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Apply Marketing to Your Medical Practice to Boost Income

Posted on: 11-Dec-2007

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How to get a larger share of the average $300K of medical care a patient will consume over their lifetime.

Marketing is seldom thought of as having a place in a medical practice. Most people equate marketing to advertising and as primarily a mass communications tool. But there is an analytical side to marketing that you are probably already applying in your practice management at a rudimentary level. A more systematic implementation of it will help you yield more income out of your practice.


Ever wonder why some doctor’s calendars are filled with patients, their waited rooms stocked with patients; while others in the same building struggle to get patients? This is a classic marketing problem. Solving it will help ensure you have plenty of patients. Solving it entails understanding your patients — which you need to think of as customers. It is a safe assumption that most patients seek out a practitioner because they have a medical problem they can’t solve themselves.


So the real question is in understanding how they pick one doctor over another. You’re probably thinking it can be from a referral, their health insurance provider, the phone book, etc. Of all of these, the referral is by far the best because now the potential patient has a way to differentiate you from everyone else on the various lists that are out there. All marketing studies across all cultures have found that a referral from a trusted source is by far the most powerful tool in attracting new customers (which are your patients). Sit down and talk to the patients in any packed practitioner’s waiting room and who has a full calendar and ask how they chose this doctor: You’ll invariably find that most will have been referred. Having referrals means you have successfully converted patients and other medical professionals to missionaries. These people have come to trust you enough to be willing to put their reputations on the line by referring someone who trusts them. Applying marketing means understanding how to systematically gain these referrals.


There are four characteristics to all customer purchases: needs, wants, benefits, and features. Consistently meet these and you’ll have highly satisfied patients that will refer you. Now you may want to skip this step and go directly to trying to influence other doctors, but you will likely gain their trust by what they learn from the patients they have referred to you. So satisfied patients are key to a successful practice. But how does one differentiate between a need and a want or a benefit and a feature?


You differentiate a need from a want by finding out if there is a specific benefit. If there is a benefit, it is a need — if not, it is a want. If it is a want, it’s probably a feature that they want, but don’t need. Clearly first rate medical care is a need and if you can’t supply this, you don’t need to read any further.


So, do they need coffee in your reception area, as some provide? It’s a nice amenity, but the benefit is extremely small. What about things like efficient scheduling, insurance management?  The key thing to find is the patient’s problems and understand them. For example, patients face the unknown as they enter the doctors office. Alleviating fear is a key benefit and is the benefit free coffee is trying to address. Avoiding stark white colors is another, as is keeping a warm and inviting atmosphere from your reception to and into the exam rooms. Nevertheless, these are easily implemented.


More important is scheduling because it effects both patient satisfaction as well as your revenue. For the patient, scheduling is a huge issue, especially when it is urgent. When there are cancellations, getting the urgent patient in replaces lost revenue, while making a distressed patient happy. To do this, your front office has to do more than call and leave a message on a home phone. It’s far better to have a patients cell number to call or text message them. Text messaging is also a far better way to confirm the next day’s office visits because you can get instant feedback if the patient is going to make it or not. If they are not, the day is not lost in getting someone from the waiting list in. This makes everyone happier and ensures future visits.


There are plenty of other ways to bring more revenues to your practice by applying these marketing techniques.  Satisfied customers will recommend you to other patients. Think of it another way: The average American will consume $300,000 over his or her lifetime. So, if you can keep a patient, they will have paid for at least one Mercedes-Benz or put one of your children through college. The key is to see the wider spectrum of the patients experience: from the time the call for an appoint to the time they are cured, instead of just the time you spend with them in your exam room.

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About weQuest:
weQuest's are written by G Dan Hutcheson, his career spans more than thirty years, in which he became a well-known as a visionary for helping companies make businesses out of technology. This includes hundreds of successful programs involving product development, positioning, and launch in Semiconductor, Technology, Medicine, Energy, Business, High Tech, Enviorntment, Electronics, healthcare and Business devisions.

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