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Four Ways Practices Can Conduct Effective, Cost-efficient Outreach

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, January 12, 2010

As nursing home residents slowly took their seats and adjusted their oxygen tubes before his presentation, urologist Neil Baum, MD, realized he needed to change his approach.

"The last thing they wanted to hear about was a talk on sexual dysfunction," says the New Orleans physician. "I'm a magician, so I asked for a deck of cards and I did magic tricks."

But his adlibbed presentation wasn't for naught—one of the nurses took Baum's card and sent him her mother.

Giving speeches to local groups is just one of the ways you can reach out to potential patients without embarking on an expensive marketing campaign. Often, getting your practice's name and expertise out in the community is more beneficial than a billboard.

1. Writing articles

"The best way for a practice on a low budget to reach out to the public is writing articles and public speaking," Baum says. "Writing articles is not expensive. It does take a little bit of time for the doctor or staff to put together, but most publications are eager to hear from physicians."

Publications that may publish health-related articles include:

  • Local newspapers
  • Local magazines
  • Health and fitness publications
  • Blogs and Web sites

"It would be good to pick a topic that is timely, that is in the news," Baum says. "It's best to include a patient if you can and put out why you are the one to write the article, how common it is in the community, and offer solutions to the problem that help is available and tell them where to go. Also, at the end, be sure to provide your name and contact information."

2. Giving presentations

Providing and collecting contact information is also important when speaking to a local organization, Baum says.

"If I give a talk to an AARP group, I get their e-mail addresses and I continually send them updates about what's going on in my practice and what's new," he says. "Constantly keeping your name in front of them in a positive fashion and doing it frequently is the best way to keep the public engaged and knowing that you exist."

Organizations that may welcome a physician speaker include:

  • Service clubs, such as the Rotary Club, Lions, and Junior League
  • Church groups
  • Crowds at local fairs and block parties
  • Large employers

At the end of the presentation, it's important to take questions and give the audience a way to get in touch with you.

"I always say, 'Anybody who would like more info, please sign up on this sheet and we will continue to give you more info,' " Baum says. "I also take someone from my office with an appointment book and schedule appointments right there at the meeting. And I always bring a handout with an article, usually something I've written."

These talks may not always result in immediate business, but attendees will be more likely to remember you down the road when they have a medical problem that you addressed. Baum says he recently saw a patient who had remembered him from a presentation 10 years ago.

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