October 03, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Practice Management
This is the third in a series of articles aimed at highlighting key areas practices should examine in an effort to improve practice performance. This month we focus on how effectively managing the appointment schedule can have a positive impact on both patient and practice satisfaction.
Even with the influx of approximately 6.5 million newly insured patients in California as a result of health reform, many physicians in small and solo practice are concerned that they will be unable to compete with the large groups and large health care systems in order to access patients.
A physician's reputation for providing accessible quality of care should go a long way in assuring a stable patient base. However, physicians may also wish to consider a marketing strategy. While there are many consultants who can help physicians with the creation and implementation of a marketing plan, adopting just a few steps may help physicians build and/or maintain a viable practice.
Understand your environment – It’s important to understand the types of patients cared for and the environment in which the practice is located. For example, is there a particular “culture,” i.e., do patients prefer alternative, complementary practices versus traditional medical care? If so, your marketing goals may need to be tailed to meet the needs of the patients and culture of the area in which the practice is located.
Identify and strengthen ties with your target audience – A practice’s “target audience” is the entities to which the practice’s marketing efforts should be directed. This includes not only current and prospective patients, but also hospitals, third-party payors, and even patient practices who represent the medical condition that fall within your specialty, i.e., the American Diabetes Association would be a great target audience for an endocrinologist. Referrals from existing patients are a great way to attract new patients. These referrals can be obtained through the following:
Just as patients are important to boost referrals, so are other physicians in the community. Techniques with physician colleagues are similar to those for patients, including:
You may also want to consider creating a website for your practice that includes photos of the physicians, staff and office. It’s also helpful to include testimonials, office hours and appointments, patient forms, etc.
For more information on marketing a practice, including a sample patient brochure, see CMA On-Call Document #0100, "Accessing Patients: Marketing and Other Steps Physicians Can Take," available FREE for CMA members online.
- An office sign reminding patients that you welcome their referrals, such as, “We appreciate you as our patient and want you to know that the highest compliment from you is for you to refer your friends and family to our practice.”
- Create a brochure that patients can provide to their family and friends.
- Send thank you notes or emails to patients who do refer to your practice.
- Sent patients birthday messages. If appropriate, remind them of their annual check-up.
- Make the office a welcoming experience. Ensure exam rooms are clean and welcoming after each use. Keep the waiting room clean and make sure there are current magazines for patients to peruse while they wait. Consider providing water with lemon slices and/or coffee in the waiting room.
- Be visible in your community by donating medical services for a local charity auction.
- Have a practice presence at health fairs, sporting events, etc.
- Maintain a collegial relationship with other physicians, such as having lunch or engaging in other social events with them.Have a visible presence – physicians who give public lectures or provide a strong presence in the medical community raise their profiles as experts in the area.Join and participate in your local and state medical societies. Many medical societies have patient referral programs.