This is Patient Safety Week. Patient safety may bring to mind infections acquired in hospitals, but we know strides are being made to make hospitals, health centers and other patient care facilities much safer for patients.
But what are medical practices doing?
According a recent article in JAMA, primary care practices need to work harder at patient safety, but for reasons that might surprise you. The article cites communication and process issues as key to creating potentially unsafe situations for patients.
Greg Fawcett has been a key partner for our clients and readers by providing us with a marketer’s perspective on how to get your practice’s message to your current and potential patients. In this blog post, originally published on the Precision Marketing Partners Blog, Greg discusses the building blocks to a successful marketing strategy.
Medical practice marketing is now a fairly common concept for many physicians and clinics. It wasn’t always that way, however, and Evanston Hospital in Illinois was one of the first healthcare institutions to create an official marketing position within the company. Now, it’s widely accepted that without a comprehensive healthcare marketing strategy, your practice is unlikely to be as successful in new patient acquisition as it might. If you recognize you need marketing but simply don’t know where to start, here are some essential steps to healthcare marketing that will put you on the right track.
Step 1: Identify Your Patient (more…)
Greg Fawcett has been a key partner for our clients and readers by providing us with a marketer’s perspective on how to get your practice’s message to your current and potential patients. In this blog post, originally published on the Precision Marketing Partners Blog, Greg talks about the steps you can take to attract patients to a new medical practice.
Starting a new practice, particularly in an area where a number of medical professionals already operate, presents the challenge of patient acquisition. Here are some basic methods of medical practice marketing that can get your name out in the neighborhood and draw patients in.
- Create branded brochures listing your areas of specialty and the services you offer. Get the brochures professionally designed and printed on quality paper stock. Include your contact details, the name and URL of your website and blog, and invite them to follow you on social media.
- Connect with local pharmacies and non-competing medical practices such as physical therapy clinics, dental practices and home health equipment stores and ask them to display your brochures on their reception counter. Also visit libraries, community centers and your local YMCA to offer your marketing materials for distribution to their clients. (more…)
Mary Pat’s Note: I want to share these thoughts about technology and the doctor-patient relationship from Dr. Howard Luks. Dr. Luks is a member of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, a fantastic follow on twitter, and originally posted these on his site, which is a recommended read for anyone interested in healthcare.
Technology conjures images of steel and gadgets. Parts and pieces. Bells and whistles. Its sophisticated. Intriguing. High tech. But it’s well… cold and impersonal. Or is it? Many of us have witnessed firsthand the things that distance patients from doctors. Status.Knowledge. Jargon. Peculiar equipment. Rushed visits. Should we add technology to the mix?
With more changes coming to healthcare in 2013 and 2014, should practices be looking at traditional marketing, social media marketing, or do they even have to market at all? I asked healthcare marketer Greg Fawcett from Precision Marketing Partners to talk to me about the future of marketing for the medical practice.
Mary Pat: There is currently a physician shortage that is expected to become more severe in the coming years. If each physician is expected to have more patients than s/he can handle, why is marketing a medical practice important in the current/future environment?
Greg: Natural attrition contributes to the loss of clients in all types of businesses, and medical practices are no exception. No matter how many patients you have or how loyal they are, death, relocation or a switch to managed care programs that you don’t belong to are bound to reduce your client list over time. Unless you’re vigilant and market consistently to replace those patients you lose, you’ll wake up one day to the realization that business isn’t what it used to be!
Here are a few of the reasons why you need to do medical practice marketing:
- Establish your practices reputation as specialists in a particular field of medicine
- Attract new patients to build your practice
- Increase awareness of your practice and create a dominant presence in your specific community
- Improve your efficiencies and maximize the return on your financial investment
What’s your website doing for your practice?
If your website is providing information to future and current patients, that’s a good thing.
More importantly, though, your website should be
- Driving new patients to the practice.
- Driving established patients to return to the practice.
- Keeping patients attached to you as their provider.
Your website should be providing B2C (business to consumer) marketing for you. How does a website accomplish these things? In a web search, being the first or one of the first unpaid results that appears in the search is the way to ensure searchers find your practice. The way to get to page one, even number one on page one, is through SEO.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
Search Engine Optimization is the way you market your practice on the internet so that you show up in internet searches as high on page one of a search as possible. Wikipedia defines SEO as
the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural,” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”), search results.
Call it an Advisory Board, a Focus Group, a Patient Board or Patient Council. Whatever you choose to call the group of patients you meet with regularly, you need to have a group of patients you meet with regularly.
Why start an Advisory Board?
As healthcare embraces technology to improve patient outcomes, streamline operations, and lower costs, the technologies with the most impact are the ones that Make Things Simpler.
One of the most basic ways to simplify a complex process to is remove friction
The electronic medical record removes the friction of paper records finding, handling, storing, and securing them – all the things that can get between the critical information on the page and the physician who needs it. A smartphone removes the friction of needing to be near a desktop to read and send email, get contact information, and securely access practice and hospital documents and patient data. This technology provides value by simplifying a process to its core so that time, effort and resources are not wasted on mishaps, transportation, and basic human inertia.
Now, think about your practice’s web content: the basic information and elevator pitch about your services that you want to communicate to existing and future patients. Your content is the reason you have a website in the first place and you should always be looking for ways to get eyeballs in front of it. Email lists, Facebook and Twitter, direct mail and practice brochures are all designed to connect people with your content to drive business to your practice. If someone sees a link to your content while they’re at their computer, then the only friction you’ll encounter is getting them to click to go to your page.
But what about all the mobile time your potential customers spend?
If they see an advertisement – TV, billboard, print that has the URL (web address) you want to send them to, they will have to bypass a lot of potential friction before they see your content. They have to:
- Commit to going to the website later
- Remember the URL, and why they wanted to go to in the first place
- Follow through with this commitment and remember how and why they wanted to go to the page
- Type the URL into a browser
With social media and email campaigns that are usually accessed through internet enabled PCs or mobile devices, a simple link enables you to bypass all of this potential friction because theres a fairly good chance that your customer will either click the link immediately, or possibly bookmark it to check it out later (enabling a much easier recall). But with print, public, and televised advertising campaigns the odds are the customer doesn’t have either:
- An internet enabled device on them at the moment, or
- The time or inclination to check out the website immediately- and if they did, they would encounter more friction typing the address into their mobile.
So how can you overcome this friction, and get the benefits of the simplicity of a link in a real world marketing situation? One way is with Quick Response (QR) codes.
A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode that can be quickly and easily read by a fairly simple piece of software to communicate a piece of information: text, or a phone number or other contact information, or a web address to direct a phone’s web browser. Most of the QR Codes themselves are a small jumble of black and white pixelated dots that sort of resemble a digital bacteria or some sort of computer life form. But in many ways, Quick Response (or QR) codes are like hyperlinks that exist in our physical lives. By installing a small program on your phone, and then taking a picture of the code with your phone, you can immediately access the information embedded within.
- See a newspaper ad about a sale at one of your favorite stores, and scan the QR code to get a link to a coupon for an additional discount, or to register to be told about other upcoming sales.
- See a TV commercial about a new restaurant, where scanning the code on TV leads your phone to a website to make reservations for dinner, or receive a special two-for-one deal.
- See a poster at a health fair booth and scan the QR code to get an instant calculator app that gives you easy exercise options for someone your age with your level of physical fitness.
By removing the friction of telling someone about web content without giving them the ability to access it automatically, QR Codes lubricate the entire person education process. A QR Code on a brochure can facilitate initial contact with the patient by sending them to a website to get more information, or book an appointment, whereas a phone number to call with more info, or even just the practice’s web address means a patient is left to go the rest of the way on their own. On top of that, a QR code is a simple and effective way to improve your image as an organization on both a technical and user friendly front, and QR codes are flexible enough to handle a lot of different applications in your practice:
- Flyers about annual checkup services: (blood pressure, weight management, mammograms) that your patients see as they leave (often when most motivated to seek additional services) can include links to more information (general info sites, government warnings, approved resource sites, treatment communities) or redirect to content on your site or blog.
- Advertisements for surgical procedures and contain codes to access before and after pictures and patient testimonials, or to a landing page to submit requests for more information.
By streamlining the process of fulfilling a patient’s request to tell me more, QR Codes give practices an easy (and did I mention free) way to build relationships, influence patient health choices and outcomes, direct patients to the content you choose for them, and even send the message that your practice is on the leading edge of technology.
Five steps to start using QR codes in your practice right away
- Decide how QR Codes fit into your overall marketing and education effort. Which real-world situations do you want to link to web content?
- Setting up a QR plan doesn’t have to involve a big up-front expense. Use free programs like Kaywa (http://qrcode.kaywa.com/) to generate codes for your campaigns, and free readers like i-nigma for iPhone (http://itunes.apple.com/us/
app/i-nigma-4-qr-datamatrix-) and QRDroid for Android (https://market.android.com/ barcode/id388923203?mt=8 details?id=la.droid.qr) to get started right away
- Think carefully about where you place the codes themselves. You want people to have access to the info, without making the code itself the center of the message. The code is the link to more, not the point of the marketing effort. And make sure people can see and frame the code easily enough that they don’t struggle to scan it. Don’t add friction now!
- Don’t assume everyone knows what the code is, or what to do with it. Give them a clear call to action, complete with instructions. “Scan this code with a QR reader to receive (learn more, find out, book now…)”
- Make sure the payoff at the other end of the code is worth the effort. Give them some real value for their scan. It could be a discount, it could be exclusive, valuable, it could be a frictionless way to make an appointment with you (win-win!), but don’t have people scan if the effort won’t be rewarded with real value.
Grand Rounds is a weekly summary of the best healthcare writing online, featuring stories, opinion and analysis from doctors, nurses, patients, researchers and administrators, as well as journalists. Each Tuesday, a different blogger takes the helm, publishing a new edition of Grand Rounds on their site. Each edition features the hosts picks for the ten best healthcare links of the week.
This week, one of my very favorite bloggers hosts Grand Rounds, Dr. Bryan Vartabedian of the famed blog 33charts.com. Dr. V. is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine. If you’ve never read Dr. V’s blog, try it – his writing is excellent.
Here’s his intro:
Welcome to this edition of Medical Grand Rounds. I scoured the web and pulled together what I think are some of the more interesting posts and news items of the past couple of weeks. Ive tried to explore some voices that perhaps havent crossed your radar. Weve got sociologists, medical students, IT gurus, medical futurists and even a couple of doctors. Some of the discussions have related posts that you might find interesting. Posts are not listed in any particular order.
Give yourself a little gift and click here to read Grand Rounds.
At Manage My Practice, we have always been fascinated by the opportunities created when innovation and technical advancements are applied to the Healthcare system. The intersection of technology and medical practice has always been one of the most exciting spaces in research and development because the challenges of the Human Body are some of the most daunting and emotionally charged of our endeavors. Curing diseases, diagnosing symptoms and improving and saving lives are among our most noble callings, so naturally they inspire some of our brightest thinkers and industry leaders.
As managers, providers and employees, we always have to be looking ahead at how the technology on our horizon will affect how our organizations administer health care. In the spirit of looking forward to the future, we present “2.0 Tuesday”, a weekly feature on Manage My Practice about how technology is impacting our practices, and our patient and group outcomes.
We hope you enjoy looking ahead with us, and share your ideas, reactions and comments below!
Steve Jobs thought iCloud had the potential to store Medical Data
Apple’s recently announced iCloud service let’s you store pictures, movies, music, and documents in Apple’s “cloud”, or Internet storage system, and retrieve them with your iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Mac computers. Dr. Iltifat Husain, writing for the IMedicalApps blog notes that in the new biography of the Apple founder, Jobs mentioned that he thought even personal medical data would one day be stored in Apple’s iCloud. Cloud storage is all the rage right now in a lot of different areas of technology, but Jobs saying that medical data would be stored on the consumer end next to vacation photos and favorite songs represents a very bold vision of the future of patient data.
Researchers using Social Media to study attitudes about Public Health
A team led by Marcel Salath, PhD at Pennsylvania State University published a study last month in PLoS Computational Biology that used “tweets” gathered from the social network Twitter to analyze how the public felt about the H1N1 influenza vaccine in 2009. Although Social Media research has limitations, Christine S. Moyer, writing for the American Medical Association’s Amednews.com notes that the results were similar to traditional phone surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, and provides some other examples of how Social Media has been used to understand public health trends.
Interesting EHR/EMR data from the Soliant Health Blog
Medical staffing specialist Soliant Health had very eye-opening list of statistics about EHR/EMR implementations on their blog last week. My personal favorite: Hospitals using EHR/EMR systems have a 3 to 4% lower mortality rate than those that dont. Very interesting numbers.
HealthWorks Collective predicts changes in healthcare communications after ACA
Healthworks Collective‘s Susan Gosselin makes some predictions about how the communications between and among providers and patients are going to be changed by the Affordable Care Act (or Healthcare Reform)- and what both groups will demand from a changing system. Great stuff!
Oregon to help disabled voters cast ballots using iPads
In today’s local and congressional elections, five counties in the state of Oregon are going to be equipping local officials with iPads preloaded with special touch-interface software to accompany people with physical or visual impairments, or who would otherwise have a hard time making it to the polls. The 9 to 5 Mac blog is reporting that the pilot program features hardware donated by Apple, and could soon spread statewide by the next election.
Be sure to check back next week for another 2.0 Tuesday!