No matter where a doctor is in their career, having and understanding and ability to attract patients to your practice is important. Overall and in my personal practice, I still believe that colleague referrals form the cornerstone for doctors to attract and bring patients to their practice. However, in today’s connected world, it is a mistake to ignore other methods – digital and otherwise – of helping patients find your expertise.
Attracting new patients can be both demanding and expensive
Physicians and clinics spend hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars each month buying adverts on Google and Facebook. They commission bloggers and influencers to create content that they hope will bring receptive members of the public to their sites or practices.
The goal with all this is to convert an audience into a consult and into a patient. But there must be a better way?
To help me look into this, I asked the folks at BeautyTune for input given their expertise in solving just this issue for doctors.
How have practices been attracting patients?
Success habitually depends on a practice’s ability to maintain an effective marketing strategy. This includes both those methods viewed as “traditional” and those that are more new-age.
Effective marketing is about generating patient awareness.
Traditionally, this was done in print. Things like signs on billboards, benches, buses and other such structures or vehicles. And then there are television and radio commercials. This is possible for practices that are able to foot the advertising bill.
The intent here is of becoming embedded in the consumers’ consciousness. By doing this, they rely on their product being the first that comes to mind when said product becomes necessary.
Word of mouth
For others, word of mouth and referrals from existing patients plays a key role in their marketing strategy.
This approach relies on previous patients discussing the care/procedures that they’ve had done. It also depends on having a significant enough patient-base to begin.
This strategy sometimes lacks the consistency necessary to ensure that a business not only survives but thrives in the marketplace. Especially for newer practices.
Almost by way of an extension of the existing print media, practices have had to establish an online presence of their own.
Digital marketing in the form of websites and web ads continue to be a key way in which practices get the attention of potential patients. Meanwhile, social media platforms tie in with this strategy by providing yet another means by which doctors can claim a share of the market.
What is changing as doctors try to attract patients?
In a landscape as changeable and fast-paced as digital marketing, there is the potential to spend indiscriminately with no result guaranteed. And, in some circumstances, there are no returns.
Marketing consultants would attest that it is often necessary to budget for testing in order to determine what works. However, in conditions that are in constant flux, practice owners and managers are left asking themselves how to keep up with it all. It can feel like a vicious cycle of uncertainty. We end up desperately searching for effective marketing tools and strategies at a cost that continue to rise.
For some, the challenge of direct involvement in the creation of content for social media platforms and other online channels may be a welcome diversion. It is an opportunity to fully engage with patients, to depict the more human side of the business and to build that all-important rapport with the target audience.
However, for many, it is grueling work. Time must be spent researching and writing the necessary pages and keeping up with the constant need for new content. It can be mentally draining. It also takes valuable time from the profession that they love and underwent years of training to be able to perform.
Is there an answer?
The aforesaid challenges are not going to disappear any time soon.
However, BeautyTune is creating a new model to serve as a solution. Their model can give practices, largely in the elective medicine realm, a boost by attracting new patients at no upfront cost at all.
BeautyTune channels pre-qualified patients directly to registered providers. This removes the potential for time being wasted on unproductive enquiries.
How does it work?
The concept is simple.
Patients that sign up to the site fill out treatment-specific questionnaires based on their desired treatment.
They specify the location that they are looking to have the treatment delivered in and confirm the language with which they would like to communicate with their service provider.
These requests are forwarded to relevant practices. The clinics can then respond to the patients with a detailed price quote and, should there be any further questions to answer, can contact the patients via an encrypted messaging function.
Benefits for patients
This accomplishes a few important things. This model:
- Facilitates a means by which patients can receive individually-tailored treatment quotes with minimal effort and without foregoing their anonymity
- Ensures that patients are supported in their journey both by personnel and a marketplace guarantee
BeautyTune can therefore boost patients’ confidence, making it easier for them to make decisions with compatible treatments and providers.
The promise of price transparency prior to the initial consultation, as is seen with other online marketplaces, has the effect of building trust and assisting in managing expectations.
Benefits for providers
If one considers the impact that sites creating transparency for customers have had on other industries, it becomes clear that those industries – the property industry or the insurance industry for example – have been made stronger by their influence.
Furthermore, the transparent rules protecting both buyers and sellers on marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, or eBay are certainly part of the basis of their appeal.
In other instances, analogous marketplaces marry convenience with creativity, as seen with Etsy. Herein they offer buyers something customized.
The BeautyTune marketplace is an amalgam of these aspects offering patients convenience, customizable treatments and access to all price levels. In so doing, the site assures clinics of a broader range of patients.
Potential concerns of this model for doctors to attract patients
One concern however, would be that this model would only work for those who price their treatments at the lower end of the spectrum. Whereas the more prestigious of clinics would find themselves having to compete with them on price.
However, this has not shown to be the case with analogous marketplaces. For example, the most expensive item sold on eBay was a $168 million yacht. While online marketplaces are known for being sites where buyers can find a good bargain, they are primarily known for being sites of convenience. They are one-stop-shops for all things related to the sought after product or service.
Where would a marketplace like this work?
The sale of luxury items is not limited to the areas with the highest GDP per capita.
In fact, by failing to target those who one assumes wouldn’t be able to afford the services on offer, one must ask whether they are actually missing out on a piece of the market.
Wealth is, after all, not always obvious (Yes!) and there are often other factors that drive a patient’s desire and ability to go forward with a treatment. BeautyTune allows practitioners a global reach. This transcends the issue of access without jeopardizing share of the local market.
As such, currently elective providers from the US, Canada, the UK and several other countries are free to join this online platform and start to reap the benefits of a new model tool.
Should doctors attract patients to their clinic?
This is the last question that I will address. I worry that some physicians feel that working to attract patients to their clinic is taboo or dirty. Much in the same way that there is a taboo that money doesn’t matter as a physician…
I argue that it is not.
As doctors, we each carry unique knowledge and skills to help patients. If a patient is in need of those services, but unaware of our ability to help, I believe that is us doing a disservice to them.
In that way, developing new ways for us as doctors to attract patients is imperative. Especially given concern over scope creep between specialties and healthcare providers.
BeautyTune provides a unique approach to this ongoing challenge with a new and exciting model that I plan to explore.
For more practice management resources, check out these posts!
- 7 Ways for Doctors to Create Passive Income in Their Practice
- 7 Do’s and Don’ts of Building A Successful Practice
- 5 Tips to Build Your Perfect Practice for Employed Physicians
- 9 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Starting a Private Practice
What do you think? How do you attract patients to your clinic? Have your methods evolved? Does your practice have an online presence? Let us know in the comments below!