Since Affordable Care Act enrollment began, about 17 million more Americans gained insurance coverage, according to Rand Corporation research. This figure includes more than 11 million people who signed up through the federal and state insurance exchanges, and others with new employee-sponsored health coverage.
If you’re looking to expand your practice but don’t see an influx of these new patients, don’t despair. Try taking the following five small, low-cost steps. With any luck, they’ll help you increase your patient base without expending too much effort.
Tip #1: Earn Some Positive Reviews
New avenues for patients to post online reviews of physicians emerge all the time: ZocDoc, Healthgrades, Angie’s List… even Yelp. Today’s tech-savvy consumers will likely check out your reviews before becoming your patients, so see what patients wrote about you on these sites and others.
If you notice an abundance of negativity in your reviews, pay attention. If multiple patients mention a similar issue, accept the complaint, whatever it may be, and try to improve your performance in that area.
Also talk to a few of your most trusted, long-term patients. Ask how they feel about you and your practice. If they’re happy, nudge them toward sharing their positive feelings in an online review. Then keep an eye on your online review scores. As your reviews improve, you may start getting calls from more potential new patients.
Tip #2: Establish or Enhance Your Presence on Social Media
Some doctors remain uneasy about using tools like Facebook and Twitter for business. Communicating any sensitive data through social media is, of course, not okay. But there are many useful, safe ways to use social platforms to market a practice to more potential patients.
When your current patients become “fans” of your business on Facebook, their friends see it. That can direct user traffic to your page (and, ultimately, your practice). Use an engaging page design to encourage additional people to “Like” your page.
You may also want to start a blog to provide wellness tips, announce local health events, and discuss general, positive information about yourself and your practice. Promote the blog using Twitter and use the blog to engage with organizations in your community. You may get more eyes on it than you think.
Kathryn A. Hughes, MD, reports on KevinMD.com that despite some initial hesitation as a physician, she now embraces social media. The “benefits are pretty compelling,” outweigh the pitfalls, and, surprisingly, social media provides her with a professional community.
Tip #3: Embrace New Technology
On this front, good word of mouth will always work in your favor. Young patients, especially, want to use technology to connect healthcare experience.
Online appointments services like ZocDoc or others can attract new patients to your practice. Greater convenience for patients and less administrative time booking appointments through back-and-forth phone calls for medical groups are among the benefits.
Patient portals can also give patients access to their lab results without needing to call the office or come in for a visit. The ability to email your practice can save time for your patients and your employees. And the Internet Journal of Healthcare Administration found that text message appointment reminders reduced patient no-shows by as much as 36%.
Happy patients are more likely to refer friends and family to your practice. Technology can make it easier to get patients, existing and new, in the door and boost patient satisfaction scores.
Tip #4: Engage With a New Crowd
When was the last time you, or a representative of your practice, participated in a community service project or fundraising event? Community engagement is a great way to project a charitable, positive image of your practice to others.
If you do have a slate of events on your plate, like the same cancer walk and silent auction you did last year, branch out! Swap out one 5K for a similar running event for a different cause. Sponsor a local fundraiser outside of your normal healthcare scene, like a dinner-dance benefitting an area school. Accept an invitation to a networking conference or speaking engagement that you’d otherwise normally decline.
Providing support to new communities through unexpected means will get you noticed by people you don’t know – who could ultimately become future patients.
Tip #5: Expand Your Services
Adding staff to increase the amount of services you can provide may be a wise choice for your business. Pay attention to shifting demographics in your patient population and community, make changes in line with larger shifts and promote your new offerings through strategic, targeted advertising.
For example, if you’re treating a lot of pregnant women or adults with young children, consider adding a dedicated pediatrician to your internal medicine practice. If a major employer in your town just executed a large round of layoffs, think about offering reasonable direct pay pricing options to the newly uninsured. Losing business to a mini-clinic at a nearby drugstore? Add a physician assistant to your staff to do standard exams and prescribe antibiotics.
Stay aware of what people in your community need. By meeting a demand at the right time, you can win patients and boost the success of your business.