Marketing is as important as ever as businesses of all types must rethink existing, and evaluate new, strategies to grow their operations in a world that is much different today than it was a few months ago. This is especially important for physician office marketing as nearly 50% of patients or a family member have skipped or postponed treatment because of the coronavirus (COVID-19). With patients on edge and thinking that doctor’s offices and hospitals are breeding grounds for the virus, it is as important as ever to provide options to ease the minds of these patients and bring them into your office – whether virtually or in-person. There are ways to instill confidence and bring your patients back.
Email Your Patients
Email is the easiest marketing practice to use when connecting with your patients. Letting them know what is happening at your practice and assuring them of safety best practices is the beginning of building the trust needed to bring them back. There are several messages and target groups where email can be effective.
First, leverage your portal or email database to push notifications to customers. Second, consider your communication points. You can talk about safety measures, new services such as telehealth, new office hours, and more. Third, target high risk groups or demographics. This is particularly helpful when working to get your patients to adapt to telehealth.
Email is highly efficient as it allows you to connect with patients in a matter of minutes versus the hours it would take to call each individual patient.
Remind Your Patients of their Appointments
Appointment reminders are a fantastic way to give patients the push they need to keep their appointment. Reminders can come from variety of sources. These include email, text, or phone. Appointment remind systems can be setup to allow patients to confirm, cancel, reschedule, or contact the practice if there is a concern. Did you know that appointment reminders can help reduce your no-show rate by up to 30%?
Stay Connected with a Patient Newsletter
Take your email a step further with a regular newsletter communication. You can mix content up to keep reader interest, but always make sure that the primary message is around confidence in coming to your practice. By maintaining this tone, patients will feel more comfortable not only making, but keeping their appointments.
When signing up your patients to receive newsletters it is important that you receive their consent. Further, use proven services and technologies to help ensure that your newsletters get to your patient’s inbox. Don’t use Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail or other providers or clients to send newsletters.
Create a Patient Resource Page on your Website
Established patients will come back to your website to see what is happening in the current world. While new patients are often looking for an easy way to book an appointment, it can be helpful to create resources that will appeal to both.
Creating a blog with tips and tricks to stay healthy, webinars and videos of office staff to keep connected and show face time, and even scheduled webinars that can take the blog tips and tricks to a new level of interaction with existing and potential patients.
A resource page for patients is also a good area to keep them informed on any changes with practice hours, policies, appointment setting, and options for after hours emergency care.
Utilize Your Practice Facebook Page (Or Build One!)
Everyone is on social media right now. In fact, 63% of survey respondents stated that if they are confined to their homes during the coronavirus, they would use Facebook more during that confinement period (Statista).
Social media, especially Facebook, is an important channel for patients to stay informed about developments regarding the virus. Keeping them up to date (linking to your resource page when there are updates, for example) is key. Other suggestions for posts are to talk about local topics in healthcare (city, county, or state COVID-19 events and resources) and videos from the staff showing the office and how everything is running smoothly or how practices have been put into place to ensure the safety of patients.
An even more important element of any social media is ensuring that you have a point person to manage posts, comments and messages while ensuring HIPAA compliance. Creating a social calendar can help with the management of posts and the implementation of a “rules of engagement” can help ensure there are no mistakes when it comes to legalities and compliance.
Lighten Things for Patients with Instagram
Instagram is said to be one of the fastest growing mainstream social platforms in the world. The utilization of photos, videos and stories are highly engaging when properly executed. You can create stories of the office staff working (remember, HIPAA compliance!), short videos of safety measures, and tips and tricks via Instagram stories.
Make Instagram fun. It becomes very engaging for current patients and when shared will certainly lead to referrals.
Create Medical Theme Videos for Patients
Video consumption is at an all time high and there are no signs that it is going to slow down. In today’s world, don’t worry so much about HD or high-quality videos. Videos are accepted by patients from a variety of sources – Zoom recordings, iPhones, and other tools.
Interview your staff or introduce new members of the team. Solicit patient testimonials (get permission before publishing!) health tips. Take the videos to a variety of media – social media, website, YouTube, newsletters. The sky is the limit with publishing and receiving engagement for your video productions.
Become a Medical Blogger
Have a passion for writing? Blog about healthcare and the things you and your practice are doing to make things as healthy and safe as possible for your patients. You can bring it to a local level as well with events that are happening in your community and state. Write about topics that apply to your specialty. You can be the expert in your field with well-written, impactful blogs. There are a variety of thoughts on length and content but try to make each entry at least 700 words long.
Don’t have a blog on your website? Offer to write guest blogs on other websites in your community and ask that they link back to your practice website. It will help with traffic and potentially with search engine rankings.
Consider Medical Office Paid Search (PPC)
Perhaps you are in a larger city or there is a lot of competition for your specialty. If so it may be effective to consider local ads on Google, Microsoft or Facebook.
Example scenarios where you may wish to consider paid search would be as follows:
- Your practice does not show up when searching for your specialty (i.e. endocrinologist in Austin, TX)
- Your practice does not show up when searching for your office name (i.e. Family Medicine of Austin)
- You want to present information that is important to your community via an ad (i.e. advertise your COVID-19 resource page).
With Facebook you can use advertising beyond just pay per click. You can advertise for engagement and impressions in a number of ways. If you find that a post on your social media is receiving a lot of engagement, it can be very cost effective to boost it to reach a wider audience outside of just those who “like” your page. Facebook also has a number of great demographic breakdowns available that could help find your target audience even easier than other advertising platforms.
Stay Tuned into Your Practice Reputation Management
Reputation online is more important than anyone thinks. Monitoring Google, Yelp, Facebook and other channels for reviews (or posts) is essential. Negative reviews can hurt your business more than any other outlet in today’s world. Most every business at some point is going to receive a negative review, regardless of whether it was accurate. There are ways to help boost reputation to ensure that negative reviews are overlooked by the strong positive feedback left.
Surveying patients is a great way to stay in touch with how everyone is doing. Survey right after the visit (email, text, or touchscreen in the office). If the survey is positive, utilize a tool to help automate the process to turn the survey into a great review on one of the major platforms mentioned above.
Make sure to respond to all reviews with the understanding of HIPAA compliance.
Update your Medical Practice Local Online Listings
It’s easy to lose sight of your local Google My Business, Yelp and other pages. However, it is important to update these on a semi-frequent basis. Updating your Google My Business with photos (a sign showing your COVID policies, for example) can be a huge boost. Updating your Facebook with COVID-19 information as it relates to hours is another certain boost for your practice.
Online listings with outdated or otherwise incorrect information can cause pain points that can not be recovered. If your hours are incorrect and a patient walks in (assuming you accept walk ins) only to find that the doors are locked, you can bet that the patient will not be returning.
Build Goodwill in the Medical Community and Beyond
Be the leaders in your community. Whether it is donating time, food, money or volunteer hours, it is effective. Patients want to go to the practice that they see as nurturing the community around them. Encourage your patients to be involved. This can be done by adopting a charity that you strongly believe in and can connect to your patients with.
You can write columns in the local newspaper about the importance of healthcare – as it relates to coronavirus, your specialty, or anything in the local community. This can be further adopted at the Local Access TV level. Check into local access as many cities and towns are yearning for new voices to take on 30 minute or one-hour slots on their local networks. This provides great exposure opportunity for a positive message and for your practice.
It goes without saying that it is important to join your Chamber of Commerce. What shouldn’t go without saying, but often does, is the membership dues are but one element of importance. Get involved in chamber events. Host (when safe to do so) events at your practice for other businesses to see how things are going. Host a virtual event via video conferencing in the meantime. You’ll be impressed with how your presence in the local area can grow.
Each one of us is unique in so many ways. It is important to show off that unique nature and be yourself. Whether it is in writing a blog, recording a video, or setting up a Facebook page with your practice logo and other design elements, don’t let the outside world change who you are.
Recognize YOUR and YOUR STAFF’s unique talents and showcase it with pride. Make your medical practice the envy of all surrounding businesses and you’re almost certain to see great successes during the times we are in and beyond.
Want to see and hear more detail about marketing to patients during and after a pandemic? Watch our recorded webinar “Webinar 13 Ways to Engage Patients During and After a Pandemic”