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2020 update: The blueprint for medical practice growth

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Medical practices have always faced change — clinically, operationally, and financially. That challenge has never been more significant than during the first half of 2020. The presence of COVID-19 halted plans for providers and patients, forcing practices to make major adjustments to deliver care and maintain their business.

As the situation evolves, and patients return to non-emergency care, you have an opportunity to readjust your approach to practice management and growth. An updated strategy should take advantage of the rapid expansion of virtual tools while sticking with proven tactics for patient acquisition and retention.

The doctor's 2020 blueprint for practice growth

Expand your virtual practice

Apply a strategic approach to telehealth

Telehealth visits surged 50 percent in March 20201 and 73 percent of patients now express comfort with virtual care.2

Keep telehealth as a key tool to deliver care at your practice (as much as regulations allow in your state). Determine an updated telehealth strategy as in-person visits increase at your office. In general, the following types of visits are best for telehealth: follow-up care or ongoing care management; appointment types (or patients) with higher-than-usual no-show rates; short 5-10 minute visits; appointments with patients whose health conditions make it safer to stay home, or who have challenges getting to your office.

Implementing telehealth as part of your regular operations can reduce no-shows, drive patient adherence, and even free up time in your physicians’ schedules.

Add more convenient technology

Now that your staff and patients have become more accustomed to a digital-only experience, what other tech tools can benefit your practice? Consider the following conveniences to improve productivity and patient satisfaction:

  • Online digital patient registration before the appointment
  • Two-way text messaging with patients
  • Digital fax — no more fax machine to send and receive
  • Email marketing campaigns to patients

These are in addition to more standard practice technologies you should already be utilizing, such as online scheduling and automated appointment reminders.

Develop a powerful web presence

With three of four patients having searched online for care options,3 it’s never been more important to rank well in search results and convey an exceptional first impression. Take advantage of every potential outlet to bring your brand, personality, services, and difference to an online audience.

Claim and optimize online business listings and healthcare profiles

Across websites like Google, Yelp, and WebMD, patients find information about you and your practice. If you don’t claim those profiles as your own, you risk prospective patients encountering unverified, inaccurate business information. You also have no opportunity to add photos, discuss your services, or even confirm business hours.

This inspires little confidence in patients and can even hurt your placement in search results.

To build your web presence, claim your profile across every review website, and business and healthcare directory. Prioritize those with the greatest visibility — with an 88 percent market share,4 Google is the
obvious choice (go to google.com/business to begin).

Then, populate your profile with clear, consistent business information. At minimum, provide what’s known as “NAP”: name, address, and phone number. Then add additional information about your practice and services, photos, and links to your website and online booking tool.

Optimize your practice website for patients and search

An optimized practice website can attract more visitors, impress patients, and inspire more appointment bookings.

 

Organize your website hierarchy and content for search engines

With about 60 percent of patients looking online for care with some regularity,5 ensure your website is set up to be found by the right patients.

Create an individual webpage for each service you offer. Answer common patient questions about that service, including any relevant medical condition, symptoms, remedies, and your approach to care.

This process helps establish your practice’s expertise, is useful for search engines, and can inform prospective patients. Even if a patient is not yet ready for an appointment, you and your practice can stay top-of-mind.

Be sure each service is featured on its own individual page. This process — known as siloing — organizes a website’s content into distinct categories. By organizing content and keywords, your site notifies search engines that the page may be an authority on the subject you’re discussing, a boost to your search engine optimization (SEO). If you mix up too much unrelated information on one page, your SEO will take a hit.

 

Create a design that looks and works great on every device

The design of your website has a tremendous impact on whether visitors stick around — and those decisions are sometimes made in a fraction of a second.

Develop your website with a responsive design; that’s the technical term for a website that will comfortably adjust to any browser size, so users can see and use your site on mobile devices, tablets, and desktop computers. This ensures a positive experience for every visitor to your website.

Consider the aesthetic value of your site. Keep the homepage streamlined so patients can focus on and find key areas. Feature high-resolution photos of you, your providers and staff, your practice, and even community events you’ve participated in.

 

Create calls-to-action (CTAs) that prompt appointment bookings

The ultimate goal for your website is what marketers refer to as “conversion” — getting site visitors to request or book an appointment, and become patients. This requires prominent calls-to-action (CTA) placed strategically across your website.

Each call-to-action should lead a site visitor to an online booking tool with just a single click or tap. As an important option, you should also feature one-tap calling, for patients to easily call your practice right from their mobile device. For either action, convenience is key. Give prospective patients the power to book an appointment or speak with your staff without having to take additional actions beyond your website.

To improve your conversion opportunities, make sure at least one CTA is “sticky” — meaning a visitor can see it even as they scroll and navigate your website.

Invest in paid search advertising

It usually takes time to see the results from your organic SEO efforts. If you want to expedite positive performance, and increase your practice’s visibility in search results, you can turn to paid search advertising.

Here’s how it works: Search engines allow businesses to bid for advertising space in search results. In Google results, these ads most often appear above organic results and are labeled as “Ad.”

These ads are called pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) advertisements. As their names suggest, you pay each time a person clicks your featured link to arrive at your website. You decide how much you’re willing to spend on each click, and set overall daily budgets.

Master online reputation in your market

Online reputation can refer to any information patients can find about your practice across various websites. Typically, however, online reputation is determined most by patient reviews. In 2019 and 2020 PatientPop surveys, patients identified reviews from other patients as the most influential online resource when deciding on a healthcare provider.

Ask satisfied patients for feedback

Seventy-two percent of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor.6 Fiftynine percent will only consider a physician with an average star rating of four or higher.7 Delivering on patient demand, and gathering reviews from your most satisfied patients, is critical to every practice’s acquisition strategy.

The way to obtain patient feedback is both simple and challenging: just ask. But doing this in person can be awkward. Instead, the most efficient option is to send each patient an automated patient survey, via email or text, following a visit. This often inspires patients to post testimonials to your website or submit reviews to other online resources.

Always reply to negative feedback

Asking patients for feedback is only half the equation. You must also respond to reviews, especially those from unsatisfied patients. Based on a 2020 survey of patients, when healthcare practices don’t respond to negative feedback, the rate of patient dissatisfaction goes up 276 percent.8 It’s nearly impossible to gain the loyalty of any patient if you don’t respond to their concerns.

When you do respond, do so directly within the forum on which they submitted their feedback. That lets prospective patients see your attention to current patients, and desire to remedy a less-than-satisfying experience.

Be prompt with your replies. Keep all responses short and professional. Remember to stay HIPAA compliant by not sharing any protected health information (PHI), even if the patient divulges medical history. Be sure to tell the patient you hear their concerns and direct them to contact you directly for a conversation.

You may not be able to salvage every relationship with an unhappy patient, but prospective patients will see that you’ve demonstrated professionalism and personal care.

Establish expertise with blog posts and social media content

Take additional opportunities to attract prospective patients by publishing content that can answer their medical questions. You’ll grow your reputation as a thought leader in your community, while giving search engines additional material to find and include in relevant search results.

Focus each blog post on a specific topic related to your specialty, drawing attention to services you most want associated with your practice. Create a list of possible topics and then decide on a schedule you can keep, with a minimum of one to two blog posts per month. Be sure to create an editorial calendar to match each blog post with a date that you’ll publish it on your website.

Take a similar content approach to your social media channels. Within your social media posts, always share a link to each new blog post, keep patients informed about your services or care-related expertise, and share content from other reputable medical sources. As with your blog strategy, keep an editorial schedule and publish on a consistent basis.

As you expand your web presence and solidify your role as an expert, patients are more likely to look to you for care.

Ensure a streamlined digital patient experience

If your practice isn’t already responding to well-established online habits, now’s the time to bring the two most basic and necessary practice growth tech tools to your business.

With the dominance of e-commerce and online shopping, people expect to find and assess options online — including choice of clinicians — and take action right from their laptop or mobile device. In 2020, your practice must be able to deliver an efficient experience that brings convenience to patients, and benefits your front office as well.

Enable online appointment booking

In PatientPop research, 46 percent of patients said what they want most from their doctor is the ability to book appointments easily.9 Online booking is the key, giving patients the opportunity to see your
available slots and request an appointment. Not only does this deliver patient convenience but it greatly reduces the amount of time your office staff spends answering phones and responding to email requests.

Send appointment reminders

Every no-show at your practice equates to potentially lost revenue and a potential health issue for a patient needing care. Sending automated appointment reminders, via text or email, can help drop your no-show rate and keep you connected with patients.

When you use automated reminders for all patient appointments, you also eliminate the need for frontdesk staff to spend hours managing manual phone lists. Instead, your team is empowered to devote time to higher-value practice work while patients are alerted to upcoming appointments.

Focus on 2020 practice growth with PatientPop

 

PatientPop is the market leader in practice growth, helping physicians promote their practice, attract new patients, and retain them for life. Our all-in-one technology platform, including an integrated telehealth service, improves each touchpoint of the patient experience, from the moment a patient finds you online to post-visit communications. To learn more, visit patientpop.com.

1. Frost and Sullivan, cited by CNBC
2. YouGoc
3. PatientPop patient survey data, March 2020
4. statcounter
5. PatientPop patient survey data, March 2020
6. “How Patients Use Online Reviews,” Software Advice
7. PatientPop patient survey data, March 2020
8. PatientPop patient survey data, March 2020
9. PatientPop patient survey data, March 2020

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2020 update: The blueprint for medical practice growth

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