Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from The Business Side of Rheumatology Practice, Chapter 7: Strategic Marketing.
With today’s challenging economy, the need to market is vital for every medical practice—new or established, small or large.
Healthcare marketing has been downplayed and ignored for too long, primarily because there is a lack of understanding about 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 is a way to attract and retain patients. It can be as basic as ensuring patient satisfaction, or 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 you to use good marketing research before beginning a marketing plan to help understand your patients, competition, operational performance and its impact on patients, and the healthcare environments in which the practice operates.
In-office and external marketing strategies 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; asking existing patients to refer friends or family.
- Examples of external marketing: Developing a website and ensuring that prospective patients know about it; direct mail; 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 your profile in the field of rheumatology, attract the best talent, 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.
Once 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 your patients’ needs in the area. Generally, these patients’ needs and demands are focused on particular services and treatments that patients with rheumatic diseases would look for when choosing a rheumatologist. For example, if your practice is located around a retirement community containing a majority of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it may be good for the practice to consider having in-house infusion services to accommodate the majority of the patients in your community. You will also want to perform an environmental market scan to get insight into the services other rheumatologists in your area are offering to 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 for it to be successful.