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Entice Docs with Digital Communication Tactics

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, March 24, 2010

With all of the physician sales methods out there—from glossy recruitment books to gift baskets to real estate assistance—it's easy to forget the one that can't be thumbed-through, eaten, or lived in. But digital communications is a must-have for today's successful healthcare marketer.

Currently, 99% of physicians use the Internet and 64% use a smartphone—a number projected to jump to 81% in 2012—according to Manhattan Research's 2009 "Taking the Pulse" study. And as physicians' means of communicating change, healthcare marketers' methods must evolve along with them.

I spoke with two hospital marketers that have seen significant results from their digital physician sales and referral efforts for the March issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Digital recruitment methods
Sandra Dilts, administrative director of business development and physician relations at Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood, FL, amped up the organization's online presence when she realized the growing importance of the Internet among physicians. They now advertise on medical journal Web sites, subscribe to an online physician-only job search network, and post employment opportunities on the seven-hospital health system Web site.

"Technology has become pervasive in the industry and most physicians, just like other walks of life, have some technical prowess," she told me. "Whether it be responding by e-mail or text messaging, I think that it's not entirely segmented. However, five years ago I would say that those that responded to online sourcing were the physicians that were newer in their careers."

Just a few years ago, Memorial recruiters received most resumes by fax or mail. Now, they receive about one fax every three months and receive no job inquiries by mail.

"We have an opportunity to be able to reach more people at a faster speed than ever and for them to respond just as quickly," Dilts says. "It's made it a 24-hour-a-day industry."

Smartphone referral aides
Digital tools can increase physician referrals, too. Mary Thomson, vice president of marketing and public relations at Abington, PA, Memorial Hospital, got all of her physician leaders smartphones after she realized they could create an application that would allow them to better communicate with referring docs. The app provides a list of the referring physicians' back-office phone numbers and lets Abington doctors place a call with just a few clicks.

"The hardest to do was getting all of the numbers, but building the app is apparently pretty easy," she says. "That is an easy way for the docs to have a phone number to call right at their fingertips if they just operated on another doctor's patient."

So now, Abington doctors are happy because the app saved them time, referring physicians are happy because they know the status of their patient, and the patient is happy because both of their doctors are completely on top of their care.

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