But actual doctors and dentists are often ambivalent about the role of marketing and how best to stay current without appearing to be money-focused as opposed to patient-focused.
Our general advice for health care providers is this:
- Find out if you are findable. We have discovered that many physicians are the least visible types of businesses on the web. They may still pay for a Yellow Pages ad, but they often feel that other physicians refer to them (true) or that they are part of other physician or hospital groups. Our clients have been shocked to see on the screen how laborious it can be just to find a contact phone number and address. From this information, we have helped to persuade our clients that they have needed their own website that they control.
- Build it and they will come to your website. We are pleased to help our health related clients with more streamlined websites that serve as resources with well-written and current information including weekly or bi-weekly blogs. Using a little bit of Google adwords money and some Facebook linked posts, you can draw some people to the website and make it a go-to resource without overt marketing.
- Check your listings. Spend time investigating how you are listed (with correct contacts or not?) on Yelp, Yellow Pages and Google, as well as Health Finders and other physician searches. Try to correct incorrect information if possible.
- Referrals, referrals, repeat. For many physicians, their key to new patients is referrals from other health care professionals. Nurture the relationships with those referring professionals. Stay in touch with them, make sure to keep them abreast of any changes (new office location, new equipment, new staffing) and show your appreciation.
- Keep Social Media channels open. Utilize your desired channel to show that you are always interested in new research, new developments and to share your passions and interests. Patients like to feel like they have a glimpse into the minds of their doctors and that they are real people, too.
- Make your patients’ experience as good as possible. Every encounter, whether with your billing manager, with the scheduler or for an appointment can be positive or negative. The outcome of the appointment is not just the diagnosis and the treatment; it is also whether the patient wants to continue being your patient. Compassionate, competent care is the overall goal. But let’s not forget courteous phone manners, clean waiting rooms, maybe some treats when there are unexpected long waits and open communication over all.
- Value your patients’ time. The bugaboo for medical and dental patients is signing up for an appointment and then being kept waiting. Patients don’t truly understand that an appointment time needs to account for administrative tasks that must occur prior to seeing the doctor. But waiting more than 30 minutes is very hard on lots of people: working people, elderly or frail people and their caregivers, young children and their parents. Your reputation in the community would zoom to the top if you had a way of telling patients if there was more than a 30 minute wait. Why do you want them waiting in your waiting room anyway?
As medical professionals, there are so many tasks to be on top of. Being sure that your marketing plan is in place and healthy assures a steady stream of new patients as well as a satisfied lot of current patients.