Author Archives: StephenCrane
What are the top issues in a medical practice that are NOT do-it-yourself?
A key area where many go it alone – and do it themselves – is practice marketing and social media. Marketing (which to many means ‘a website’) regularly falls on the practice manager’s shoulders, and oftentimes the practice manager gets it wrong.
Why is marketing so important? It’s important because – as we hurtle toward the implementation of ACA – patients will have more (not less) choice in the decision-making process of finding their preferred physicians. This means they will want and need more relevant information to make those decisions. A practice website, its social media presence and patient reviews will make or break the decision for many new patients, and many practices are still not online and do not actively manage their reviews. Some 90% of all medical practitioners use social media (personally and professionally), and the AMA reported that 71% of state medical associations have already had disciplinary proceedings against physicians for violating their codes of conduct. It’s a potential powder keg (see my blog post here: http://cranecreek.com/wordpress/ama-advises-doctors-to-be-responsible-in-their-communications-and-regularly-track-their-online-presence/).
Although most physicians rely on referrals for bringing on new patients, the AMA reported that only 15% of new patients came from direct specialist referrals (see appended infographic). That means 85% of patients are finding their doctor another way. What has become commonplace for patients is to use search engines (Google) and review websites to find a practitioner. More than 55% of new patients found their doctor this way; but only 20% of doctors have websites (also according to the AMA) – and more than 65% of them were rated sub-standard for consumers.
A vast majority of medical websites are botch jobs that were done by website designers who know little about what medical practices need to achieve from websites and marketing (mainly because most medical practices don’t know what they need to achieve). This is both unprofessional and alarming, and shows a lack of understanding of the market, patients and the internet savvy medical consumer. In many cases, it is insulting to patients who want to have a greater say in their medical care.
2. Why is the “do-it-yourself” philosophy becoming so popular?
DIY has always been a popular option for professional practices – doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. – especially when it comes to areas of the practice where the practitioner has a ‘bit of knowledge’. Many say that ‘a little knowledge can be dangerous’, and in many DIY instances, it’s true! DIY is best left for gardening and car repairs (if you are an enthusiast), although I wouldn’t recommend changing brake drums and pads unless you are very confident in your ability.
Although many professionals bring in large incomes, the last thing they want to do is spend that income on what may be considered extraneous and superfluous expenses. This includes outreach to patients, marketing, business development (“what is that?” they might ask), and many other practice related areas including websites, social media and networking.
Over the last few years – as we hurtle toward the implementation of ACA – we have witnessed medical websites and marketing become Practice Manager domain at a lot of practices. Marketing, websites and branding are areas where there has been a tradition of DIY. Unfortunately, whether for cost cutting, creative or simply control reasons, it is a domain where oftentimes the practice manager has been the DIYer and they should not “do it themselves”.
A key problem with physician and practice websites is that they have been treated like “wind-up toys”: set up and then left alone to run without any thought of how to integrate with the brand and the practice. Going forward, marketing, web and social media for medical practices need to be a balance of patient and practice. Without a significant level of understanding, knowledge and experience in marketing, many of these practice managers are getting it wrong. It’s like us at Crane Creek, even with our knowledge of medical marketing, trying to run a medical practice. It simply does not work and is not an appropriate DIY experience!
Why do practice managers think they can do all the marketing and website promotions for their practices as well as run the practice itself? Your guess is as good as ours, and the DIYers will be left behind in the coming months as choice of practice becomes more commonplace under the ACA.
We work closely with both physicians and group practices to help build their referral networks and patient pipelines via both on and offline marketing and PR opportunities.
Through a practical and strategic approach to marketing and community building, we position our clients as experts in their field and also within their own hyper-local markets.
This means communicating proactively not only with existing patients to maintain good practice-patient relationships, but also for generating word-of-mouth referrals. We also produce strategic and tactical marketing programs for other local and regional physicians, hospitals and practices to generate specialist referrals. We manage our client’s personal and professional reputations (normally online); which, despite the notion that “web ratings are *not* the key in choosing a doctor”, matter when it comes to choosing a physician.
By helping create patient-facing communications strategies, we position our medical clients as experts in their field and within their own hyper-local markets. This means communicating proactively with existing patients – not only to maintain good practice-patient relationships, but also for generating word-of-mouth referrals. We produce strategic and tactical marketing programs to develop stronger relationships with local and regional communities, physicians, hospitals and practices, generating specialist referrals, while also managing our client’s personal and professional reputations (online) – which matters when it comes to choosing a physician.
Here are 5 quick ways how to improve patient portals:
1) Describe some of the key benefits of having a patient portal for both the practice and the patients? Key benefits include being able to book an appointment online, inquire about tests and lab results, ask for follow-up appointments or ask questions the patient ‘forgot to ask’ at the doctor’s office.
2) What should a patient portal contain and how should a practice utilize a patient portal? It should always contain a look and feel like the practice itself – it’s an opportunity to create a ‘virtual bedside manner – and they should always have an email inquiry/messaging function to book appointments and links to all social media pages.
3) What can medical practitioners do to design a more user-friendly patient portal? Insure that patient needs are always at the front of user interface design and function; never use too much jargon and be careful never to post links to other medical posts/journal articles without ‘translating’ them for your specific patient audience.
4) Where do most patient portals fall short? What do most lack? Most lack an appointment setting capability, a direct email to the physician and any type of ‘good feeling’ about the practice. They fall short of being the informative and helpful sites that patients – particularly those from the practice itself – want to use to understand their condition better.
5) How can practices make better use of patient portals? What improvements would you suggest? There are many ways a portal can be made ‘better’ – for both patient and practice:
Going forward, there needs to be a better balance of “patient versus practice” on medical practice portals. Some things we are beginning to see now, but will be a necessity by the end of 2013/early 2014:
EHR integration including online records access, appointment scheduling and prescription refills
health education via website and integrated social channels
customer support beyond a phone number in the billing department
projection of the “personality” of practice (read: integrates with marketing and branding)
de-jargonization – but not dumbing down the medicine
an extension of the “bedside manner” via community involvement and development
(One could hope for price transparency … )
Social media will be important too — not a panacea but becoming an integral part of all practice marketing and virtual bedside manner
We were discussing this in the office on Friday. And we came to the consensus that it is more important than ever.
It all boils down to this simple point: are you going to get the patients you want or just the ones that you get in a post-ACA world.
Despite the ACA, the medical field still needs to focus on marketing and practice development. Maybe even more than ever before.
The fact that there is going to be a ‘flood’ of new patients is going to change the competitive landscape, but MDs will still need to market practices as if there was no influx.
If the net result is to be chosen by a patient as a “practitioner of choice”, then positioning, branding, consistency of the message and the ‘virtual bedside’ manner will all make or break each and every practice’s ability to grow faster than others.
Marketing and communications, via branding, consistent messaging and positioning will separate the mediocre, “able to get by” practices from the high growth ones, and will highlight the practices that patients will choose to want to use.
Bottom line: Marketing is the only way practices will be able to overtly themselves differentiate from other practices and to indoctrinate the patient populations that they want and need.
What is your take on this?
Crane Creek was quoted in an article in today’s AMA News (http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2013/03/04/bica0304.htm).
Our favorite quote that we gave them: “… a key problem with physician practice sites is that they have been treated like “wind-up toys” that have been set up and then left alone to run. Going forward, there needs to be a balance of patient and practice.”
Here is the article embedded:
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