Are you spending enough time thinking of your podiatric practice as a business? In the midst of taking care of patients and keeping your practice running smoothly, you also have to carve out time to think through the business needs of your organization.
We’ve talked a bit before about the way that specialists have relied on patient referrals for years, and many still do. Like any small business, 80% of your referrals are more than likely coming from 20% of your referral base.
The medical landscape has changed and will continue to change drastically. You can no longer assume that you will continue to get referrals in the same way.
- Because medical groups and hospitals are buying out a lot of your referral base.
- Because patients are empowered in a way they’ve never been before.
Let’s look at each reason in a little more depth.
Medical Groups / Hospitals Are Buying Referrals
Hospitals aren’t going to family doctors and buying their referrals directly. Instead, they’re buying the entire practice. Part of the rules of participating with the new management is that doctors are required to refer within their network.
More and more, podiatrists are shifting from solo practices to group practices, even when they don’t join hospital groups. In the most recent annual survey by Podiatry Management, the amount of podiatrists in solo practices dropped by nearly 50% from the previous year, while there was an increase in group practices and partnerships. This changing dynamic could also affect how your practice receives referrals.
Patients Are Empowered
In the past, patients largely relied on their doctors’ opinions of whom to see when a podiatrist was required. The knowledgeable recommendation, plus some restrictions from insurance companies, made the referral system the go-to method.
Information is much more widely available today than it was just a few years ago. According to the Podiatry Management survey, 72% of podiatrists have a website and 43% use online advertising methods like paid search and display ads. With a slew of doctor-review websites and strong web presences by competing podiatrists, patients have more choices than ever before.
Businesses Invest to Produce Revenue Streams
You need to have an online presence that attracts the patients, pathologies, and procedures that you want. You need patients to search for you in Google, in the phone book (if they still use it), or in whatever review website or directory they may choose.
And, you need to be there.
Yes, it requires an investment. Getting business requires expense – solid, well-planned expenses – but expenses nonetheless. On average, podiatrists spent $5,413 on marketing and advertising last year, a 15% increase from the previous year. Websites were the most-used marketing tactic, followed by internet advertising, the Yellow Pages print service, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
If you want local patients to find you, you need to be using these services too, or those patients may end up making an appointment with one of your competitors.
Your Online Investment
Let’s break this down into a real plan. We’ve said that you need to be online, but what does that actually look like?
Because so many podiatrists already have a website, simply having a website isn’t going to cut it anymore. You need to make sure that your website stands out.
You need a website that is easily “read” (“indexable” in search engine terms) by Google and its competitors. Without delving into geek speak, you want to make sure that your website is designed and coded utilizing the latest standards.
Your patients need to be able to read your site easily on whatever computer or mobile device they choose. Too many people are on mobile to ignore it anymore.
Your website content needs to convey your experience and expertise in the procedures you perform and the conditions you treat. Custom content explaining each of your procedures and conditions can be very helpful, particularly when coupled with high-quality images, videos, and animations. You might even want to start a blog with helpful tips on foot care. If you are active on social media, you can share your blog content with your followers.
You need to update and claim your local listings online so that you are found in search engines and dedicated directories. When patients are ready to make an appointment, they need to know where to find you. As more and more patients rely on the GPS devices in their mobile phones, you need to make sure that you are directing them to the right place.
Once you have all of the above items in your marketing plan, you can start to evaluate. You need monthly reporting to know how your investment is working. You should be able to see returns on your efforts in the form of unique visitors and pageviews. (And, ultimately, patients in your office.)
In some cases, your efforts may be enough for your market. If you’re in a heavily-populated area, then you’re going to have more competition. The point is, you won’t know until you begin to measure. Figure out where you are at, and adjust accordingly. What are your competitors doing? Is it something that you could do better?
Treat your practice like a business and find the ways you can stand out from your competitors. Like any other business, you might not win over every single patient in your area, but you’ll get more of the right patients.
To market your podiatric practice effectively, you need to stay up to date on all of the latest trends. See how other podiatric practices are marketing themselves in our overview, Podiatry Marketing Trends in 2016.