Category: Medical Practice Marketing

Medical Practice Marketing

Top 7 Practice Marketing Tips

Most ophthalmologists and practice managers view marketing solely as advertising to attract new patients to your practice. A better definition of marketing, however, is any activity that moves your practice in a desired direction. A desired direction may include increasing revenue, attracting new patients, expanding your presence in your market, introducing new services, or simply automating your practice to enhance the lifestyle you want.

There are many ways to go about achieving these myriad goals, but we’ve outlined some of our favorites here. If you want to market your practice and enhances its reputation in the eyes of your patients, here are our top 7 tips for marketing your ophthalmic practice.
Tip #1 – Have a Written One-Year and Five-Year Marketing Plan

Practices with a well-defined marketing plan typically outperform those without. Research has shown that the simple act of writing down one’s goals increases the likelihood of achieving those goals by nearly 40%.

First, you should develop your five-year goals, as your one-year goals should fit within and support your five-year plan. Don’t be afraid to dream big – as long as the goal is somewhat realistic, higher challenge will aspire your practice staff to reach for more and outperform.

At the beginning of each year, do a review with your staff and set goals for the year, with specific milestones and deliverables – revenue numbers, patient visits, review scores, etc – outlined along the way. Be sure to check in with your staff and see how you’re progressing on your yearly goals on at least a quarterly basis. This will allow your practice to make mid-course corrections, if necessary.

At the end of the year, review your performance and set goals for the next year, paying attention to how this year’s performance measures up against your five-year plan and where your practice should be at this point in time.

As we’ve discussed before, your goals should follow the SMART framework – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed.
Tip #2 – Optometrists and Opticians: Employ them, or market to them?
Deciding whether to employ or market to optometrists is a crucial part of building your practice…but there’s no one right answer for everyone.

For some practices, it makes sense to employ optometrists and do everything in-house. For others, building a strong referral network fits into their goals better. Ophthalmologists typically net around $50,000 profit per year for each employed optometrist, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

Regardless of what is right for your practice, having a plan around marketing to optometrists and opticians will be a huge benefit. Your particular situation will determine which approach is right for you.
Tip #3 – Communicate Availability and Ease
There’s no denying it: your patients are busy and value convenience. Scheduling is often the most important function your office staff serves, so making sure that patients see your practice as available and easy to work with is vital.

Of course, designing scheduling systems that reduce the amount of time and friction encountered by both office staff and patients alike is a great place to start, but the following tips are also important to take into account:

See new patients and referrals as soon as possible.
See patients on time, and clearly communicate when the practice is running a bit behind schedule.
Give patients a pleasurable experience in the waiting room – this will go a long way towards better reviews and higher patient satisfaction.
Always address the patient by name, and ask how they are doing.

Tip #4 – Be Visible in Your Community

One of the most successful marketing techniques is often times ignored by practices that have grown and matured. Networking is important, and having your physicians and staff network among industry peers is vital to building connections and increasing awareness.

However, industry networking isn’t the only way to go. Making sure your practice is visible and active in your community can go a long way in increasing the stature and reputation of your practice. Leverage opportunities for local media exposure, community involvement, community service, and the like – being in public will pay huge dividends for your practice.
Tip #5 – Keep your name in front of patients
Research has shown that it takes an average of seven “touchpoints” before a consumer becomes familiar and comfortable with a brand. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your name appears anywhere and everywhere patients may look.

At the very least, this means ensuring that you’re visible on the web, in local directories, and physician listing services. Signage in and around your office complex (as permissible) will help enhance your brand, and direct mail campaigns and local advertising opportunities can also be quite effective.

In addition to your practice’s name being visible, you should also highlight contact information and ways to connect, including your address, phone number, website, and social media handles. Ideally, these should be on every piece of communication patients see, from advertisements to online listings and every piece of paper that leaves your office, both promotional and educational alike.
Tip #6 – Have a great website.
If we’re honest, we’re a bit biased – perhaps this should be tip #1. In our ever-connected society, having a professional web presence is vital.

This is no different for ophthalmologists – in fact, 8 out of 10 patients will go to the Internet to research ophthalmic providers before ever picking up the phone or coming in for a visit.

We’ve written a lot about website design for ophthalmologists, but here are some general tips:

Make sure it’s responsive and looks great on every device
Have clear contact information on every page
Enable patients to request an appointment with the touch of a button
Integrate social media
Use your website as a platform to leverage social proof and positive reviews
Make sure it’s securely hosted and managed

Tip #7 – Patient Experience Comes Above All Else

It’s plain and simple: a patient that has a terrific experience at your practice is more likely to refer their peers to you.

Because of this, maintaining a commitment to quality is paramount to your success as an ophthalmologist. Providing exceptional patient experience is perhaps one of the cheapest and most effective forms of marketing you have at your disposal. It may not be “marketing” in the traditional sense of the word, but personal recommendations and word-of-mouth referrals can go a long way.

Related: Why all ophthalmic practices should be more like Tesla

This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of ways or best practices for marketing your ophthalmic practice, but these tips should help you take your practice to the next level, attract more patients and growing your practice substantially.

 
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Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.

Medical Practice Marketing Patient Experience

Ethical Marketing and Advertising in Ophthalmology

Competition is on the rise in healthcare. Especially as reimbursements decrease for many ophthalmic procedures, more ophthalmologists are turning to marketing to attract more patients, increase revenue, and stay competitive. Many ophthalmologists rely on marketing agencies rather than performing marketing activities in-house, and it’s all to easy for physicians to form opinions of effective marketing strategies based on what they have seen their competitors say and do.

While the pressure to remain competitive amidst a changing landscape is certainly powerful, ophthalmologists must maintain an ethical approach to advertising, especially in healthcare, where high stakes and occasional mismatches between patient expectations and surgical realities can vary drastically and have serious consequences.
Business Values vs. Medical Values
There’s no doubt that ophthalmic marketing is on the rise, especially in recent years. The benefits of refractive surgery tell a good story, and the procedure itself is lucrative for physicians – why would an ophthalmologist not want to advertise?

However, with the advent of modern marketing technologies, one must pay careful attention to the message of the ad itself, ensuring that what is being claimed can actually stand up to the likely outcome of a procedure. The most effective forms of marketing get the target to focus on perceived value from buying a product or a service rather than focusing on the attributes of the product or service itself. However, in healthcare, the rules are a bit different.
“First, do no harm.”
In short, one must be careful about confusing business goals with medical obligations.

Traditional business values focus on increasing revenue, attracting new patients, and growing a business, sometimes by whatever means necessary. This doesn’t mean that all business-related activities are inherently unethical, but the line can easily be blurred by the siren’s call of increased revenues and practice growth, no matter the cost.

Contrast those capitalistic values to the values of the medical practitioner, whose primary duty and obligation is not to the practice, but to the patient: first, do no harm. These ethical values are not always in alignment with the cutthroat strategies espoused by traditional business values. It’s tempting to replicate what the less-than-ethical practice across town is doing because it seems to be working so well for them – but this is where the ethical physician must question the the underlying values at play.
An Ethical Approach to Marketing: The Rules
Advertising ethics in the medical profession have changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Advertising became popular and gained legitimacy in 1982 when the Federal Trade Commission won its lawsuit against the AMA, who had previously restricted advertising in its Code of Ethics.

While many ethics and best practices of ethical advertising are still regulated by the Codes of Ethics of many medical governing bodies, there has been a gradual acceptance of the presence (and necessity) of traditional marketing in recent years. Medical associations and professional organizations understand that marketing is here to stay, and that many specialists such as ophthalmologists are keen to employ its strategies to their benefit.

At its core, the rules are simple: marketing and advertising (for sake of discussion, we use the terms interchangeably) are designed to sell a core product or a service. In other fields, claims of superiority of one product or service over another are thrown around all the time, and often cannot be verified (are Bounty paper towels *really* 60% more absorbent?). But for many products and services, the stakes are relatively low: will your life really change that much if it turns out Bounty is only 40% more absorbent? Probably not.

This is where physicians have to tread lightly. Claims of superiority of a product or service in the medical arena can easily come into conflict with a physician’s primary obligation to the patient. In healthcare, marketers may focus on potential benefits of certain procedures such as LASIK rather than simple product attributes, but advertisements “must not contain material claims of superiority that cannot be substantiated.”

According to the Code of Ethics of the American Association of Ophthalmology, communications to patients (which encompass marketing in its various forms) “must not convey false, untrue, deceptive, or misleading information through statements, testimonials, photographs, graphics or other means. Communications must not appeal to an individual’s anxiety in an excessive or unfair way; and they must not create unjustified expectations of results.”

The absorption of paper towels may not change a patient’s life, but if they fall prey to less-than-ethical claims about a medical procedure, there’s more at stake. Ethical conduct in marketing is key.
The Scales Will Even Out
Although new forms of marketing brought about by new advertising technologies are on the rise, we cannot underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing, either. Remember the last time you were burned by a product or experience? What did you tell your family and friends about it? Chances are you wanted to warn those in your inner circle of your disappointing experience, lest they repeat your mistake.

In the same way, patients who fall prey to less-than-scrupulous physicians who employ deceptive marketing techniques are more likely to disparage their services online and to their peers. In today’s economy, which is highly driven by authentic stories and recommendations from trusted sources, this can make or break a practice. If you’re tempted to worry about competitors who are focusing their efforts on less-than-ethical marketing strategies (to their benefit), don’t bother. Their day will come.
The Responsibilities of the Physician…and the Marketer
At the end of the day, the physician’s ultimate responsibility is to the patient: did they accurately portray the service offered? Did they deliver a good experience that met the patient’s expectations? Did they, to the best of their ability, provide adequate, compassionate medical care and do no harm?

While it may seem incongruous at first, the marketing agency’s ultimate responsibility is not to physicians, but to patients. Yes, marketing agencies have to account for performance, showing their clients how their services are adding to the bottom line, but their obligation is deeper than that. The end goal is not only to increase revenue and attract more patients, but to establish a human connection between the physician and patient, ensuring a good experience. If marketing agencies do their job well, revenue will naturally flow to their clients as a result. If marketers are serving patients, they will be serving physicians, too.

Not only does ethical behavior in ophthalmic marketing reduce the risk of malpractice litigation, but it will enhance the reputation of those practices who employ ethical marketing practices in a field where competitors’ claims may not hold water.

While the medical landscape is changing and reimbursements are declining, the prudent ophthalmologist must keep in mind the overall goal of delivering exceptional patient care in the increasingly-complex healthcare puzzle.

Ethical marketing is just one a piece of it.
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Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.

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Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.