Biking, Head Winds and The Importance of Developing Referral Relationships for your Medical Practice Growth

In Helsinki, Finland, the children and I decided to take a bicycle trip through the city.  It was something different than a bus tour and got us out in the fresh air with a little bit of exercise.  It was 62 degrees this day, and the winds were blowing hard.  As the tour promised flat terrain, we decided to go for it.

They ride a bike in Europe called a Jopa Bike. Jopa Bikes Sometimes referred to as the “Schwinn of Northern Europe,” this bike sits more upright than our American bikes today.  It was a more pleasant ride than bending over the entire time.

We followed the waterfront around the city and saw the ship yard, the parks, the beaches and the former Olympic Stadium. The description of the terrain had been pretty accurate, however, we had a head wind the entire time.    As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, a head wind is ” a wind opposed to the course of a moving object, esp. an aircraft or other.”  We’ll, I will be the first one to tell you that the direct head wind pushing against us made it as if we were pedaling uphill the entire way.  It was extremely difficult.

For physicians starting out developing their medical practices, seeking new patients can sometimes be like riding a bicycle against a head wind.  It can be difficult.  Patients are often times concerned about your experiences, your education, your knowledge and, if you are a surgeon, patients will be concerned over the number of surgeries you have performed.  At the start of your medical career, one normally doesn’t have the experience to prove your expertise.

Referral relationships from both current patients and other physicians are important in building your practice and obtaining new patients.  They are like riding your bicycle with the wind on a warm, sunny, Spring day- pleasant and easy.  Trying to recruit and maintain new patients through a combination of traditional marketing and digital marketing can sometimes feel like riding your bicycle against the head wind – pushing uphill the entire way.

People trust what others recommend over advertisements.  There are many statistics on this.  Through referral relationships, patients will always trust what others recommend over a advertising mail marketing campaign.

Instead of building your medical practice going against the head wind, The Doctor’s Bag encourages you to develop patient referral relationships and physician referral relationships.  Through and online referral management software, you can truly see how your referrals drive ROI to your bottom line and help your build your practice.  It is a much simpler way to grow your practice, and less costly, too!

For any questions on ways to grow your medical practice, please contact me!

ePatients Redefine Healthcare Interactions

Healthcare spending has definitely changed over the last forty years, but quite amazingly, the dollars in healthcare are still going to the same recipients at the same rate. An NPR report tallied the changes in health care wealth distribution from 1970 to 2010, citing a mere 0.4 percent increase of money given to doctors and other health professionals and only a 5.8 percent increase in funds given to hospitals.

Despite the negligible change in healthcare fund recipients, there has been a significant shift in where our healthcare dollars originate. Out of pocket spending has decreased considerably, and as of 2010, the majority of healthcare funds come from insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid.
Shift in Healthcare Dollars

Because of the Affordable Care Act, many Americans wonder what the future of healthcare in our country will hold for them and their loved ones in 2013. Can they afford treatment? Will doctors be accepting new patients? No one can predict the path the healthcare industry will take, but going forward, Americans can count on progressive technologies pushing healthcare services and capabilities to new levels of patient care.

Fluctuations in reimbursement rates and accountable care organizations (ACO’s) will make it vital for hospitals and physicians to attract and retain a diverse patient base. As policy and trends change, an essential piece of advice we offer to hospitals and physicians is to strategically target the e- patient as an important member of their patient mix.

E-patients are educated, enabled, engaged and empowered. They download apps to manage and track their own health habits. They refer to the web for health information about loved ones’ illnesses, physician reviews and blogs written by people with similar diagnoses. In the last year, 59 percent of US adults consulted the internet for health information. Those who use health sites to self- diagnose medical conditions, referred to as “online diagnosers,” make up over a third of US adults, according to a Pew Internet Survey.

Looking ahead, healthcare organizations must recognize that the web is becoming a hub for healthcare and treatment. Seeking out e-patients and finding out where patients are browsing on the web is critical to creating an engaging, mobile-friendly online presence. If your healthcare practice is not interactive on the web, you are missing out on the opportunity to educate, stand out to potential patients and improve office efficiency. Fostering a strong online presence allows patients an outlet for positive recommendations and feedback, and in turn, organizations have control over their brand.

If healthcare providers begin to engage e-patients on a large scale, this engagement will necessitate dynamic changes in how healthcare providers interact with all of their patients. A strong online presence can increase office efficiency, create stronger relationships between the providers and their patient base and increase accessibility to doctors and other healthcare providers. These benefits will ultimately translate to healthcare organizations providing their patients with much more streamlined and effective services, giving Americans something to look forward to in the upcoming years.

Contact us at info@thedoctorsbag.com for more information on enhancing your healthcare organization’s online presence and engaging your e-patients.

Physician Practice Marketing in the Age of Digital Media

As with traditional marketing, digital marketing also relies heavily on knowing who your target market is.   So in today’s marketing environment, who is the target patient for a physician practice?

The explosion of mobile, social networking and all the other digital forms of communications have ushered is into a world of constant connectivity that offers more selection, more information, and more options. So, how do you ensure your patients are receiving the correct healthcare information?  You access the markets and platforms where your patients are.  Today is the era of participatory health. Today is the era of the E-Patient.   Defined by Nicole Ziady as “e-patients are health consumers who use the web to find information about certain medical conditions, e-patients are starving for information.

According to A Pew Research report, 47% of adults have used the internet to get information about doctors or other health care professionals.  Additionally, 41% of adults have read someone else commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online new group or blog.  These numbers are clearly important.  Our patients are now educated, equipped, empowered and experts in their own healthcare.  Let’s face it, today is a world of “participatory health.”  Patients research their own symptoms and then report back to their physicians.

Marketing is shifting from the traditional method of promoting yourself, your services, and your products. Instead, digital marketing is becoming more about educating your patients with the correct healthcare information.  Did you know that 14% of people trust advertisements, while 78% of people trust what others say?  Why not write down the answer to that question you received 40 times today in your 7 minute patient visits?  Post it on a blog that links to your website.  Those e – patients will listen.  They will follow and they will be happy.  Positive patients = positive things said about your services = more prospective patients will listen and follow = positive return on investment.

Isn’t that what we all want?

 

 

Balance

Finding balance in my life is difficult. Someone once told me that he thought people spend the majority of time working towards a goal and nurturing the area of their life where they feel the weakest.  Whether true or not, building a business has required the majority of my time over the last three years.  So – I decided to work on finding that balance.

Last week, I took 5 children to Universal Studios in Orlando for Spring Break….by myself!  As I always try to give 100% of myself to everything I do, I am often very critical of myself in the areas I am falling down.    When there are three distinct rings in your life that you want to give all your effort to, I think this is easy to do.

While we were in Orlando, I had another deadline to meet for work.  I had a Webinar to do when I returned on Digital Media and Healthcare.  Luckily, my children and their friends are all old enough, that I was able to spend some time with them in the parks, then return to the hotel room in the afternoons and work on the presentation.

As I was preparing for the Webinar, my thoughts drifted to the question is Digital Media really that great?  Of course, I love it – I am a gadget guru.  However, before cell phones, before laptops, before e-faxes, smartphones, and skype – when you went on a vacation…you were truly on a vacation.  Today  information is always at your fingertips.  My office phone even rings my cell phone when I am not physically sitting at my desk.  My Iphone delivers emails, faxes and texts almost immediately.  I doubt my children even know what an encyclopedia is.  They just “Google” the answers to their research projects.

Digital Media has made it difficult for me to find that balance.  Work is always with me.  Is this a problem for you?  What are your thoughts?

What about Open Source and your Website or Medical Software Application?

“There are countless times where using the freely available, open source alternative would indeed work just fine for the majority of software requirements. I believe that by working together, both proprietary/closed source and open source software have a place in this world. Because embracing both options when appropriate translates into true software freedom.”  Matt Hartley

There is a lot of information out there about open source technology.  “Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process.” (OpenSource.org)  Though it can be a power tool to develop software, we believe 80% of Organizations out there, particularly Hospitals, Practices and other Medical Related entities should NOT consider such options to run their websites.

Why not Open Source for Hospitals, Medical Practices and Other Medical Related Entities?

The pro of open source is the same as the con of open source…anyone can see the code.  This creates an opportunity for hackers to find vulnerabilities within the software.  If done, someone could potentially alter your message on your website or even completely delete it from the servers. Just search “Hacks for X Software” and see what you come up with.  It is amazing what you can find just on You Tube!  Also, each time there is an upgrade to the open source software, you will need to upload it in order to protect yourself from potentially harmful people.  See what happened when Al Gore’s website was hacked for failing to update his WordPress software.

Open Source Requires more resources to keep it current

When you download and use open source software, you must consider who is going to help you when there is a bug, or a security patch.  Do you really have the man power, the time and the resources to cover this individual?  It might end up being more cost efficient to purchase the closed source, proprietary, software in the beginning than waste time, effort and resources fixing the headaches as they occur. 

The Doctor’s Bag

The Mediasation Content Management System that The Doctor’s Bag uses is proprietary software, not open source. That means that you have the security of knowing who has access to the software that is running your website. It also means that we’re here to stand behind the CMS and you.  Our team of developers is 100% accountable for every feature that rolls out and to listen to our clients on new features they would like to see. Because we work from a single code-base, as we add features and enhancements to our software, you automatically have these available to your site – no software to install, no patches to run. It just works, so you can focus on your patients and your message and not have to worry about the technology.

How to Market Your Website Online and Offline

Once you’ve established your practice’s website and are satisfied with its look and functionality, you’re ready to begin self-promotion. Reaching the right audience is essential and there are a variety of ways that you can call attention to your site, its unique content, and message. Here are a few:

Announce Your News

  • A blog is a great way to spread your news and it can also draw attention to your site. Regular blog entries keep your content fresh and can garner followers who can subscribe via an RSS feed, not to mention return users who check in frequently to see what’s new.
  • Social media is another avenue to keep users informed about news and services, driving traffic to your site. However, too many announcements may put off users. So try not to inundate your potential visitors with announcements on every newsy tidbit, but reserve them for interesting and compelling news or special offers.

Orient Yourself

Many consumers prefer to search for businesses and services in their area. If you list your practice and associate it with a particular location, this helps users find you — close to home. Search engines like Google, bing, and Yahoo allow you to list your business, often for free.

Join Your Community

Making connections with sites that cover topics similar to yours can benefit your site, too. These relationships can result in linking opportunities, sending potential users your way.

Contacting every single site in your topic area may seem like the best way to increase your site’s traffic, but inundating everyone with your link requests may damage your website’s reputation, so choose your connections carefully.

Offline Tips

Draw attention to your site by adding your address to all of your hard copy communications, including:

  • Business cards
  • Newsletters
  • Letterhead
  • Posters

All the Tools You Need

From promoting your practice with search engine optimization to crafting custom content, The Doctor’s Bag can help you make the most of your website and help grow your practice. Contact ustoday.