The healthcare landscape seems to be shifting, with a shortage of physicians in some specialties and an excess in other areas causing competition for patients. With what seems to be a competitive field, marketing is vital for every medical practice, new or established, small or large, to succeed. Healthcare marketing has been downplayed and ignored for too long, primarily because there is a lack of understanding as to what it is and how to do it effectively.
Marketing for the practice is a broad thought that embraces strategic planning, public and media relations, information technology, metrics, and advertising. Marketing a medical practice is a way to attract and retain patients. It can be as basic as ensuring patient satisfaction, and it can be as complex as performing a demographic/payer study before deciding to invest in a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry machine or physical therapy services.
It is important for a medical practice to use good marketing research before beginning a marketing plan to better understand the practice’s patients, competition, operational performance and its impact on patients, and the healthcare environment in which it operates.
In-office or external marketing strategies—typically both—can be used to achieve practice goals.
- Examples of in-office marketing: Distributing handouts or flyers in the waiting room or exam room that advertise the practice’s services and asking existing patients to refer friends or family.
- Examples of external marketing: Developing a website and ensuring prospective patients know about it, direct mail, and advertising in local publications or at health events.
Your practice’s approach to marketing will depend on budget and business objectives. Marketing can be used to increase patient volume, raise the your profile in the field of rheumatology, attract the best talent to the practice, expand the patient referral network, develop income streams from various areas, add ancillary service lines, and increase revenue from procedures or treatments not covered by insurance.
When you have decided to market your practice, perform an environmental market scan by looking at the market, or the area where the practice is located. Performing an environmental market scan will help you understand patient needs in the area. Generally, these needs and demands are focused on particular services and treatments that patients with rheumatic diseases look for when choosing a rheumatologist. For example, if your practice is located around a retirement community containing a large number of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it may be good for the practice to consider having an in-house infusion service to accommodate the needs of the patients in your community. You will also want to perform an environmental market scan to get insight into services other rheumatologists in your area are offering patients. Reviewing what other practices offer will help you to identify opportunities for practice promotion, what services can be eliminated, and what areas of your practice need improvement in order to be successful.