of disseminating patient health information.

Social media is one of the best ways to promote businesses and its use is growing in almost every industry. Even with strict privacy laws, healthcare practices can use social media to develop a more casual relationship with patients, offer educational information and further increase their online presence.

 

Leading Management Solutions helps medical practice leaders identify ways to improve operations to increase revenue, employee engagement, and patient satisfaction. Learn more about us at www.lmshealthpro.com.

About the Author:

Kristen Brady is the founder and owner of Kaboom Social Media, your social media marketing and content specialists! Follow her on Twitter: @kb54927