While 2020 has been a year like no other for private healthcare practices, significant changes — which came at breakneck speed — now set the stage for how to thrive in 2021.
For independent practices, 2021 is an opportunity to shift from a survival mindset back to a strategic growth mindset. This positions practices for greater success with patients and staff, and optimizes opportunities to meet and exceed business goals.
Practice growth goals: Different objectives for different healthcare practices
Most healthcare providers and practice owners tend to associate practice growth with patient acquisition. While that makes sense, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to what defines practice growth — different practices need to “grow” in different ways based on their competitive landscape, specialty, reimbursement mix, revenue gaps, and other aspects of their business.
Many private practices have strong acquisition needs; others have to make gains with their retention and referrals; nearly all need a more efficient, automated office workflow. Determining your practice’s business focus is the key to funneling your resources most effectively. Improving any of these elements will help improve the overall success of the practice.
If you’re not sure where to start, or how to fuel your growth, consider this piece of advice: go with one comprehensive solution that can do it all. In healthcare technology, that’s an all-in-one practice growth platform, with which you can use the tools you need most, and know that others are there for the taking.
How do you identify the best solution for your practice?
Tools and vendors that support busy physician practices are everywhere, covering every function from website development and search engine optimization (SEO) to online scheduling, reputation management, text messaging, and beyond.
But with companies or agencies that focus on one or two needs, practices could easily wind up with three to five technology vendors, each addressing a small piece of the growth puzzle — and straining your budget and resources.
We’ve shared before why a piecemeal approach is a bad idea, but to reiterate: throwing a bunch of disparate tools together is inefficient and often ineffective, and comes with higher costs. A single practice growth platform can make it easier to manage everything from healthcare marketing to telehealth, virtual office functions, and much more.
What should you look for in a practice growth solution?
While patient acquisition is critical for most independent practices, our experience is that true practice growth requires more.
Success also comes when you streamline operations, cut out manual and repetitive office tasks, improve patient satisfaction, and stay connected with patients so they stay with your practice and take control of their health.
Here are three critical questions to ask yourself when developing your 2021 growth strategy and evaluating practice growth solutions.
1. What should I be doing to acquire new patients?
For practices newer to healthcare marketing and promotion, patient acquisition can feel overwhelming, especially in a market with a fair level of competition.
At a minimum, focus on the quality of your website and search engine optimization (SEO). This is critical to ensure patients find you when looking online for a provider or care. PatientPop survey research shows that 3 out of 4 patients have gone online to search for care, with 58 percent doing so with some regularity. With the right website content and SEO strategy, the right patients in your area can find you more frequently.
From there, making a great first impression requires positive patient reviews. This reassures prospective patients, today’s savvy healthcare consumers, that you’re the right choice. In our 2020 research, 73 percent of patients said positive reviews are very or extremely important when they look for healthcare providers.
Let’s take your marketing efforts one step further: Practices that want to increase visibility may want to consider a combination of social media output, engaging blog content, and paid search advertising campaigns. While not every practice will deploy all these tactics, identifying a variety of outreach when creating your annual marketing plan can contribute to a successful growth strategy.
The overall goal? Be where your desired patients are and make it easy for them to learn about you and your practice.
2. What strategies can I employ to retain my existing patients?
Retention is an essential part of a sound growth strategy but, too often, it doesn’t receive enough attention and is sometimes ignored. For some specialties like dentistry, retention and return visits are at the core of practice growth.
Understanding your patient experience, and improving upon it, is just good dollars and sense. Keeping current patients happy and engaged is easier and less expensive than acquiring new patients. Here’s how you can consider developing a comprehensive retention strategy for 2021.
To start, if you don’t already, ask patients how you’re doing and where you can improve. Patient satisfaction surveys are the most efficient tool to gain this knowledge at scale, a great way to establish a baseline and hear directly from patients about their experience with your practice. You may learn that patients want extended office hours, more telehealth options, easier access to your practice, or the convenience of online scheduling. Patients may express dissatisfaction with wait times (59 percent say they’re frustrated after 20 minutes) or your scheduling process. With available feedback, you can confidently make adjustments for your patients.
An effective retention strategy also includes engaging with patients regularly, to help strengthen the patient-provider relationship and keep patients happy and healthy. With the continued shift to more value-based reimbursement, managing the patient relationship helps assure quality, lower-cost outcomes.
Use timely email campaigns to provide practice information, education, and health reminders, and to keep your practice top-of-mind and drive loyalty. Practices that regularly communicate with patients, and encourage an ongoing feedback loop, will be better poised for success in a value-based world.
3. How can I improve my office productivity and efficiency?
Just about every practice can find ways to improve office efficiency, to do more within the workflow with less work. Not only do improvements contribute to a happier, more productive staff, but a streamlined operation can create new capacity for patient visits. You can implement changes that directly affect your bottom line.
Getting this right requires a delicate balance of the right technology solutions and operational excellence, with many ways to improve efficiency: moving appointment scheduling and patient registration online (and integrating directly with your scheduling system), automating appointment reminders, or adding more appointments via telehealth. Incremental changes can help you reduce wait times, no-show rates, cancellations, and time spent calling patients.
Insight: One of the greatest tools for office efficiency is also in high patient demand. 66 percent of patients say they prefer text messaging for appointment reminders. Texting makes it easy for patients to confirm appointments and ask questions, removes manual phone calls from your staff work, and eliminates frustrating games of phone tag.
While there are dozens of solutions out there to address individual growth strategy tactics, implementing a single platform to help you accomplish them sets up your practice to thrive in 2021. The PatientPop practice growth platform was developed, and is continually updated, with that in mind. It’s a single solution with all the practice management and patient communication tools, all in one place.
In addition, the practice growth dashboard offers full transparency into your performance, so you can track the growth metrics that mean most to your practice, including website visit tracking, SEO statistics, appointment volume, and online reputation.
Find out more about PatientPop and the PatientPop practice growth platform.