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Here are some key tips you can take to increase the volume of fee-for-service / cash paying patients at your medical practice.
A very small percentage of cash-based practices are highly profitable. Those that are follow one common rule: They find ways to differentiate their practice.
Any cash-paying patient expects their doctor to be a sub-specialized expert. A dermatologist with at least 50 percent of his practice focused on psoriasis is more likely to get more cash-paying psoriasis patients. An orthopedic surgeon focusing on minimally invasive knee surgery will surely get more athletes who are willing to pay out of pocket. However, just because a practice is focused does not mean the practice will have enough of such patients increase its profits, especially in highly competitive areas of the country. Promoting that focus is a recipe for success. You have to talk about your niche but you also have to get your patients to talk about. (Hence the reason why social media is such a hot topic nowadays.)
In areas of the country, like New York and New Jersey, it seems like every cash-based dermatologist sees patients for everything skin-related; every orthopedic doctor will take patients for back, shoulder, knee, and anything related to orthopedics; every psychiatrist will see patients for anything related to psychiatry. And the list goes on. They’re all competing for the same patients.
Why are they doing that? There’s no way they can be experts in everything. Everyone knows that, including your future patients. Focus your practice, find a niche that’s underserved, establish your credibility, and promote it.
Stop telling your marketers you want a website like your local competitor. Stop advertising for every procedure in your specialty. You will lose now or later, because when it comes to Internet marketing, the Internet is already a bidding war. Even in New York City, the same cash-for-service consultation at a specialist’s office can range from $150 to $400. It used to average around $300, but now?
Doctors who advertise see patients for $400 per visit. Doctors that don’t advertise keep decreasing their prices to stay “competitive,” and I use the term very loosely. As more doctors within the same specialties are developing Internet advertising campaigns for the same patients, the fee-for-services even for the physicians that are advertising are becoming less profitable. Some doctors change their prices even by $20 and it makes a whole world of difference for a cash-paying patient. Why? Because as far as their patient knows, all the local specialists are the same.
In Internet advertising, specifically advertisements on Google, Healthcare Marketing Center has seen a dramatic increase in costs for clicks on Google Adwords over the past two years. Doctors are getting severely ripped off by SEO and website companies. Every doctor gets the same: the same website, the same advertisement, the same keyword, and the same advice. That needs to stop.
If you’re going to develop a marketing campaign for your cash practice, make sure your marketer does at least the following:
1. Market research. Any professional marketer will be afraid of making a recommendation without testing their theories. There’s no practice that’s exactly the same and medical marketing campaigns should reflect that. While every medical marketing company will advise you to get a website, SEO, and advertisements, it’s about differentiating them all that will make a practice very successful. Expect 30 days to-60 days of testing advertisements and website content (including design).
2. A unique website design. Watch out for companies that seem to own a specific specialty. That just means they’re copying the same website over and over. Refrain from being advised on “this is the most popular website.”
3. An honest consultation. The website features you select with the assistance of sales representatives may be eye candy to you, but it doesn’t mean it will be of benefit to your patients and referring doctors. Be open to constructive criticism and advice that you may not necessarily like. After all, advice is meant to be explored and tested to find the most cost-effective means to improve that volume of cash patients.
4. A library of information just for your patients. If you have a website with the same patient education library that your competitor has, what service does that do for you? Again, you need to differentiate your practice. The less it appears as another doctor’s website, the better. Avoid sending patients away to pre-designed libraries, .org sites, and any external links. You spent a lot of money on getting that patient to your website. Do not send him away.
5. A blog and social media. This is your key differentiating factor, the least expensive, and the most powerful form of marketing. Chances are good that 90 percent of your local competitors have never explored a blog. My next article will be about blogging strategies for physicians.
6. Focus on education, not advertising. If you want SEO and advertising and the company you’re hiring does absolutely nothing to educate your patients and referring doctors you are definitely wasting your money. There are more SEO companies entering the healthcare marketplace and they’re all doing the same thing. Every year, medical SEO gets more expensive because it’s getting less effective as a standalone strategy. It needs to be supported with education.
7. Reputation management. There’s nothing more effective in medical marketing than promoting a doctor with a stellar reputation. If you have bad reviews online you need to be very concerned about this. Any medical marketing campaign without reputation management is a mistake. (See my previous blog on this topic for more.)
8. Public Relations. If you have not yet published an article in local newspapers, think about it, because 99 percent of your competitors have not.
Find your niche and enjoy the benefits of running a profitable medical practice.
Find out more about Simon Sikorski and our other Practice Notes bloggers.