It’s a common challenge: In a tough economy, do you spend to increase patient revenue or save to keep your practice afloat?
Explore This IssueSeptember 2010
“In tougher economic times, you need to get more aggressive about educating your referring physicians and your patient population, both existing and new patients, on what quality services you can provide, to ensure that you get better throughput into your medical practice,” said Robert Glazer, CEO of ENT and Allergy Associates, LLP, a 110-physician practice in the New York metropolitan region.
The process needn’t be expensive; an investment of 5 percent of a practice’s budget is a good start, said Max Reiboldt, CPA, president and CEO of the Coker Group, a national health care consulting firm for hospitals and physicians. But how to market effectively? Otolaryngologists and consultants interviewed by ENT Today shared their top marketing practices.
Patient and Physician Goodwill
“You can spend a lot of dollars on marketing, but you can also do a lot that costs very little,” said Kenneth T. Hertz, CMPE, principal of the Medical Group Management Association’s Health Care Consulting Group. His advice is to make sure your practice is doing everything it can to offer the best patient care and customer service. If a patient has a 2:00 p.m. appointment, make sure he or she is seen by 2:20 p.m. at the latest. If you’ve recently seen a child who has persistent strep throat or who just had a tonsillectomy, call the parents and ask how the child is doing, he advised.
“Wouldn’t that exceed a parent’s wildest expectations?” Hertz said. “There is nothing more effective than positive word of mouth for a physician practice. The female patient who just left your office is going to tell all of the mothers in her tennis club how timely, friendly, and helpful your staff was in answering all the questions she had about her bill and insurance coverage,” Hertz added.
Ringing endorsements of your practice must also be cultivated with referring physicians. If little Johnny is referred to you from a primary care physician or pediatrician, send a timely follow-up letter to that doctor thanking him or her for that referral, Hertz said. On occasion, send articles of interest to referring pediatricians and family physicians, highlighting key passages to personalize the mailing, and indicate that you can answer their patients’ questions about, say, effective versus ineffective treatments for sinusitis.
“Those are the things that should happen every day that don’t cost a penny and have huge impact on a practice’s goodwill,” Hertz said.
Once your practice has all of its internal operations humming, you can explore marketing and advertising initiatives. A seasonal informational campaign about allergies, sinus infections or tonsillitis is one idea you might try. Hertz offered a valuable tip for practices using radio or television: Pay for it to run for one or two weeks, take a week off, run it for another week, then take two weeks off before running it for a subsequent week. This approach, he said, has the same impact as continuously running, and paying for, the ad each week.