How Independent Practices Can Still Thrive: The Marketing End
It has become a sort of pastime of late to place bets on the expiration date of the small medical practice. We’ve all read the articles. We’ve listened to our peers bemoan their difficulties in keeping their practices afloat due to issues with billing, reimbursement, and seemingly endless administrative backlog. Many independent physicians have abandoned their practices for the security of hospitals. These trends and difficulties beg the question, are private practices becoming obsolete?
Far from it. In fact, the need for independent physicians, especially those in the field of primary care, has increased dramatically. With so many people newly insured since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, there are currently not enough physicians to meet their healthcare demands, and this trend will continue for the next few years. Are there more hurdles to clear and traps to avoid than there were in the past? Yes. Is independent practice still a viable, relevant business model? Absolutely. Remember—you are needed.
The importance of market research
Let’s assume you’re on the cusp of opening your very own practice. You’ve got all of your licensing needs squared away. You’re about to close on the perfect practice space. You have a pretty good idea of what it will cost to run it. To speak any more about the importance of technology (implementing the right billing software, using EHR/EMRs, etc…) would be beating a dead horse. Both hardware and various software are available at a much lower price now than in the past, so let’s assume you’ve planned accordingly.
So, now what?
In a previous post we touched upon the benefits of offering ancillary medical services. The one caveat was having a solid understanding of the demographics your practice serves before choosing these other services. Likewise, before cutting the proverbial red ribbon on your new office, make sure you know the political, economic and business environment where you will be practicing. What is the total population of this area? Of this number, about how many are middle-aged, or seniors? Why do these numbers matter? Because you can be sure that yours isn’t the only practice in town, and you need to know that there are enough potential patients to keep yours afloat, whatever its size may be.
When you begin taking patients, ask them for feedback. After a dozen interviews, evidence will begin to emerge that points to what makes you stand out as a physician and practice from your competitors. This will form the broad strokes of your brand image. The image of who you are and what you do will evolve over time. This is where you can make sure that that image reflects what you want it to.
Becoming a “brand name”
Even if you’ve chosen to practice in an underserved area, you must still make a concerted effort to get your name out there. This means developing your brand. For about the first year in business, you will be spending a lot of time on the clock ensuring your practice’s success, so learn to embrace this as part of the process. First, you will need a digital presence. Spinning a social media web can take a while, but it doesn’t cost anything, and it isn’t terribly difficult.
Neither is building your practice’s website. You can expand on this in the future, but in the beginning, a concise, visual, and easy to navigate 4-5 page site is suitable for communicating your message and brand to your new audience. Word of mouth is still a viable way to expand your patient base, but in the 21st century, you will need proof to back up a “sparkling review”. With a Facebook page, Twitter handle, LinkedIn presence, and a website, you can also direct visitors to your mailing list. Setting this service up via a provider like Constant Contact is easy, and cost effective.
You need to give your digital footprint enough time to solidify, and grow. This means getting started well before you sign the deed to your new office space. The prospect of relentless self-promotion before and during your launch may seem daunting, and even shameless, but it doesn’t have to be. Contact local newspapers and other publications in the area about taking out ads, and make sure they are visual. A well-timed open house prior is an effective way to foster momentum prior to your launch. Remember, a first impression can’t really be made if it’s not in person.
Today we’ve covered some ways to not only get your name on the map, but to really define it in the time leading up to the launch of your new practice. In a future post, we will talk more about flexible, alternative business practices for independent physicians. Remember, there are many pathways to “getting there”. Every new business venture comes with a set of risks. Taking risks and coming out on top means embracing new paradigms, and adopting both a business and tech-savvy mindset.
| HCRC Staffing | Brian@hcrcstaffing.com | www.hcrcstaffing.com
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