How much does it cost you to attract a new patient to your practice? And what is the impact that patient is having on revenue? Understanding the cost and value of a new patient is incredibly powerful. Knowing the answer to those questions will help you understand how much to spend on marketing, maximize a return on that cost, and craft your patient outreach strategy to reach the right patients for your practice.
Marketing your practice can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. There is no single right answer for how a practice markets itself, but there may be a right answer for how your practice markets itself. Getting to the bottom of that requires an understanding your patients, knowing your marketing options, and finding where those two things intersect.
Marketing spend should never be a single line item. It takes many different forms, and they are not all equal to your practice. Your marketing spend may include:
• Content: Videos, articles, etc. that are used to engage and educate patients about services or procedures
• Web: Making sure potential patients can easily find your practice through searches on Google, Bing or Yahoo (known as “search engine optimization” or “SEO”), website development/maintenance, etc.
• Social Media: Creating and maintaining Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
• Advertising: Online banner ads, print ads, billboards, radio, etc.
• Events: Sponsoring association meetings, 5K races, etc.
Fully understanding the scope of all your efforts, the amount of work it takes to maintain them, and their true cost is a good starting point in determining how to adjust your patient outreach strategy. Spending money without tracking these efforts has the potential to drive a practice off course, miss important opportunities for growth, and waste valuable dollars in an era of declining reimbursement rates. This doesn’t even factor in the time that your staff is spending on these activities instead of their actual day-to-day responsibilities.
Here are the questions to ask yourself in order to maximize the return on your marketing outreach:
• Who is your ideal patient (age, payer, procedure, frequency of visit, etc.) and where do they find their healthcare information?
• In what ways are you marketing your practice, and which of those efforts are patients actually responding to?
• How are you tracking the impact of your various marketing efforts?
• Who are all the vendors/people involved in your marketing efforts?
• What is your cost per lead?
• What is your cost per acquisition?
In addition to understanding the breadth of your marketing efforts, a vital part of driving down costs while maximizing value is understanding more about your current patient population, and ideally, using data to determine the characteristics of patients that represent significant value to your practice. These characteristics can include payer, age, geographical location of patients, and more. Once you can identify the characteristics of your practice’s ideal patient population, you can target your marketing efforts to reaching this audience.
Armed with the true cost and scope of your current efforts, as well as the ideal patient population that will help grow your practice, you can begin to optimize your outreach. First, determine which avenues are performing best on a patient acquisition to cost basis. The next step is focusing on activities that are bringing in the patients that are best for your practice. Knowing which aspects of your patient outreach program are performing best will help you know where to put your focus, leading to less costly patient acquisition.
A simple step in determining which efforts are bringing in patients is capturing referral information at the time of a new patient’s registration or scheduling —either through simple scripting for staff, the use of different phone numbers for different marketing efforts, or integrating questions into patient forms. A baseline here will you know which of your efforts are driving patient volume and which are driving more volume than others.
Together, all of this information can help you understand the impact your marketing efforts is having on your practice. Providers face no shortage of costs in the current environment. Marketing and patient outreach are areas where costs can not only be contained and can even drive volume and revenue for your practice.
Suprit Patel is managing partner and co-founder of The Bestige Group