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Practice Marketing

 

Contacting Employers

If you want to increase access to potential patients, try contacting the people who employthem and pay for their health insurance. By contacting local employers your practice willgain visibility and develop opportunities for potential patients to familiarize themselveswith your practice. Deciding which companies are worth contacting may require a littleresearch. Determine which types of health insurance local companies are offering toemployees and confirm that you are contracted with these plans. Have one of your staffmembers contact employers to explain the services you provide, and leave brochures and literature behind for posting on bulletin boards and distribution to employees by otherappropriate means. It may also be helpful to meet with the company’s human resourcesmanager and other staff that are responsible for the health and safety of employees.These individuals are often tasked with referring patients who become ill or are injuredon the job.

You may also consider meeting with the management of a company to fully understandtheir needs and convey your commitment to keeping their employees healthy and on thejob. During this meeting it is also helpful to explain that while your main concern isserving the firm’s employees, your practice does not over-utilize services and iscommitted to practicing cost-effective, quality medicine. To interact directly withemployees, you might consider offering periodic on-site events such as blood pressure orcholesterol screenings, or seminars on various health-related topics. If your office is theclosest health care facility to an employer, you may also want to volunteer your servicesin emergency situations to show your commitment to the health of the community. Asappropriate, encourage the employer to refer patients to you for employment and ongoingphysical examinations, treatment of work-related injuries, and rehabilitation services.

Marketing to Health Care Providers

The key to maintaining collegial relationships is to constantly be in contact and showyour appreciation for every referral within the confines of the law. To build newrelationships make a list of people to call or visit in person. Commit yourself to ameasurable goal, such as one contact each day, to increase your visibility to professionalswho can refer patients to you.

Ask your staff to keep a referral log with a section for each referring physician and listthe patients that the doctor refers. Review the log every few months to determine if itshows an increase or decrease from a group or individual physician. If it appears that aphysician is not sending you as many referrals as in the past, contact them to see if thereis anything you can do, within the confines of the law, to encourage additional referrals.Your referring colleagues often attend the same meetings that you do, so review yourreferral log ahead of time so you can thank them for a referral or remind them of the goodservice that you provide. A satisfied patient is your best advertising with otherphysicians. Patients who have been treated well usually tell their referring physicians anda good referring physician will usually ask.

If you are a specialist and depend heavily on referrals from colleagues, target specificprimary care physicians from whom you would like to receive patients and build anorganized campaign to get their support. Call these colleagues to explain your specialty,credentials, experience, hospital affiliations, and the services offered by your practice.Follow-up with them every few months and thank them for any patients they send to you.When you receive a referral, keep the referring doctor informed of the patient’s progressby sending reports and/or information on the treatment that you provided as soon as possible. If your collegial referral system is crucial to your practice, plan to talk withphysicians when you are on rounds, in the hospital lounge or cafeteria, during social orrecreational events, as well as regular hospital and medical society meetings.

Another important area to concentrate on is maintaining a good rapport with the nurses,physical therapists, social workers, nutritionists, and clergy who treat or regularly visitpatients in the hospital. Pharmacists in your community are another potential source ofreferrals that should not be ignored. If you distribute a patient newsletter, be sure to senda copy to these health care providers as well. Remind these people of your name andspecialty, and the name(s) of recent referrals that they sent to you.

Remember that anything you do to enhance your medical reputation in the eyes of yourpeers, including teaching, speaking, or publishing, is likely to help your referrals.Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper when a health issue is inthe headlines. Then let your colleagues know what you have done through yournewsletter with a special letter citing recent educational programs that you have attendedand how that education might serve their patients. Send copies of appropriate articlesthat you have written, including copies of letters that you have written to editors, with theintent of informing your colleagues and not boasting about your success.

If your practice is highly dependent on referrals, keep some time slots open on yourappointment book for them just as you would for urgent visits. It is also important thatyou don’t steal patients, so when your treatment of a patient is complete, they should bereturned to their PCP at a clinically appropriate time for subsequent care. Try to avoidassuming responsibility for any treatment that is not related to the immediate problemthat the patient was referred to you for without first consulting with the referringphysician. If you want to encourage referrals from other physicians, find out if they haveinternal policies for patient referrals and do everything you can to work within thatframework. If you must see a patient that was referred to you for multiple visits, providethe referring physician with information about the diagnosis and treatment plan whenappropriate. Finally, be sure to inform a PCP before referring a patient to anotherspecialist, as some health insurance plans may require another referral.

Provide colleagues with a self-addressed, postage-paid form so they can easily tell youthe reason for the referral, prior treatment, insurance coverage, etc. If there are newphysicians entering your community, welcome them to the area and let them know whatservices you offer by sending them a copy of your patient brochure or any otherinformation you typically send to referring physicians. Offer to conduct a staff meetingwith the office staff of referring physicians to tell them about your specialty, whatpatients can expect in your office, financial policies and any other information that mightsimplify the referral process for their office staff. A business lunch arranged for thereceptionists in both of your practices is another way to improve referral relationshipsand improve business for both practices.