How to Market Your Office in the 21 st Century
“Thank you for calling XYZ Office”. My name is Ms. Jones, how may I help you?” For most of us, this is standard opening for any wound center. But even before we get to that point, the issue for most of us is to ask, “How did we receive the referral?”
It is important to understand that the nature of the medical referral business for offices is based on three inherent resources: a) internal referrals from the inpatient facility; b) external referrals from the staff physicians of the hospital community; and c) external referrals from outside physicians or facilities to the office. Over the years, this conceptual idea that these sources of referrals would be endless, yet our facilities are striving and straining to stay profitable in a changing healthcare environment that is setting up facilities to have smaller and smaller margins.
So how do we, as health care professionals, market newer areas of source referrals? In order to answer that question, we have to review the traditional models of marketing a facility-based office.
Traditionally, hospital-based office models would (and should) be getting a majority of its referrals from the inpatient side of the facility. The physicians in the wound center in conjunction with the inpatient wound care team, should be seeing patients on the inpatient side and those patients who are ambulatory on discharge would naturally be followed-up for post-hospital care in the outpatient center.
A secondary source of traditional model is directly from the external marketing efforts. Whether is done by the physicians, staff or the hospital marketing team – it does not matter. To venture into the community to provide education, lecture series or health fairs is an integral part of the marketing effort by the hospital-based center to attract, educate and compile new demographic populations for admission visits. Targeting primary care physicians and the on-staff podiatrists, dermatologists and surgeons is also a necessary traditional step in the marketing process.
A third source of traditional referrals has been the most expensive and may have yielding the least amount of revenue for a facility. Advertising, whether in print or television or radio media, has been a staple of marketing efforts for years. This avenue of sourcing has become antiquated and partially obsolete. It may still work in certain demographic areas of the country where the patient populations are geriatric and not internet savvy, but for the upcoming baby-boomer generation it may not be the best monies to invest in marketing.
So what are the newer ways to market office centers in the 21 st century? First, you have to decide that you are going to be IN the 21 st century as a marketable wound center. Market analysis shows that the use of social media appropriately can be very effective means to get your message across. Day after day and week after week, the use of social media “buzzing” through Twitter, FourSquare, Facebook, HootSuite and Google can increase traffic on a wound center’s website from 2x to 10x. Here is a list of reasons why social media is better than traditional print or TV:
• They can reach as many people or more people as radio or TV, and in whatever country.
• They have sophisticated targeting like AdWords, notwithstanding different criteria.
• The minimum spend is just $1 per day.
• They are the lowest cost per 1,000 impressions ad in history. They average around $0.25
per 1,000, which is only 1% of the cost of TV. Are you kidding me? Nope, it’s for real.
In other words, Facebook ads are mega-awareness raising, have good targeting, require very little commitment, and are unbelievably affordable.
Source: Facebook Advertising, 2013
Twitter has been gaining ground in the direct response marketing industry. As such, Twitter may be a better option for wound center marketing than Facebook in the long-term investment of marketing budgets:
• Twitter has 140M+ active users.
• 55% of users access Twitter on mobile, with 40% growth quarter over quarter.
• Twitter users create over one billion Tweets every three days.
• 60% of Twitter users tweet; 100% are listening.
• 79% of people follow brands to get access to exclusive content.
• During this year’s Super Bowl, one in five commercials contained a hashtag.
• Promoted Tweets get an average engagement rate of one to three percent.
In the end, both Facebook and Twitter have found that direct-response advertising is where the money is. What’s more, direct-response advertising has long been powered by user data, which both Facebook and Twitter have abundant amounts. The trick now for both social platforms is how to continue building their direct-response businesses while also infusing the same data-driven virtues in their forays into brand building. The other trick is to show how hospitals and their associated wound centers how to use this technology and advance their “brand” better than their neighboring and competitive hospital system.
So now that the office center has been using Facebook and Twitter or other social media campaign, how to you get the patients to the facility? Use of a novel, new method of interactive web designs can help. Having a full interactive web site with on-line new patient PDF packets, information on location, lists of “need to know info” as well as being able to view and see with whom they have an appointment with is huge. In today’s digital world, patients look for information, research their condition. The goal of the wound center should be not just only to increase its revenue, but also to educate patients when they come in. It would not be appropriate to have clinicians not reading up on newer technologies that are available and when patients inquire because they “read it online” you have to be able to answer their questions. The clinic patient today is smarter and increasingly more researched because of the internet/web community. A new interactive website with examples of state-of-the-art treatments and basic explanations of the care process can alleviate anxiety and reduce clinic times for patients.
Another ideal marketing ploy can open up the office center for an open house to the community once to twice a year. Have an event, usually starting around 5pm and ending at 7pm. Have the clinicians available with some of the new technology and products that the center has initiated or will be starting. Make it somewhat of a trade show and defer costs to the manufacturers to have informational tables or kiosks at the event. Outreach to the office managers and staff that refer patients as well as communities in the area to draw traffic to the office.
Finding the “untapped” resources of referrals may be the hardest of the marketing strategies to employ. For so many years as I detailed in the above part of the article, wound centers would try to survive on their in-patient and common outpatient referral sources. In today’s world of mid-level practitioners, targeting just the primary care physicians is not enough. Marketing strategies that target not just the PCPs, but their nurse practitioners, physician assistants and medical assistants is vital to the survivability of a wound center in today’s slashed medical market. Hosting informational education dinners, with or without CME and invited “lunch and learn” programs can help boost the referral sources. Of course, the best way to ensure these referral sources stay in the mix is to have good patient outcomes and excellent communication with these offices.
Another resource that may or may not be utilized efficiently is the referrals from the local urgent care and free-standing “ER” facilities. These are welcome sources of new patients as most of these clinics are good at stabilizing the original injury or complaint, but often are not able to provide the long-term care needed to continue the healing process. Targeting these short-term clinics is another vital way to ensure new patients.
Ultimately, the need for a wound center to have a comprehensive marketing strategy with a 1-3-5 year business plan is essential for growth and stability. Ensuring that the professionals that are operating in your clinic obtain certifications beyond their primary specialty boards is crucial. The clinic’s director must make sure that the clinical specialists are regularly attending meetings and conferences, having routine lunch and learn case review meetings, regularly learning about new technologies and products in the marketplace and most of all, ensuring that the patient care being delivered is above the norm for standard of care. Taking care of these items will ensure the clinic’s prosperity and financial future.