Investing in Marketing Technologies can Grow Your Practice

March 30, 2017

Worried about bringing in new patients in the digital age? Look towards investing in marketing technologies.

South Metro OB/GYN serves more than 23,000 patients annually - but we still treat every individual like a member of our family.

Because forming meaningful relationships with patients is so important,  patient engagement technology tools in the marketplace are seeking to improve connections between patients and care providers. However, they don't always yield desired results. Perhaps this is why 60 percent of providers said patient engagement is a priority, but only 35 percent of patients noticed their providers making an effort to become more engaged.

A few years ago, as patients became more reliant on smartphones, our practice started exploring technology that would help us enhance our current patient relationships and attract new patients at the same time. We also noticed a definite shift in our patients, many of whom were beginning to have a more 'consumer' mentality, in which online ratings sites and a practice's technological savvy became more important factors in our practice's long-term viability.

To accommodate this shift, our practice adopted a patient relationship management software system. We chose our particular cloud-based partner relationship management (PRM) tool because we wanted to do a lot - improve patient access, improve scheduling, expand our marketing efforts and continue growing our patient base.

Within a few months, our PRM tool did more to improve patient relationships than our previous solution had done in at least three times that amount of time.

It did this primarily by addressing one of our biggest headaches: marketing. The Internet has made the market more competitive, mainly because information about similar practices is so accessible. However, trying to run an advertisement in a newspaper, direct mailing piece, or a 30 second spot on a hot radio show has a huge price tag associated with it. Smaller practices don't have those kinds of funds to support a healthy advertising campaign.

In addition, while the question of 'how can we get more patients in the door?' is common among medical groups, and the proliferation of communications technology presents many opportunities, it can also be a practice's worst nightmare if a practice gains a reputation for appearing to send spam emails.

The software we use offers communications tools, social media dashboards, and simple ways to customize email blasts and newsletters. One of our most-used applications is targeted email blasts, for the purpose of dispatching critical health information. Many times, we have created an email blast to our patients, either to the whole patient population (30,000) or to a specific demographic (OB patients or those who are 50 and older). Some recent communications to our patient population included Zika Virus updates, new insurance updates, digital birthday cards, and flu season notifications.

We also use the tool to enhance patient education through an email newsletter, which informs patients not only of administrative updates, but educates them on health and fitness. Previously, we used methods that were time consuming, costly, and had a 'drag time' to get a patient or potential patient what they needed to make a sound decision regarding their healthcare.   

The feedback from our patients has been positive. While it's sometimes difficult to measure the return on investment with any technology purchase, our practice has seen an influx of business associated with these blasts.

The first large, targeted email blast campaign for a new technology for vaginal atrophy comes to mind: We sent out the email blast on a Friday afternoon at the end of the day, and by Monday, we had received several emails from patients interested in additional information. We scheduled seven appointments in the first two weeks, generating more than $15,000 in revenue. Over the next seven months, revenues related to our raising awareness to the vaginal atrophy technology grew to nearly $50,000.

The most untold benefit is that our staff is happier: Over the course of the two years we have used the tool, we've saved an estimated 200 hours of time spent scheduling and reaching out to patients by phone.

We've been able to redirect some of that time toward more in-person, patient-centric activities, which we know for sure offer the true intimate aspect of care patients are seeking in a deeply technological era.

DeeDee Weaver is a practice manager at South Metro OB/GYN in Englewood, Colorado.