Given the obvious physician shortage in the United States, it may seem quite reasonable to think marketing your practice is unnecessary. After all, many practices feel they have more patient visits than they can manage. They may not even consider that there is a silent downside to attrition: it is often the result of dissatisfied patients. This can harm your practice with lower patient satisfaction scores, a decline in future referrals from the most desirable sources, and the potential marring of your practice's reputation. While fighting attrition often means replacing one patient with another, it does so at a high cost to the practice.
Marketing is a powerful tool that a practice can use to build a panel of desirable patients who remain loyal to the practice and tout it throughout the community. There is value in taking an organized approach to marketing and understanding how it puts you in the driver's seat — proactively making strategic decisions that affect the future of your practice.
Here are a few benefits to consider. You can:
1. Attract patients from the better performing payers, which allows you to strengthen practice finances and even cull some of those high-maintenance insurance plans that keep ratcheting down reimbursement;
2. Gain an understanding of the type of patients you currently attract, how and why they enter the practice, and whether this is a desirable strategy for practice stability;
3. Identify ways to grow new revenue sources or specific treatment modalities of high interest;
4. Recognize when existing or new competitive forces are a threat to your position;
5. Ensure your image is consistent;
6. Showcase new physicians or allied professionals; and
7. Present the practice as the most desirable choice for consumers and referring physicians.
And, there are many other circumstances where marketing can strengthen your position and help you make welcome changes, rather than changes forced on the practice by external forces.
In the end, there's much to be said about marketing and how it helps improve the overall patient experience; it can portray the practice in a way that reflects your culture and your mission, support building desirable relationships with new and existing patients, improve patient compliance rates, facilitate better patient-doctor communication, and contribute to more satisfied patients who become loyal referral sources.
If patients are unhappy they may leave the practice and harm your reputation in the surrounding community. Remember, bringing in new patients costs you more than keeping existing patients in the practice. And, while it takes a long time to gain a patient's confidence and trust, it takes even longer to get to know her well and manage her care in the most desirable manner.
Increase your practice's visibility and open doors to opportunities you may not know exist. Marketing your practice can be a key strategy in protecting the future of your practice.
Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant and author of the popular books "Secrets of the Best Run Practices,"2nd edition, and “Take Back Time.” Based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., she is a national speaker on healthcare topics. She can be reached at [email protected].