The healthcare industry is shifting towards a patient-centric system, says Jason Borody. This is a significant change for practices used to a physician-centred model, however with patients more inclined to become more active in their own care – and predisposed to research symptoms and treatments – the shift to patient-centric healthcare is an organic one.
Patients now have a greater understanding of their care options in addition to a wide range of online information and tools available for providers and consumers.
With this in mind, the importance of being able to cater for this shifting
paradigm has become more crucial than ever.
So how do we shape our marketing strategies to get patients on the hook?
More than two-thirds of healthcare providers expect to spend more time and resources influencing patient behaviour through marketing, rather than solely targeting physicians and other providers.
There is now even greater interest in understanding what the patient wants so that practices can communicate and market to them appropriately and drive volume.
Getting your staff on board
Internal marketing is essentially your strategy to tap into the power of your established patient base and build your practice from the inside.
When developing a medical practice marketing strategy, internal marketing is the first step you should take to generate patient referrals. This is vital because online reviews – the digital age word-of-mouth – carry more weight than ever before.
Even though AHPRA discourages online reviews (and disallows testimonials), nothing stops a disgruntled patient from writing a scathing Google review and potentially damaging your reputation.
Remember, the modern patient expects prompt and excellent service
from their medical practice as they would any other service provider.
Successful internal marketing must be supported by your staff, and
allows your practice as a whole to understand and meet your patients’ needs. Practice staff need to feel engaged as integral members of the process if they are to become practice ambassadors.
Consider introducing rewards for referral generation and professional development in marketing, customer services and communications to encourage staff in becoming key influencers in patient-centric healthcare.
How internal marketing can help
Your internal marketing must focus on creating and communicating
your practice culture. It is also about selecting niche targets with whom you wish to communicate. Internal marketing goes beyond practice staff; it’s about talking to customers and creating brand ambassadors. Internal marketing maximises the full patient referral potential of the influential audience you have already acquired. Your strategy should deliver results in converting inquiries into new patients, follow-on services, and retaining your existing patient base.
Internal marketing is tried and tested, often low cost with high return on investment, low risk and straightforward enough to implement.
However it takes time to build and see results so not only is the correct strategy vital, you must also commit to seeing it through.
There are many ways to market to your existing patient base such as: • Electronic communications: SMS appointment reminders, follow-up calls, or reminders for annual check-ups
• Engaging collateral and TV screens
• Surveying patients and referrers to identify expectations (and
then adjusting practices to meet their expectations).
Internal marketing requires consistent, intentional implementation and the highest standard of patient service from all practice staff. Basics such as phone coaching and reception area protocol are often overlooked, yet these are areas in which many patients feel their practice is found wanting.
Attracting the right kind of patients
Practices also need to start engaging patients with a message that will help them attract the types of patients they want to use their services and in a specific way. High volume does not necessarily result in high value patients. These are patients who are likely to keep using your services and encourage their network to use them too.
What tools should you be using to communicate with your target market?
There’s an explosion of tools at your disposal including apps, websites, search engine marketing and even interactive bus-shelter displays. With social media and digital marketing, you no longer need to rely on using blunt instruments to cut through the clutter
– you can truly tailor your approach to target your patient where they are, at a time they are ready to listen.
However, patients aren’t always the target market, practices should also reach out to physicians, other medical professionals and opinion leaders by implementing referral marketing strategies.
Our message to you
The time has come to embrace the shift to a patient-centric healthcare system. At Vividus, we understand that there may be challenges, but we must let patients play their role actively. Ready or not, this transformational change is coming, so ensure you’re not left behind.
The content in this article was published in The Private Practice Winter 2017 edition.