Since the beginning of the Affordable Care Act enrollment, approximately 20 million uninsured Americans have gained insurance coverage. This provides medical practices with an opportunity to increase its patient base, given people who previously did not seek preventive medical care due to financial constraints may now be in search of a primary care provider.
If your medical practice has not seen an influx of these new patients, try tackling these six small, low-cost steps that can help you put your best foot forward. These steps will guarantee an increase in your patient base without expending too much effort.
Now more than ever, people are taking to the internet to get the thumbs up or thumbs down before doing pretty much anything, including picking a doctor. New avenues for patients to post online reviews of physicians emerge all the time. Today’s tech-savvy consumers will likely check out your practice’s reviews to see what other patients wrote about you on these sites before considering whether or not they want to become your patient.
One of the most important things is to make sure you are closely monitoring your online presence. If your practice has an abundance of negative reviews, look for trends in the complaints. If multiple patients mention a similar issue, accept the complaint, whatever it may be, and try to improve your performance in that area. In the review sites that allow you to do so, make sure you take the time to respond to both complaints and recommendations to show that your practice is engaged.
Also, take a pulse of your most trusted, long-term patients. Ask them how they feel about your practice and the services you provide. Encourage patients to share their experiences in an online review. This can be done with a sign at your front desk, a follow-up email thanking your patients for their visit and encouraging them to review you online or even mentioning it during a conversation.
The more positive your reviews are, the more likely that you will get more calls from potential new patients.
Some doctors remain uneasy about using tools like Facebook and Instagram for their business. Communicating any sensitive, health protected data through social media is, of course, not okay. However, there are many useful, safe ways to use social platforms to market a practice to more potential patients.
When your current patients “like” your business on Facebook, their entire social contact base sees it. That can direct user traffic to your page and, ultimately, your practice. Use an engaging page design to encourage additional people to “Like” your page, and update the content often.
You may also want to start a blog to provide wellness tips, announce local health events and discuss general, positive information about yourself and your practice. Promote the blog using Twitter and use the blog to engage with organizations in your community. You will likely get more eyes on it than you think.
When was the last time you or your staff participated in a community service project or fundraising event? Community engagement is a great way to project a charitable, positive image of your practice to others.
If you already have events on your calendar, but they are always the same cancer walk and silent auctions, branch out! Accept an invitation to a networking conference or speaking engagement that you’d otherwise normally decline. Providing support to the community through unexpected means will get you noticed by people you don’t know, who could ultimately become future patients or referring providers.
It’s also a good idea to build a rapport with the emergency room physicians in your area. They are often asked for recommendations for care after their patients’ visit to the ER. It is all about networking.
Pay attention to shifting demographics in your patient population and community and make changes to align with those shifts.
For example, if you’re treating many adults with young children, consider adding a dedicated pediatrician to your practice. If a major employer in your town just completed a large round of layoffs, think about offering reasonable direct pay pricing options to the newly uninsured. Losing business to a mini-clinic at a nearby drugstore? Add a physician assistant to your staff to do standard exams and prescribe antibiotics and maybe even lengthen your days and hours of operation.
Additionally, try to pay attention to the needs of people in your community. By meeting a demand at the right time, you can win patients and boost the success of your business.
You would think this would be an obvious point, but it’s actually shocking how often physicians never tell their patients when they want to see them back. This is a big deal when it comes to patient retention. Patients resent being handed medication with no clear next steps to see how the medicine is working or if it needs to be modified for any reason.
Having a follow-up appointment shows the patient how much you really care about them and their health. Even when you haven’t been able to make a final diagnosis, you should still encourage them to schedule a follow-up visit to discuss next steps after the test results come back.
As you probably know, it takes a lifetime to gain a patient and a single second to lose them. Treating each patient like a family member will ensure that they keep coming back time and time again.