If recent events are any indication, the expected influx of 30+ million new patients entering the American healthcare system may be a long way off. And with so many doctors exiting private practice for paid jobs in hospitals or large group practices, opting for retirement or starting their own concierge practices, how will you attract your most desirable patients and case types amid the noise and clutter?
As we prepare our latest piece on the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has quite a mess on its hands. The government website where people are supposed to sign up under the ACA has been dysfunctional from the outset, and only a small fraction of those expected to sign up have actually been able to do so. To make matters worse, despite being told that people could keep their existing health coverage, millions have already received cancellation notices from insurance companies who claim that their existing policies don’t meet the rules put in place by the ACA.
Backpedaling by the Administration and uncertainty about the new law have become so widespread that we are doubtful most independent private medical practices will see the expected deluge of new patients any time soon. However, between new patients coming into the system, doctors retiring or opting out of private practice and an expected shortage of doctors and nurses, we still expect the remaining private practices to see greater numbers of patients in the months and years ahead.
According to a recent study by Jackson Healthcare, perhaps the biggest long-term challenge to our healthcare system will be the growing shortage of physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers. Experts now estimate that there will be a shortage of about 91,500 physicians, nurses and ancillary providers by 2020. The same study claims that 55 percent of physicians are no longer in private practice and almost 40 percent of younger doctors have never engaged in private practice.
That still leaves over 230,000 private medical practices in the United States – more than half of which are solo practitioners. How will those physicians cope with any influx of new patients, and how will they attract and engage only those new patients who are most desirable to them both clinically and economically?
The best way to attract the right patients is target marketing
Without a sound healthcare marketing strategy in place, physicians are putting themselves at risk for greater stress in their work lives as they are forced to simply react to whatever swims their way from the new patient pool. With or without the ACA, private-practice doctors need to focus their efforts to attract those patients and case types that best match their clinical capabilities and interests as well as their business and financial needs.
The only way to attract the patients and cases you want is to market your practice selectively using some combination of traditional tactics and online healthcare marketing strategies. Learn who your most desired patients are and why they chose you so you can determine how to attract others like them. Are they mostly older adults or young families? Are they working-class or professional types? Did they find you online or in the local printed Yellow Pages? Knowing what attracted your current patients will likely suggest which healthcare marketing strategies will help you attract and engage new ones.
Only through targeted medical practice marketing can you reach out to your most desirable patients. You can target specific demographic segments using direct mail marketing or engage specific types of patients with selected online and social media tactics.
What about reputation marketing?
Have your patients been reviewing you and your practice online? Do you know that there are now more than two dozen review sites, in addition to healthgrades.com, vitals.com and Yelp? Have you seen all of your patient reviews on all platforms? Do you know how to increase your positive and favorable reviews and mitigate your unfavorable or negative reviews?
If you answered “No” to any of those questions, you need some online reputation management help. This is particularly important in light of the ACA rewarding physicians for achieving higher patient satisfaction. Have you considered marketing your outstanding reputation to other patients? You can do this by adding your positive patient reviews to your printed practice materials as well as your website and social media content. If you and your staff are too busy to undertake such a project, you can leave it to the experts at Practice Builders.
If you’d like more information about today’s most effective medical or dental practice marketing, call Practice Builders at 800.679.1200 and speak to a program consultant.