Category: Patient Experience

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.

Medical Practice Marketing Patient Experience

Why all ophthalmic practices should be more like Tesla

A Look at a High-Touch, Relational Approach to Patient Experience
In our last post, we looked at the value of using a psychological concept called priming to attract and retain more satisfied patients at your ophthalmic practice. While priming and other psychological tactics are powerful, they can’t stand on their own – they must be paired with follow-through and standard of care that match patients’ expectations.

Unfortunately, for too many ophthalmic practices the game is all about dollars and cents. The economics of running a practice can all too easily get in the way of patient experience, with  patients suffering as a result. The rise of practices whose only concern is revenue maximization has lead to decreased expectations around patient experience – both for practice staff, physicians, and patients themselves.

To combat this, we propose that more ophthalmic practices use a high-touch approach to patient care. Focus on revenue alone, and your patients are very likely to leave dissatisfied at their experience. However, when a physicians treats their patients right and provides excellent care at every stage of their journey, and the revenue will naturally follow as a result.
High Challenge, High Support
When patients are thought of as just another transaction, they will act accordingly – they will expect very little of the practice, and unfortunately, will receive very little in return. When patients expect little from their ophthalmic provider, the incentive to provide excellent care all but disappears – both physicians and office staff ignore opportunities to delight patients in favor of revenue maximization activities. It’s a downward-spiraling, vicious cycle.

This is a structure of low challenge and low support in which the only thing that matters is dollars and cents. There is no challenge to constantly be improving the standard of patient care and patient experience – the bar is set very low. Likewise, because the bar is set so low, there is very little institutional support for practice staff to exceed expectations – it’s all about the bottom line.

A better approach to patient experience is to adopt a high challenge, high support structure in which both doctor and patient expectations are high, and there is support to meet those expectations.

For the practice staff, the challenge to deliver an exceptional experience is high – but they are given the tools they need to delight the customer at every stage of their journey. The expectation is not to maximize revenue at every opportunity, but to deliver a wonderful experience for the patient.

For the patient, their expectations are high – but they are met with personal service and an almost “concierge-like” approach to their medical care. Their questions are answered, their needs taken care of, their expectations exceeded. The patient feels at ease with every part of the experience, from the first contact to post-surgical care.

“A high-touch, relational approach to patient experience is the cheapest, most effective form of marketing you have at your disposal. ”

 

The high-touch model may be more costly and time-intensive for ophthalmic practices to adopt, but in time, it will perpetuate a cycle of exceeding expectations, both on the part of patients and office staff alike.
Turning customers into evangelists
Think of the last time you experienced incredible customer service at a business. For me, it was at a Tesla store.

I’ve always wanted to test-drive a Tesla, and while I won’t be in the market for a new car for at least a few years, I still wanted to experience what it was like. From my very first appointment request to the follow-up after my visit, the staff at Tesla was incredible – they answered my questions, showed me all of the features of the vehicle, and talked about the future of automotive transport. I came by the store a few weeks later (on an unrelated visit), and they remembered my name and the test-drive I had. Not something you’d get from a normal car dealership.

What’s more, I freely admitted that I wasn’t ready to buy a car, but that I wanted to experience firsthand what it was like to drive a Tesla. In a normal car dealership, that would change the dynamic – I would no longer be a potential paying customer, and therefore, I wouldn’t be worth their time. When the game is all about the dollars coming in the door, the onus isn’t to deliver a great experience – it’s to get you to pull out your wallet.

Not so at an experience-focused business like Tesla. Their focus was on providing an exceptional experience, and that is exactly what I received. The fact that I wasn’t ready to buy didn’t change the way they treated me – they still went out of their way to ensure that I was cared for. Sure, revenue is important, but Tesla knows that if they deliver great experiences to their customers, that those customers will turn into evangelists.

My experience at Tesla is a classic example of a high-touch, relational model, and the experience they delivered has made of more of an evangelist for their brand than anything else could.

Yes, a high-touch, experience-oriented strategy requires more effort and is more time-consuming, but is perhaps the best way we’ve seen of increasing word-of-mouth referrals and achieving high levels of patient satisfaction.

This may not be the approach for every ophthalmic practice, but if you can devote some extra time and money to a high-touch approach, you’re very likely to reap incredible benefits. It may not be very conventional, but a high-touch, relational approach to patient experience is the cheapest, most effective form of marketing you have at your disposal.

 
Want more help improving your practice marketing?
Contact us to learn more about how Messenger can help attract more patients to your ophthalmic practice.
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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

Use Psychology to Get More Satisfied Patients

Your practice is built around your patients. If you want your practice to grow in stature and reputation, you have every reason to want not only more patients, but more satisfied patients as well.

Fortunately, there are many ways to obtain more patients. Many of these involve awareness, outreach campaigns, and traditional marketing and advertising.

But how can you improve the effectiveness of your marketing? How can the messages you tell lead to more satisfied patients?

One technique you can use is the psychological principle of priming.

Using psychology to influence behavior may seem taboo to some, but it’s commonplace, especially in marketing and advertising. That doesn’t mean you have to be gimmicky like a used car salesman – to increase the likelihood that patients will make a desired choice (i.e., to choose your practice over a competitor’s, for example), you need to know why they would make that decision. And to understand why people make decisions, you have to start by knowing how the mind works. If you want your practice to thrive, you need to know how to employ techniques that appeal to our human nature, how our brains work.
What is Priming?
According to Psychology Today:
“Priming is a non-conscious form of human memory concerned with the perceptual identification of words and objects. It refers to activating particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task.”
For example, a person who sees the word “yellow” will be slightly faster to recognize the word “banana.” This happens because yellow and banana are closely associated in memory.

It all comes down to cognitive ease. All else being equal, we tend to choose those things that are familiar, comfortable, and cognitively “easy” for us.

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman outlines his research that the human brain works in what he calls two “systems.”
System 1 is fast, reactionary, and immediate – it forms snap judgments and uses heuristics that are (mostly) correct.
System 2 is more methodical – it takes time to solve harder problems for which answers are not familiar or immediately available – but it’s also inherently lazy.
If we can use System 1 whenever possible, we will. It’s easier than engaging System 2. This is where priming comes into play.
Repetition is Key
Priming and repetition can play a powerful role in guiding desired behavior from prospective patients. Simply repeating a message or increasing visibility of a desired action (requesting an appointment, for example) may be one of the most effective ways of guiding patient behavior.

As Kahneman notes, “a reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from the truth.”

While Kahneman applies this concept to falsehoods, it’s applicable elsewhere, too. You’re not trying to peddle lies or be deceptive in your marketing – but if you want patients to become more comfortable with the notion of using your practice for their refractive surgery, repetition and familiarity is key. 

Research shows that it takes an average of seven “touchpoints” before a person will become familiar and comfortable with a brand…so getting your message, your staff, and your services in front of the patient repeatedly is crucial to helping them feel more familiar with your practice.

By doing so, you’re “training” a patient’s memory. If it’s familiar and easily understandable, cognitive ease will take over and put their behavior on autopilot.
How Can the Ophthalmologist Use Priming in their Marketing?
One of the first interactions many patients have with an ophthalmologist is on their practice website – and priming is subtle and easy to implement online.

For an ophthalmology website to be effective, it must meet 3 criteria:

Simple to use.
Easy to understand.
Clear in how to proceed.

Simple to Use

There’s a temptation in website to try to be all things to all people, to do absolutely everything under the sun.

This is a huge mistake.

Clear choices about branding, fonts, and imagery fall into this category. The most simple websites (sometimes with bare-bones features) are often the most effective. That doesn’t mean your website has to be ugly to be effective, but it will be more effective when you pare down the number of “features” it has in favor of telling a simple story.

By making your website easy to navigate, you’re signaling to the patient that you want their experience to be as painless and effortless as possible.

Patients who feel comfortable and familiar on your website are more likely to feel comfortable and familiar with your practice. When in doubt, keep it simple.

Easy to Understand

When we’re faced with an unfamiliar situation (researching options for refractive surgery, for example), System 2 kicks in – we expend more energy processing the situation, and we’re wary by default.

Your goal as an ophthalmologist should be to minimize the degree to which a patient has to engage their “System 2.” You can do this by making the process educational and as familiar as possible.

One way to do this is by educational resources. Repeatedly showing educational resources on refractive surgery can have this effect as patients become more familiar with the concept and steps necessary to improve their vision. The more education patients receive, the more it will lessen their cognitive strain and make them feel more familiar with your practice.

Another way to make patients feel at ease is by case studies. Featuring case studies or testimonials from satisfied patients can have the same effect – by seeing other patients who closely resemble them (this is a psychological principle called “mirroring”), the patient will feel more comfortable and familiar with the prospect of having surgery performed at your practice…because all of those other people had a great experience, I probably will, too!

The same goes for your staff. The best ophthalmic practices we’ve encountered have gone above and beyond to highlight the people who work in their practice – and not just physicians, but their front office staff too. If a patient comes into your practice and recognizes the faces of people they’re interacting with in your office, they are more likely to feel at ease and have a positive experience. This recognition may be subconscious (System 1 is at work, after all), but it can have a powerful effect. It costs nothing, but can contribute to overall patient satisfaction. What’s to lose?

As the situation becomes more familiar, cognitive ease increasingly guides our behavior as we let our walls down. Bingo.

Clear in How to Proceed

Having multiple opportunities to request an appointment is critical for an ophthalmic practice to engage prospective patients. By now, hopefully patients are more comfortable and familiar with your practice, and have learned more about their condition and what to expect. Their “System 2” is utilized less and less as System 1 takes over.

Once a patient becomes comfortable with your practice, they will want to take action. By having numerous visible opportunities for a patient to request an appointment or reach out for more information, you give them an outlet to take action on the knowledge they have acquired.

Opportunities to take action can take on a number of different forms: chat widgets let patients have their questions answered in real time, contact forms can be used to answer general questions or submit comments, and appointment request forms are for those patients who are ready to improve their vision.

Primed by ease of use and comfortability, the experience is no longer foreign, but familiar, and patients now feel empowered to take the next step.
Priming is Easy, Powerful, and Effective
Priming is a powerful psychological principle that is underutilized in many spheres of marketing. By giving patients easy-to-use online materials that help them feel comfortable, familiar, and empowered, you’re doing yourself a favor that will pay great dividends in the form of more – and more satisfied – patients.

The goal is to get the patient to feel like, “wow, they really care about me here. they went out of their way to listen, understand, and provide excellent care. I never thought I’d actually want to come to the doctor!”

Priming can do that for you.

To learn more about how Messenger can help you attract more patients to your ophthalmic practice, contact us today.
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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 Medical Website Design Patient Experience

What Makes a Practice Website Effective?

You’d be hard-pressed to find an ophthalmologist in 2018 who doesn’t have a website. However, upon further inspection, you might suspect that many in the medical community don’t care about their website or online reputation: their website isn’t responsive, pages are out of date, it’s hard to navigate…the problems can go on and on.

Everybody claims to know that a good website is an essential element in a marketing plan that attracts new patients and fosters growth, but if you want to realize that growth for your practice, you first need to know the elements that make a website good.

In this article, we’ll explore 10 key ways in which your website is important than you think.
1. A good website increases exposure.
When you promote your practice online, the goal is exposure. The more patients that can see your practice, the more patients you will attract. A well-built practice website will give your practice exposure and help potential patients discover your practice and what you have to offer.
2. A good website promotes a coherent brand.
If you want to stand out in a crowded market, you need to have a brand that is clear, coherent, and cohesive across all platforms. Ideally, your website will bring all elements of your brand – your physical presence, your social media, your paid advertising, and your content marketing – under one roof to tell a coherent story. Patients resonate with clear and authentic stories, so utilizing your website as a platform to tell your story will elevate your brand in the minds of your patients.
RELATED: MillennialEye LIVE Talk – Building Your Practice Brand

3. A good website will be a valuable marketing tool.
A good website should serve as your main marketing tool when seeking to reach potential patients. Your website should contain many opportunities for patients to connect with you online, request more information, and take action on marketing messages they see.
4. A good website is flexible.
Technology is constantly changing, and your website is no exception. A good ophthalmic practice website will remain relevant and up-to-date with the latest technological advances, giving you an advantage over practices whose websites aren’t well- maintained. Having a website that works on a variety of devices, is easy-to-navigate, and is flexible to the needs of the patient will go a long way in helping to win the trust of your patients.
5. A good website is should provide a competitive advantage.
Chances are your market is crowded. Having a good website will give you a competitive advantage over those competitors who haven’t paid close attention to their online reputation. This means not only having a well-designed website but making sure you’re showing up at the top of search engine results so that when patients search for ophthalmologists in their area, they find you.
6. A good website will be locally targeted.
As a physician with a physical practice, it’s important to be attracting local patients. A good ophthalmic website will help bring local patients to your door through valuable content, SEO best practices, and a focus on your local market. Making sure your practice website is hyper-local is one of the most important things you can do to grow your practice and attract new patients.
7. A good website will contain valuable content – and lots of it.
You’ve heard it said, ”Content is King”…and there’s a reason that statement rings true. Especially in ophthalmology, where patients are confronted with medical jargon, the unknown, and the prospect of surgery, the more information, the better. Having a website that’s chock-full of content and information to set patients’ minds at ease is a must.
8. A good website facilitates conversation.
What good is a website if patients can’t contact you for more information? Lack of easy-to-find contact information is one of the biggest reasons patients abandon websites without ever scheduling an appointment or requesting more information. A good ophthalmic practice website will provide patients multiple opportunities to contact the practice for more information or to schedule an appointment. Having clear, easy-to-find contact information is key.
9. A good website is educational.
As we’ve mentioned, the field of ophthalmology can be scary for outsiders who are wary of going to the doctor. Hence, having educational content throughout your website will go a long way in easing patients’ fears and helping them understand what their condition or procedure entails. Chances are a more-educated patient will make your life easier…and if you want to see more educated patients, you’ll need to take a look at your website.
10. A good website reinforces a good brand image.
It’s easy to measure the effects of conventional marketing with statistics, return on investment, and myriad analytical tools. Your practice image is a bit more nebulous, but it’s still important. Your website is a crucial element in helping you build a good image for your business. Your brand doesn’t exist outside of the minds of your patients, so it’s important to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward everywhere. A good website will help with this by presenting your practice in a positive light, making your message easy to understand, and facilitating conversation with patients.

 

It’s not always easy to create a good, useful website that serves your business needs and goals while reaching more patients, but as you can see from these 10 aspects of a good ophthalmic practice website, it’s incredibly important.

Getting your practice website right is by far one of the most valuable things you can do as an ophthalmologist to attract more patients and grow your practice.

Want to improve your practice website? Contact us for a free website report today.
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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

Ophthalmology Digital Marketing Trends Forecast for 2018

If you want to attract more patients to your ophthalmic practice, you have to know which methods of marketing will give you the best return on investment.

This isn’t just about doing what’s cool or trendy in marketing right now – it’s about choosing the right mix of messages, tools, and strategies to help grow your practice and help more patients discover your services. To do this, you need to know what performs best now – and what will work well into the future.

Keeping abreast of current trends and best practices can seem like a daunting task, but fortunately, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll explore the four key areas that will be vital to solid ophthalmic practice marketing in 2018.
Search
Let’s face it: Google is king. In this day and age, more than 80% of patients will Google your name (or search for related terms) before they ever call your practice or come in for a visit. That means you need to be optimized for search.

More than regular search engine optimization (which we’ll get into in the next section), you need to make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Over 50% of Google searches are performed on mobile devices, so making sure your Google MyBusiness listing is up-to-date and full of the relevant information is especially important for those on mobile devices.

Speaking of Google MyBusiness, you’ll want to make sure your practice has accurate information – and lots of reviews – on your local business page. Google isn’t shy about the fact that they prioritize those businesses with a Google MyBusiness listing and give them higher search engine rankings.

Having reviews is another boon to your local business listing, and having good (and plenty) of Facebook and Yelp reviews is also important, as Google will display these social cues as well.
Voice Search
Voice search will also grow in importance in 2018. With the rise of home assistants like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s upcoming HomePod, it’s important to make sure you’re optimized for voice search.

And while it’s not extremely likely that someone will search for a cataract or lasik surgeon via their Google Home or Amazon Echo, anything is possible, and such practice will become more and more accepted in the future…so it’s important to make sure you’re optimized across all platforms.
Search Engine Optimization
We’ve written extensively on Search Engine Optimization for ophthalmologists in the past, but its importance can’t be overstated. Put simply, SEO represents the biggest opportunity for most ophthalmologists to improve their marketing…and it’s impressive the ROI that a good SEO strategy can have.

While SEO has been around for a long time, we will see SEO grow substantially in 2018, and the practices that do their homework and have a strong SEO strategy in place to attract more patients will win.

Business listings and social profiles that are linked to your practice website will also be important to a good SEO strategy, as Google likes all the opportunities it can get to index content. Making their job easier will produce the best results.

Another (often overlooked) factor to good SEO is having positive reviews across multiple platforms. Not only are they strong trust signals that offer social proof to prospective patients, but Google looks to those businesses that have solid online reviews and seeks to highlight them with better placement in their rankings.
Content Marketing
One of the most important pieces of a strong SEO strategy is a detailed and robust content marketing plan. Content is still king, and it’s not going anywhere in 2018. Those practices that can consistently churn out content that educates and inspires their patients will have more for Google to index, and will in turn rise to the top of Google’s rankings.

Consistency is the name of the game here, so if you don’t have a staff at your practice that can keep up with posting on your blog 3x or 4x a week, don’t worry. If you can manage it, great – but if not, consistent blogging and pushing out social content can yield impressive results. Consistency, not volume, is key.
Video
Patient engagement is perhaps never higher than it is when viewing video. The stats surrounding video are powerful, not just

We predict that video will continue to rise in 2018, and that new mediums may overtake existing ones. Don’t get us wrong – YouTube and educational videos embedded on your website are still crucially important, but consider new “social video” mediums as well.

The emergence of live video has upended much of what we know to be true about video marketing. Platforms such as Facebook Live, Periscope, and other live-streaming features can be powerful tools to increase patient engagement and promote your practice in new, fresh ways.

The secret of these live-streaming platforms applied to a local business such as your practice is that they’re powerful marketing tools – without feeling like marketing at all. By sharing stories, behind-the-scenes experiences, and everyday snippets that may not seem interesting to most, your practice can rise above the rest and elevate your marketing in 2018.

While there’s no perfect solution or any one “magic marketing bullet” for any practice, these tools will be important in the new year. Those practices that stay on top of current marketing trends and seek to stay ahead of the curve, adopting new ways of reaching patients will have a competitive edge and ensure their success in 2018.
Curious how your website stacks up?
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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 Website Design Patient Experience

Are your website’s images hurting you?

We’ve all heard it said that an image is worth a thousand words. It’s an old phrase, but it’s never been more relevant than with today’s websites and search engine optimization techniques. As an ophthalmology practice, you need to make sure that prospective patients visiting your website have a pleasant experience browsing your site and viewing your content.

The average patient will only stay on a webpage for a few seconds before deciding to move on to the next page of your website (or deciding to exit your site completely). This is why website optimization – and optimization of images, in particular – matters a great deal. Are your website’s images getting the job done?
Imagery Should be Authentic
Prospective patients respond to authenticity, which means the images you choose to use on your website should reflect you and your practice.

If you use stock images, website visitors will notice. If they see the same image on another website and then come to your site, the message you are trying to convey becomes inauthentic and diluted: all the patient can think of is how they saw the same image on the previous site that they visited. This may give an impression that the practice wasn’t thoughtful about the creation of the website, and that quality and thoughtfulness isn’t important to the practice.

Trust is a huge factor for patients, and inauthentic websites can hurt business. 63% of consumers say they have engaged with disappointing brand content and 23% said they wouldn’t interact that brand’s content again after that.
Imagery Should Load Quickly
If your images are taking a while to load into a browser, it’s likely because your images are not optimized for the web. Images have to be formatted before going online. Magazines and print use high-quality images with corresponding large file sizes, but for the web, images can be scaled down a bit. The quality still matters, but the size of the image file itself is critical.

A standard high-resolution image may be 4-5MB, which will take forever to load on a web browser (even with a fast Internet connection). If you’re on a mobile device, this loading time could be even longer, which will cause the majority of website visitors to abandon your site altogether. It’s relatively easy to scale a 5MB image down to 200KB and still retain sharpness and reduce pixelation. These images will load nearly instantly, which is a boon for patient experience and search engine optimization alike.
Imagery Needs to be Tagged
Once you correctly scale optimize and upload the images, they need to be tagged appropriately as well. Image tagging needs to be done not only for the benefit of old browsers and accessibility best practices, to but also for search engine optimization purposes.

Images need to have “alt tags” added to them. Alt tags are a key component of accessibility, as they simply describe the image for users with accessibility functions turned on (for instance, users who are blind).

Alt tags are also important because search engines will use them to index content on a web page. Search engines like Google can’t actually “see” what’s in an image, so they rely on alt tags to describe the image and index it appropriately. Having the correct alt tags on the images throughout your ophthalmic practice website can be a huge benefit to your practice by helping search engines help you attract more patients.

 

These website optimization tips mentioned should help you make your website quick to load, easy to browse, and accessible for search engines. The goal in optimizing your website’s images is to provide a better user experience for existing patients, all the while attracting new patients to your practice.

To learn more ways that Messenger can help you optimize your ophthalmology practice website, contact us today.
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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 Social Media

How to Reach an Aging Cataract Population

For any marketing manager to be able to effectively promote their practice’s services, they must first start with the target demographic they are trying to sell to: where do they spend their time? What sorts of advertisements do they respond to? What techniques and strategies can be used to attract them to your practice?

For many marketing managers, the desired service is cataract surgery, and the target market is the older generations. Assessing patient demographics is an essential element of crafting a good marketing plan. But how can ophthalmologists reach an aging cataract population?

Well, the demographics that make up much of the cataract market are increasingly turning to the Internet for new information, and represent largely-untapped potential.
Get on Facebook
Recent studies and trends are showing that many younger generations are moving towards more media-rich applications like Snapchat and Instagram in particular for their social media activities, but the older generations are deeply devoted to Facebook.

Facebook has become the tool of choice for many in the older generations; there are relatively few who actively engage on Twitter, and only a handful on Instagram. What’s more, as social media use is turning into a daily occurrence for many Baby Boomers and their parents, targeting this demographic is becoming much easier.

For your practice to capitalize on the opportunity that the aging cataract population represents, you need to be on Facebook, actively posting and engaging with the older generation.
Trust is Key
For many in older generations, booking an appointment or submitting personal information over the Internet is a foreign concept and one that is (understandably) met with resistance. Because of this implicit distrust of many activities online, it’s important to frame your marketing messages accordingly.

Consider encouraging potential cataract patients to pick up the phone to schedule an appointment (something they will likely be more comfortable with), and save the online appointment scheduling for the younger folks who need LASIK.
Video is a Winner
Not only are older generations engaging more with brands and other people on Facebook, but they’re watching more video, too. As a social network, Facebook is becoming more centered around video: experts estimate that in the near future, Facebook feeds will be comprised of mostly video content.

Combine this with the fact that Facebook is the social network of choice for many in the demographic that is prime for cataract surgery, and the opportunity couldn’t be more clear: the ophthalmic practices that utilize educational videos targeted to the cataract demographic and share them on Facebook will win.
Don’t Forget Accessibility
As we’ve mentioned, the older generations can be somewhat distrustful of content and offers they see online, but even more so if the tools are hard to use. If having your practice’s phone number prominently displayed in a marketing message is key, having a website that is accessible is even more important.

For those patients who do click through to your website to learn more about cataract surgery or to claim an offer, they will be expecting that information is easy to locate and simple to access. Having features on your website like click-to-call functionality, prominent contact information, and readable fonts can go a long way in converting a cataract lead to an actual patient.
A Final Thought
Even the most accessible, educational, and targeted marketing message will fall short if there isn’t an element of human connection present as well. As seniors are growing more technologically-savvy and engaging with new types of content in new ways, human touch is what will seal the deal. Having compassionate staff who can walk older generations through the would-be scary process of cataract surgery can make all the difference for your practice.

At the end of the day, a marketing message will fall on deaf ears if it’s not accompanied by an authentic human touch that can assuage their patients’ fears and help guide them through the process. While these tips and tricks can prove useful to reach an aging cataract population, the “special sauce” is how they are combined with the marketing strategies your practice is already employing.

Need some help with your marketing? Let’s talk.

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

Smart Investments in Patient Experience

If you’ve been in the ophthalmic world for long, there’s one buzz word that you hear all the time: patient experience. From ophthalmic conferences to internal practice management meetings, patient experience and patient satisfaction is the name of the game. While surgical outcomes are obviously important, there’s no ignoring the overall experience a patient has at your practice. Put simply, if you don’t nail patient experience, your practice won’t thrive.

Whether you’re crushing it with patient experience or struggling in this area, there are always tangible changes your practice can make to improve. From a patient’s first contact with your practice to their post-surgical compliance, here are some of the smartest investments in technology and processes we’ve found that can help your practice increase patient satisfaction and improve the experience they have.
Online Education

8 out of 10 patients will do some form of research online before ever picking up the phone or scheduling an appointment. Not only does this mean that your practice should be #1 on Google (more on that another day), but it also means that you need to be offering tremendous value and education to your patients. After all, surgery is scary, and patients want to know their options. The practice with the best educational materials will win.

We recommend Rendia for digital educational materials. Their embeddable animated videos are useful tools to help patients understand ophthalmic conditions, what they can expect from surgery, and what recovery will look like.
Online Appointment Scheduling
Since most patients will begin their journey online, why not give them a convenient option to schedule an appointment? There are many ways of doing this, and it will likely depend on what electronic records system your practice uses.

The most basic way, however, is offering a simple form on your website that patients can fill out. It should collect some basic details, such as personal and contact information, what type of procedure they’re interested in, and a space for comments or questions.

This will give your staff an opportunity to follow up with patients and continue to educate them and answer any questions they may have. And of course, if patients aren’t interested in sharing that type of information online, they can always pick up the phone…but it’s always nice for patients to have options.
In-Office Education
Once a patient has scheduled an appointment and is sitting in your waiting room, the opportunities to educate don’t stop. Consider integrating educational patient videos into your waiting room (again, Rendia is the best platform for this), or even implement a practice promotional video that plays on a loop in your waiting room. High quality flat-screen TVs are dirt cheap these days, so it’s a no-brainer.

You should take any chance you get to promote your services, educate patients, and make them feel at ease. The better informed patients are, the more comfortable they will feel…and that’s a huge boon for word-of-mouth referrals and overall patient satisfaction.
Digital Check-In

We’ve all been there: the dreaded check-in forms at the doctor’s office. Endless medical histories, clipboards, and a near-100% chance that you’ll mess up on a form. But what if that process could be simplified with a convenient, easy-to-use digital check-in system that could let patients share the necessary health information at their convenience?

Yosi is one of the best solutions we’ve found for this. Yosi is a pre-visit, at home patient check-in platform that removes registration from your waiting room that drastically improves throughput. With Yosi, patients can fill out the necessary medical forms and upload insurance documentation, which reduced unnecessary paperwork at the practice and makes the lives of your front office staff much easier.

If your practice specializes in LASIK or any other elective surgeries that attract a younger audience, this is a powerful strategy to increase patient satisfaction. Given the chance, younger generations are much more likely to use technology that they understand over antiquated medical forms. Trust us – your patients will thank you.

Post-Visit Patient Education

Now that they surgery is complete, we move on to post-visit patient education and that dreaded aspect of all surgeries: patient compliance. Paper eye drop schedules get lost, patients don’t take their drops, or they forget to come in for post-surgical check-ups.

What if there was an app that could coach patients through their post-surgical experience and help them know what to expect along the way?

The Patient Journey app is the best solution we’ve seen for this – it allows providers to set the date and type of the patient’s surgery, as well as their recommended course of post-surgical treatment. Patients receive a customized “plan” via a smartphone app that reminds they to take their drops each day and coaches them through what to expect after surgery. It can be customized with your practice’s branding, and videos and other educational content can be loaded in to further customize the patient experience.

Combined with tools like Rendia on your website to educate patients on what they can expect after their surgery, the Patient Journey app is an excellent tool to increase compliance and make the patient journey that much easier.
Seamless Invoicing

Now that every other part of the surgical journey is complete, there’s still one big thing hanging in the air: payment. Gone are the days of checks and printed invoices – practices that use digital invoicing have an easier time managing their records, keeping track of their finances and projected revenues, and receiving payment faster.

Clients of ours have experienced great success invoicing patients with tools like Square and Bill.com. Online payments and invoicing is a competitive space, and there are loads of great providers out there whose set of tools may be perfect for your practice.

Whatever your preferred tool, a digital payment system can make financing more convenient for patients, and much easier for your administrative staff.

All of these tools can help make administrative tasks at your practice much easier, and we’ve seen firsthand how they can work wonders to increase patient satisfaction by providing the patient with a seamless, friction-free experience. While there are tons of great tools out there that fit the needs of nearly every practice imaginable, these are just some of our favorites.

If you’re interested in other marketing tools and resources to attract more patients, check out our resources page or contact us to see what Messenger can do to grow your practice.

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

8 Tips to Improve Your Ophthalmic Practice Marketing

To improveshowcase your services and capabilities, but also illustrate your commitment to providing the highest quality of care to your patients.

Developing a comprehensive marketing plan like this may seem like an intimidating undertaking for some ophthalmologists or practice administrators, especially those who lack experience, are busy overseeing a new practice, or do not have a dedicated marketing person on hand. This article outlines a few of our favorite tips to help streamline and improve marketing for your ophthalmic practice.

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1. Designate a dedicated specialist to streamline your marketing.
Designating a single person to manage your marketing campaign is the first step to take in streamlining your marketing efforts. Failure to designate a primary point of contact to coordinate your practice’s marketing strategies can result in delays and a diffusion of responsibility among staff.

Confusion about marketing responsibilities, expectations, or goals drastically dilutes your practice’s effectiveness; by assigning all marketing-related tasks to one person (and ensuring that marketing is their only job), you will be able to free up time for your other specialists to focus on their core competencies, all the while getting deep, focused work from your dedicated marketing specialist.
2. Use a multi-faceted, multimedia approach to capture prospects’ attention.
Prospective patients are not one-dimensional in terms of their response to marketing tactics. Some demographics you’re trying to reach may respond to traditional modes of advertising, such as TV commercials or ads in newspapers and telephone directories.

Nowadays, the majority of prospective patients will turn to the Internet to conduct a search, which makes it critical for your website to capture their attention. Consider implementing the following on your website to have the best shot at converting visitors into leads:

Informative written content about the conditions you treat
Images of your facility and the devices you use to treat patients
Information about your staff, practice, and your mission
Educational videos regarding the treatment experience
Prominent contact information and the ability to request an appointment online

3. Network at annual professional meetings.
Professional organizations such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) host annual meetings for their members. In addition to covering best practices and new treatments, these professional meetings often feature exhibitors who specialize in marketing for ophthalmic practices (like us, for example!).

By networking with these specialists, you can meet valuable contacts who can provide guidance regarding your marketing strategies.
4. Feature case studies of satisfied patients.
In previous articles, we’ve highlighted the importance of having “social proof” in your marketing and your website. Case studies that highlight the experiences of specific patients are an excellent addition to your practice’s website.

Such case studies and testimonials enhance your credibility as an accomplished ophthalmologist and help to earn the trust of patients who are nervous about receiving ophthalmic care.

Effective elements to highlight in your case studies include:

Patient testimonials regarding the quality of your care
Before and after photos of patients (this is especially effective with oculoplastic surgery)
Stories from patients regarding the specific ways that ophthalmic treatment improved their dailylives – this is key for getting prospective patients to relate to the stories being told

5. Promote your areas of expertise.
Ophthalmologists who work with specific types of patients or treat specific conditions or diseases should highlight their key areas of expertise or specialization through their marketing activities.

Examples of areas of expertise within the field of ophthalmology include neuro-ophthalmology, ocular oncology, and pediatric ophthalmology. You can communicate your area of expertise through posts on your website and through networking with other eyecare professionals in your area.
6. Turn attention to the technology and medical devices in use at your practice
There’s a helpful framework for deciding what information to share online. The four best types of information to share follow the acronym H-H-T-T: Humor, Heartstrings, Technology, or Telling a story.

As an ophthalmologist, you have invested in state-of-the-art surgical microscopes, femtosecond lasers, and countless other devices to provide your patients with the most advanced quality of care.

Believe it or not, patients tend to be fascinated with the technology used, and nearly all patients want to know that your technology is the very best available. Featuring photos of your facility and updated medical devices on your website is an excellent marketing tool, as it illustrates your commitment to patient care.
7. Ask your patients for feedback.
Don’t overlook the important role that patient feedback can play in helping you improve your marketing practices and your quality of care. By soliciting feedback, you can gain useful insights into how patients respond to marketing messages and how your practice can more clearly communicate the value that you offer.

Surveys and post-care interviews are incredibly insightful tools that you can use by asking patients to:

Describe their overall patient experience
Rate their level of satisfaction with the quality of care they received
Describe how they discovered your practice
Uncover the primary reason why they chose your practice
Indicate whether they would be willing to serve as a marketing reference

8. Enlist the support of an industry expert.
While all of these tips and tools can be helpful in bolstering your marketing prowess, perhaps the best way to create an organized marketing plan for your ophthalmic practice is to seek the guidance of a professional marketing agency.

Because not all marketing agencies are created equal, you should make sure to choose an agency with the following:

Years of industry experience in healthcare marketing (bonus points if they focus deeply in one specific area, like ophthalmology)
Proven success helping ophthalmic practices or medical device companies like yours grow their businesses
The ability to educate ophthalmologists about which strategies they implement and why these are effective for the practice’s goals

Clearly, there are a number of ways to help your ophthalmic practice become your market’s most trusted resource for high quality eye care. From soliciting patient feedback to showcasing technology and clearly communicating marketing responsibilities, we hope these tips help you to build trust with existing patients, engage new patients, and help your ophthalmic practice grow flourish.

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.