When healthcare practice management engages with marketing services, the conversation immediately turns to how to be more appealing to patients: how to get before their eyes and how to build public confidence in the practice brand.
With the patient always being the target audience, the focus becomes how to get more traffic to the website and bring more patients through the doors. When a practice eventually achieves its healthiest online visibility through a consistent investment in digital marketing, does this mean there is nothing left to do to gain more business?
Components of a Complete Healthcare Marketing Strategy
What is a healthcare marketing strategy in the first place? Marketing mentality can be limiting sometimes, no matter the industry, and this is how opportunities end up being missed. With the goal of connecting practices with patients who are financially prepared to cover services (either through government programs, private payer, or self-pay), digital marketers in healthcare work to cast a wide net with a robust online presence – but with some limitations.
Effective marketing saves practices the headache of clearing out an influx of “leads” who are not at all likely to become new patients, which is not a cost a practice wants to incur from marketing expenses, is it? For example, a practice in Hollywood, Florida, must decline several new patient request forms in a row once they realize the requests are coming in from Hollywood, California.
By activating dynamic website design with a sound search engine optimization (SEO) strategy built-in, pay-per-click ads (PPC), directory listings management, online reputation management, and social media management, digital marketers in healthcare cover all the major communication channels. Most patients begin their search online, so nurturing online presence is something most practices simply cannot be avoided any longer if they would like to stay competitive and attract new patients.
However, it is worth noting that many practices choose to include traditional print advertising in their marketing spend. For example, connecting with the community with the purchase of ad space for local events is often a wise approach for local reach (such as a pediatric dentist banner posted year-round at a youth sports venue). Local visibility is crucial for most healthcare businesses to complement their digital strategies.
A comprehensive marketing strategy casts many nets, but these nets are anything but all-purpose. Each component of a healthcare marketing strategy must be calibrated so that each practice is best positioned to yield a return from investment of precious resources. One of the best outcomes of healthcare marketing that one could hope for are clear signs of eking out an expansion of market share.
When Patient-Centered Care Paves a New Way to Reach Patients
The goal of value-based care is to generate healthier patients less dependent on extensive services, but at the same time it also generates quite a bit of data. Incentives offered by value-based care programs turn attention toward care quality, but also put into focus the patient journey itself.
Insights gathered from population management can help power the way providers reach patients with messaging, including marketing messaging. But for one such orthopedic practice, Medicare reporting revealed another opportunity to grow market share.
An Orthopedic Practice Stumbles into a Market Share Growth Opportunity
Gaining a new patient is always a win; but staking your claim in your specific market is even better. Enter innovative business analytics, and a new perspective emerges for one orthopedic practice.
Practices participating in value-based care gather data from CMS – one reason in particular is to leverage data about the performance of other practices for benchmarking purposes. For this practice marketing client, we shared a specific set of data that showed where referrals were coming from (and going to) within their specific market.
It was found that the distribution of referrals was far from balanced, with just a handful of orthopedic practices getting the most. The Market Share Report included cost index, outcomes index, and the percentage of total spend. We shared with the client how their cost index score for utilization (5) and quality scoring for outcomes (also 5) made their practice an ideal referral candidate to partner with for better patient outcomes which is of mutual benefit.
Revisiting the Referral
With everything in great shape in the area of digital marketing, we advised our client to follow the opportunity of nurturing relationships with PCPs to grow their referral network. Although “referral” has a different meaning in the context of healthcare, it happens to be one of the oldest forms of marketing, and It has been said that: “The best compliment you can give is a referral.”
With practice marketing laser-focused on practice-to-patient strategy, other avenues for growth (like practice-to-practice outreach) can fade into the background. For specialists in particular, finding ways to make a practice more appealing to referring practices is a golden opportunity to work toward expanding market share.
Building Practice to Practice Relationships
How do specialist providers go about encouraging PCPs to send more patients their way? Healthcare organizations can enlist an administrator or a community liaison to engage with external organizations.
Outreach activities may include inviting primary care practices to educational events relevant to the specialty.
Another way practices can engage with other practices is to work with a physician liaison. A physician liaison is a third-party representative for a physician or group practice whose objective is to (on behalf of the client) build relationships with other practices, healthcare groups, and hospitals, etc.
You may not instantly associate networking with marketing, but like marketing, networking is all about making those introductions so that you come to mind as a go-to for specific needs. While the focus tends to be on relationships with patients – as it should be – relationships between healthcare organizations are also vital to the field of healthcare. Incidentally, a stronger network of providers is a core component of value-based care.
A Lesson in Innovation
The drive for value-based care shows no signs of slowing down; the same can be said for healthcare consumerism. Many practices must confront the continuous emergence of new competitive threats that unique enticements to patients.
All healthcare businesses stand to benefit from revisiting the marketing plan periodically, not only to monitor patient population growth, but also the market share gains and shifts. It is then possible to uncover new avenues and opportunities for addressing stagnation while keeping in mind that new ideas and innovations can come from surprising sources – even Medicare data.
CHAD ANGUILM is Vice President of Growth at Medical Advantage, which is a national healthcare consulting firm serving independent practices, practice groups, Managed Services Organizations (MSOs), and health plans and is a subsidiary of the TDC Group, the nation’s largest physician-owned malpractice insurer. For more information on electronic health records, visit the company’s website at https://www.medicaladvantage.com/solutions/, or contact Chad Anguilm directly at [email protected]