February 11, 2011

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February 11, 2011

How to Prosper by Taking the Leadership Position Online – Part 1

Today’s healthcare practice has been besieged by monumental changes in America’s economic landscape and now by sweeping healthcare reforms in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). Despite the uncertainties of managing a healthcare practice in this new world of change, you can take steps to ensure that your practice remains healthy and viable no matter what the future brings.

One of the biggest challenges facing your healthcare practice in 2011 is gaining an online leadership position. This is important if you want to reach out to current and new patients and referral sources in the most effective ways.

According to Pew Internet and American Life Project’s associate director, Susannah Fox, consumer reliance on the Internet has made Google "the de facto second opinion" for patients who have already been diagnosed. Pew Research estimates that 84 percent of Americans now use online search to find health information. And, according to, over 93 million Americans search for health-related information online.

With numbers like that, the Internet is among today’s most powerful media for reaching out to current and potential new patients and referral sources. Taking an online leadership position also will ensure that you get your fair share of the 30+ million new patients entering the healthcare system between now and 2019.

Step One: Establish a Presence

The first step to taking a leadership position online is to have a presence. Your presence starts with a website. A website acts like a shop window to your "business." It should represent your practice capabilities, values, services and brand. A poor website can harm your practice’s reputation, so it’s important that you have a professionally designed and developed website. The look and feel of your website should be consistent with your other practice marketing and communications materials.

Your website should be well-designed and aimed at the right "target audience" (TA). Your TA is that universe of potential patients and referrers with whom your practice wants to work. The content on your website should be written so that patients will understand and enjoy reading it. There should be information about the doctors and types of procedures preferred by your practice.

People often judge a book by its cover. Just as often, they judge a practice by its website. Your website should look attractive and welcoming and be easy to navigate.

In next month’s edition, we’ll explore the second and third steps in achieving an online leadership position – using SEO and PPC to deliver results and using social networking media to build relationships and referrals. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about establishing an online presence, call Practice Builders at 800.679.1262.

Social Media for the Healthcare Practitioner – Part 1

New strategies for online practice success help you attract more qualified patients and referral sources by being less intrusive and less costly to you. Learning how to use these strategies is a necessity for every healthcare practice in 2011, especially when nearly 100 million Americans now routinely search for healthcare information online.

After years of being exposed to over 5,000 advertising/marketing messages every single day of our lives, we have become far less receptive to traditional media and marketing messages. That’s because traditional media such as newspaper ads, TV and radio commercials, direct mail and outbound telemarketing all intrude upon our lives. Today’s consumer is looking for creative ways to stop the intrusions and lower the noise level.

We use caller ID to block telemarketers. We use spam filters to reduce or eliminate unsolicited email messages. We use TIVO to eliminate TV commercials. We subscribe to commercial-free radio and cable TV. We don’t read as many newspapers and magazines. And our fingers are no longer doing the walking through the Yellow Pages in most markets. The recent financial crisis has accelerated these trends by forcing many health practices to seek more efficient, more cost-effective ways to reach out to their patients, colleagues and professional referrers. 

The latest low-cost practice-building strategies – search engine optimization (SEO), social networking media and online content such as blogs – have helped many small businesses, including healthcare practices, to compete more effectively with large, established concerns. By allowing you to appear higher in organic search results, you can attract more interested prospects to your website… and your practice. 

Social networks are the hottest trend in online communications today. Social media has become much more than simply a platform for social interaction. It has evolved at light speed into a communication medium for business and professional interaction, as well.

Social Media Has Created a Seismic Shift in Online Communication

Whereas traditional marketing communication is designed to help you find patients and referral sources, online communication is designed to help patients and referral sources find you. Instead of pushing your content to prospects, whether they want it or not, you attract interested prospects to your content. With the right content and a well-conceived social media strategy, your practice can become a magnet for interested, highly qualified patients and referral sources. Social media strategies, when combined with SEO and good content, have three distinct advantages over traditional methods of communicating with your patients, referrers and prospects:

Better Prospects – TV, radio, print and direct mail are designed to reach large numbers of people, without addressing their individual needs and wants. Typically, only a small percentage of the target audience needs or wants your services, but you pay to reach them all. Social media, on the other hand, attracts only those prospects interested in your services or content. Prospects qualify themselves through the processes of search engines and social media networks such as Facebook®, YouTube®, Twitter® and LinkedIn®. Prospects also tend to be of higher quality.

Lower Costs – Content creation, SEO and social media incur little cost except human labor. Someone has to write your blog articles, optimize your website for search engines and provide content for your social media outreach efforts. Once your content is created, there is little cost to maintain it. Results cost less, too. One recent study claimed that it costs 60% less to obtain a qualified lead online than with traditional methods.

Long-Term ROI – Once your content is created, promoted and optimized, the impact of the initial effort grows over time. Your return on investment increases, even though your investment has dramatically decreased.

In our next edition, we’ll take a closer look at how social media can help shape your online reputation. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about social media, or if you need help designing a social media strategy for your practice, call Practice Builders at 800.679.1262.