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Adopting technology, adapting to challenge: Video Q&A with Dr. Krupa Patel, podiatrist and practice managing partner

Dr. Krupa Patel always wants Foot & Ankle Specialists of New Jersey to have the “competitive edge.” The technology she uses to attract and keep patients also helped her respond and recover during COVID-19.

Krupa Patel, DPM, FACFAS, is a managing partner at Foot & Ankle Specialists of New Jersey, a three-location practice of five podiatrists. 

Since joining PatientPop at the tail end of 2016, Foot & Ankle Specialists has generated more than 3,000 reviews, an achievement Dr. Patel refers to as “unheard of” for a practice their size. 

For a four-year period beginning in 2017, the practice has averaged 245 new patients a month — including the span of time during the COVID-19 pandemic. As with all practices, new patient acquisition slowed in those early months of COVID-19, specifically March through May. But, like many PatientPop practices, Foot & Ankle Specialists bounced back by August,  bringing in more than 300 new patients that month. 

Alyssa Graetz, senior director of content and communications, spoke with Dr. Patel to learn more about how PatientPop has helped her manage practice growth during the pandemic and beyond. Watch the video interview and see the expanded transcript below.

Why did you initially choose PatientPop?

Dr. Patel: We were using a different marketing company for our SEO/SEM program. It was very difficult to tell the return on investment based on the spend we had every month. There weren’t a lot of metrics that showed what I was getting for the amount that we were paying. 

We were looking for a program or system that was a little bit more all-encompassing, where we could not only see the metrics, but also track reviews and track our presence on social media and all of the many healthcare-related websites. PatientPop was definitely one of those all-in-one type of systems. 

Can you give me an overview of how you use PatientPop to manage the growth of your practice?

Absolutely. When I review the dashboard, the first thing I’m looking at is the review section. If there’s anything glaringly negative — and thankfully there haven’t been too many — we try to address it on an internal level and not on the actual internet. But at least getting ahead of it really helps the practice. 

I feel like everyone has a fear of this negative review, and I really think that is sort of an antiquated thought. I say that because negative reviews add some component of realness to a practice. So for me, if I saw a five-star business — any sort of business — I would be a little bit weary versus a 4.9 or 4.89. It adds some reality to the actual practice or business itself.

The second thing I’m looking at is how many patients, or what percentage of patients, are converting. Are they converting via phone?… which I think we have a 13 percent conversion rate as of today. Are they converting over the book online feature? And that’s almost two percent today, which is great. You know, the industry average is probably lower than that, I think. I will take it. 

The other thing I look at is the demographic of patients who are actually coming to our site. One of the other things I look at is my keywords. Are my keyword positions moving up?… meaning if I want “ankle sprain” in a certain town, do I want that to be a little higher? Then I can shift my budget with our SEO partners at PatientPop to just move things around a little bit if I find that it’s not working. 

So for me, the biggest thing is the metrics. athenahealth does the same thing. We’ve got lots of metrics from them. So just really pairing those two together with PatientPop, it’s super helpful to see where you can grow.

What does your workflow between PatientPop and athenahealth look like?

The real integration between athenahealth and PatientPop is where a patient actually finds us online, goes to our website, hits the “book online” button, and that appointment they make automatically enters into our athenahealth schedule. So it’s one less phone call.

It’s one less need for staff to get involved, and it’s totally patient-dependent. So if they work a night shift, and want to make an appointment on their break, they can do that in the middle of the night and get a time available for any of the providers. It is quite seamless and has not had many hiccups as far as translating patients from the book online function onto our EMR.

If you were talking to another practice, what do you feel is the top benefit of having that integration between PatientPop and your EMR?

I think the biggest thing is that seamless sort of connection. Our PatientPop dashboard has every appointment that’s listed in athenahealth and vice versa. We don’t lose track of who’s actually going to come in and where they came from. It really helps us with our metrics as far as where we should be changing our marketing budget for a smaller practice like mine. 

Once the patient is seen, they can send an email to the patient and say, “how was your experience?” and generate reviews for the practice. That has been probably our biggest positive with PatientPop and athenahealth together. I would proudly say that we have around 3,300 reviews online in our five-doctor practice. That’s unheard of in the medical space. And most of those are Google reviews, which is really what matters. It really just gives validity to not only the provider, but also to the practice.

In our research, we’re showing that patients have often postponed care during the pandemic. How has your practice approached this issue? And do you use PatientPop to re-engage and bring patients back into the office?

With PatientPop, what we did was immediately update our website. As soon as we could, and were approved for telehealth, we put up a link saying “if you would like a telehealth appointment, we’re offering it.” We made that front and center. 

People were still using the “book online” feature or the “contact us” feature if they had concerns, and there was no staff in the office. That was very helpful because I even found myself not being in the office as many days as I would normally be. So we did use a lot of that to sort of continue that engagement with patients. 

One of the other things we did is add some keywords like “telehealth foot and ankle,” so that people would be able to find us and know that we are offering those types of visits. 

And then, when we were opening back up to more full-time hours, we immediately updated [with] PatientPop. They put [the update] on the site, they updated our Google, and then we basically went from there. We always have kept, to this day, our COVID safety message. 

That was one of the big concerns with patients: How are you managing patient traffic inside your office? We made sure that everyone knew that we, one, take it seriously, two, we’re going to temperature check you. We are going to make sure you have a mask on. You’re going to sit out in your car, and we’ll call you when you’re ready — and all of that information was uploaded to our PatientPop site.

So, for me, I think a healthy practice for our size would be 300 to 400 new patients a month. That’s what we’ve been doing, pandemic aside. We’re hitting those numbers again — this is 2021, Q1 is almost over, and we’re getting there. Which is huge, right? Because I don’t think I anticipated getting a return to those numbers until Q3 of this year

Can you give us an idea of how digital technology and PatientPop have given you an advantage over competitors?

Absolutely. We’ve been using digital marketing tools in some capacity for the last 10 years, at a high level. When we joined PatientPop, that’s really when the trajectory changed. We’ve been with PatientPop — this is our fifth year. 

As much as we don’t want this digital world, and we want things to stay the same, they just won’t. I think one of the misconceptions that a lot of my colleagues have is, “I have a website. People can find me.” Well, it’s not really how it works, and PatientPop can attest to that. 

That, unfortunately, you would have to have a high level of reputation with Google, a lot of engagement with the people who are visiting your site, social media, having posts, having active interaction, having a lot of time spent on your website in order for you to even be considered an authority, and then appear in natural organic search on a Google page. 

Google owns the market share. So for us, this was huge because I think a prospective patient would trust an organic search listing over an ad search listing. But if they’re both there, that’s even better. And then the third piece is if there’s a map with the review listings, testimonials right underneath, very accessible… you just click and you’re there.  That’s even more important. 

For us, why did we use it first before competitors? I wanted the competitive edge, right? Having 3,000 reviews online is something that is, one, unheard of, two, a huge benefit. If you’re picking between one or two people, inevitably, you’re going to pick the person with the reviews and the personal testimonials from patients. 

One of the things I say is, you know, for us, when I took over the practice, my big goal was that patient experience. So having not only a mobile-friendly website, which was sort of a big deal about 10 years ago, but having a website that actually worked and did something for you, right? So if you needed to talk to the doctor, if you needed to make an appointment, those were all things that patients can do to further engage with you, with the provider. So, it’s been a big thing for us. and it’s working well.

What’s your favorite thing about the PatientPop platform?

Honestly, my favorite part of the platform is the dashboard. I love seeing things right in front of me, not having to dig for information. I’m an infographic kind of person. So I really like the high-level dashboard. If I want to dig deeper, I know I can, but I typically go right to “Insights” or hit “Reputation,” and I’m good. I see what I need and I click off. I’ve used other companies before, and there is no sort of one location where you can get the information you want.

Interested in learning how to grow your podiatry practice? Take a closer look: The best podiatry marketing ideas for today’s digital world.

Also available:

Running a practice during a pandemic: Q&A with a family practice manager 

Survey data reveals care gaps, patient health concerns, and the need to re-engage patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic

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