Traditional marketing methods like billboards and print ads may have been helpful for GI practices in the past, but as the healthcare market changes, GI practices also need to switch up their marketing efforts to continue to reach patients.
Patients now have more options in healthcare than ever before, and many of them are researching their options before deciding to make an appointment. They aren’t simply going with the first practice they see–they are trying to find the practice that is the best fit for their needs. If you want to stand out to those patients, you have to show them what your GI practice has to offer.
It’s also important to consider the fact that reimbursements for some GI procedures have decreased. This means that your practice will likely need to bring in a higher volume of patients to avoid a decrease in income. The market for GI practices online still isn’t very highly-developed; making the investment now could really help your practice stand out against competing practices.
If you want to continue to get the patients you need for your GI practice, focus on these elements in your marketing strategy.
1. Define your desired position in the market.
Before you start to implement specific marketing strategies, you need to define the end goal of your marketing efforts. Yes, you want to reach patients who need a gastroenterologist, but do you have more specific goals beyond that? Do you want your practice to be known for specific procedures or services? Is there a particular type of patient you want to attract? The answers to these questions will inform your marketing strategy moving forward, so it’s important to define those goals before you get started.
2. Start with your website.
First of all, if your GI practice doesn’t have a website, you need to get one. Patients are going online to search for doctors more than they ever have in the past. Even if the majority of your patients are older, you might be surprised at how many of them are conducting online searches to find a doctor. What’s more, according to a Pew Research Center study, half of health-related online searches are on behalf of someone else. So, even if your target patient group isn’t searching for themselves, there is a good chance that a child or grandchild is searching on their behalf.
Even if you do have a website for your GI practice, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re all set. It’s not enough to simply have a website–your website needs to be modern, well-designed, and informative. Your website shouldn’t look dated, and patients should be able to easily navigate your site no matter what type of device they are using. You should include important information like your location, hours, insurances accepted, etc., but your website also needs to convey expertise to your patients. GI procedures, particularly colonoscopies and other screenings for colorectal cancer, can be quite scary for patients. If you put content on your website that explains common GI procedures, it can go a long way in easing your patients’ concerns.
3. Have a presence on social media.
Social media is a great way to connect with potential patients and keep them educated. As a trusted source of information, you can help to dispel myths about diseases like colorectal cancer and help patients find the information you need. The interactive nature of social media allows patients to interact with your posts and share the information with others. The key is to share information from a variety of sources–not just your own content–and actually be responsive to posts. Even if you don’t initially reach people who are actually seeking your services, as you continue to build up a following, it may lead to more referrals.
You can also run ads on Facebook to target local patients. You can target your ads based on location, age, demographics, and interests to reach the right patients right in their newsfeeds.
4. Encourage patient reviews.
When patients are searching for a GI doctor online, they aren’t just looking at websites for the individual practices in the area. They are also looking at review sites. While your website can certainly help convince patients of your expertise, positive reviews from other patients can really go a long way in reassuring patients. It’s one thing for a GI practice to say that they are great at what they do, but it’s quite another to have actual patients echo that sentiment. A collection of positive reviews could be the deciding factor for a patient who is considering your practice.
The first step is to claim all of your listings on all of the major review sites, including Yelp, RateMDs, Healthgrades, Doctor.com, Vitals, ZocDoc, and many others. Regularly monitor your reviews and respond to new reviews–especially negative ones. If you respond to negative reviews in a professional manner and really make an effort to resolve the issue, it can be just as valuable in the eyes of potential patients as a positive review. You can also encourage your patients to leave reviews by handing out response cards or sending out emails after appointments letting patients know where they can go to voice their opinions on the care they received.
5. Work on outreach to potential patients.
Social media is certainly an easy, cost-effective way to reach out to patients, but it isn’t the only way you can reach out. Your practice could hold events and seminars to educate patients. You could produce a newsletter, either via email, direct mail, or both, to let patients know about upcoming events and share educational articles. You can also maintain a blog to share helpful information with patients on how to stay healthy and dispel myths about procedures like colonoscopies. By spreading your outreach efforts over a few different channels, you can give patients more opportunities to find out about your practice, and you can get insights into how you can best reach the patients who really need your help.
You can (and should) adjust your marketing strategy as you go to make sure you are continuing to reach the right patients for your GI practice, but these tips will help you to create a good foundation for marketing your GI practice in a changing healthcare marketplace.