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Successful marketing: Four ways to improve your bottom line

The Doctor's Office, January 3, 2008
Practice providers and office managers may think marketing requires a lot of money due to the cost of implementing newspaper ads, radio spots, TV commercials, or brochures, but these are only one component of marketing.

According to Neil Baum, MD, a practicing urologist in New Orleans and a nationally known speaker and author, there are easier ways to market your practice that will also improve your bottom line. Baum introduced the four pillars of success in marketing during the audioconference "Physician Practice Marketing: Strategies to boost your bottom line." The audioconference aired in July and was sponsored by HealthLeaders Media.

Attract new patients into your practice
Baum suggested physicians use their public speaking skills to their advantage by attending local seminars or healthcare programs. "Physicians who share their areas of expertise to the community can be helpful," he said. "Have someone from the office attend the program and have an appointment book there to make appointments right on the spot."

Physicians can also write articles for local magazines, newspapers, and publications about various topics that relate to your areas of interest and expertise, Baum said. He added that using research will attract new patients to your practice. For example, an advertisement was made by a device company, and the practice received 50 responses. Of the 50 responses, only six patients qualified to enter into the study. The other 44 people complained of problems that Baum was able to treat. His practice encouraged the patients to make an appointment and offered a free consultation for the first visit.

Treat the current patients well
Baum said to determine the best idea to give your patient that stellar experience at your practice and recommended the following:

  • Call your key patients at their home. They are patients who receive procedures outside the office, or a patient you had in the hospital who has been discharged. "It is so important to get in touch with that patient and see how they are doing, answering any questions they may have and when they should make that next appointment," Baum said.
  • Assign a staff member in the practice to conduct follow-up calls to patients at a certain time of day to ask whether they have any questions. The staff member will also note any patients whom the doctor needs to follow up with.

There are advantages to calling patients at home. "I can assure you that you will receive far fewer calls from your patients if you take the time to call them and answer their questions," Baum said. "I think it's very efficient use of your time. I can remember being out socially and people would say to me, 'Wait a minute, are you the doctor that calls his patients at home?' I thought that was a very nice label to have."

Baum remembers the time he received a written response from a patient, who said Baum was "the first doctor that took the time to call [me] and see how [I] was doing." The patient also said, "I have to share with you that this will be the best five to seven minutes a day that you spend in marketing your practice." Baum said to create positive word-of-mouth marketing energy and find the effort to give that patient a spectacular experience with your practice.

A working patient-physician relationship
"[Physicians] are looking for three things: diagnosis, medication, and a treatment plan," Baum said. "They are not interested in a lengthy two- or three-page referral letter. Remember they are just as busy as you are."

"Before the patient even gets home, have your practice send a referral letter to that physician," Baum said. "Most electronic medical records can create a referral letter with those fields. It saves you transcription costs. It can relieve a lot of the expenses associated with an electronic program. It increases the efficiency of your practice. From a marketing standpoint, it keeps that referring doctor as the all-important captain of that patient's healthcare ship."

A highly motivated team
"You can be the most skilled physician with the greatest personality, with the greatest diagnostic skills, but if that person doesn't know how to answer the phone," Baum said, "your efforts lay fallow in terms of being able to see patients and practice your craft of medicine."

Make sure your staff members are highly motivated, energized, enthusiastic, and supportive of the practice's marketing efforts, Baum added.

Baum and his staff members coordinated a successful marketing idea that generated enthusiasm from his employees. "We closed the office at lunch time, and everyone was picked up by a limousine and sent to a shopping mall," he said. "Each staff member was given $100 and asked to spend it on themselves in one hour."

You could see by the smiles on their faces how energized and excited they were, Baum explained. "Not only did my staff enjoy it, but they enjoyed talking about it," he said. "I had so many people in the medical community come up to me and mention my day at the mall. They asked to come and work at the doctor's office."

Baum is certain the feedback and encouragement generated toward staff members will improve the image of your practice and all areas across the board.

"My take-home message is, if you take wonderful, outstanding care of your staff, that will trickle down and they will take outstanding care of your patients," Baum said.


Shannon Sousa is the editor of The Doctor's Office. She may be reached at ssousa@hcpro.com. This story first appeared in the January edition of The Doctor's Office, a monthly newsletter by HCPro Inc. For information on all of HCPro's products, visit www.hcmarketplace.com.