Editor’s note: This three-part series will feature case studies of marketing strategies employed in three different practice settings: the academic practice; the large multispecialty practice; and the private practice. All have unique as well as common challenges in our current economy. Otolaryngologists in each of the three settings will share the principles that have worked best for them to attract new patients and new referrals, as well as maintain their established patient base.
Explore this issue:April 2009
Academic otolaryngology-head and neck surgical practices often have a built-in draw for referrals of new patients. With their emphasis on research, education, and clinical excellence, these practices become known for their expertise, and colleagues in the community and around the country may refer their complicated cases.
But is scientific and educational excellence enough to buoy the academic practice through these challenging times? Myles Pensak, MD, the H.B. Broidy Professor and Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and current President of the Triological Society, does not think so.
Although the science, education, and clinical services, as they relate to tertiary and quaternary work as a regional resource, have been the best marketing tool for the department’s patient clinics, this reality does not negate the necessity of instituting a well thought-out and executed marketing plan.
Dr. Pensak is very clear on one point: We are running a service business, he asserted, and while our product may be different, at the end of the day, one very satisfied customer is going to beget several new patients. And one dissatisfied customer may turn off 100 potential future customers.
That is why Dr. Pensak has led a department-wide marketing strategy aimed at patient retention, while also boosting the numbers of new patients seen in the clinic at his institution. After 18 years of education-based outreach to referring physicians and colleagues, University ENT retooled its marketing strategies in 2006, with the help of dedicated marketing specialist Angie Keith. As a result, the practice’s volume of new patients increased from 3% over a three-year period between 2003 and 2005 to 25% from 2006 to 2008.
Although academic practices have a built-in draw, they also have institution-specific challenges when it comes to increasing their patient base, noted Ms. Keith. For instance, patients may associate a university practice setting with trauma, and be fearful of visiting; they may generalize one unsatisfactory encounter at the university to all prospective visits to other specialty practices; or they may simply find the physical campus difficult to navigate.