Ok, that might be a little dramatic and not the correct application of metaphor but I like catchy headlines! But in all seriousness, I want to talk about why the solo medical practitioner doesn’t have to accept his inevitable death in the pre-written storyline of the future of healthcare. But it will require solo practitioners to embrace technology in ways that they haven’t before but change, in this case, is good! Large physician practices adopted change awhile ago because their scale allowed them to quickly and effectively take advantage of the power of automation and social media but solo practitioners have typically had their head so deep in their business that they feel they don’t have the time to invest in it. But I can assure you, that assessment is wholly inaccurate. I actually challenge you and say you can’t afford not to.
For a solo physician office model to survive in today’s age of the relentless right jab and left hook of declining reimbursements, increased regulations and an aging and sick population, it is necessary to completely rethink your marketing strategy and engage more with your patients on the platforms where they are, such as social media, email, text messages, etc.
If you have been doing the basics that businesses in the modern age do, such as collecting email addresses, you are a good portion of the way there to beginning a relatively easy-to-implement marketing strategy that can engage your patients in ways that you only dreamed of through automation, processes and systems. If you are not currently collecting e-mail addresses, I bet your patients are asking themselves why not. Your patients want to be contacted and reached out to in ways that THEY access information. It might be a good idea to ask your patients in a survey, which social media they use the most to consume information. You could also ask them if they prefer to be contacted by email, text or phone. You could then modify your marketing strategies based on your findings to optimize your return on investment as well as satisfy your patients needs to be contacted in a way that matters to them. If you do that, they will share your information with their friends…but only if it is good. More on content for your marketing information in a future post because that is a HUGE subject all by itself.
The easiest way to start reaching out to your patient base is to start a Facebook fan page, Twitter page, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope, Snapchat or any of the other social media platforms that you know where your patients are. Publish regularly to the platform that you choose but I would suggest when you start on social media, that you don’t try to do all of them or frankly you will go crazy and it is hard enough to run a medical office as it is! I would suggest a Facebook fan page and an Instagram account because with one post on Instagram, if you set it up correctly, it will also post to your Facebook, saving you time. The strategy and tactics for social media are another gigantic topic that we shall save for many future blog posts, but for now, just set up your pages and start to post. Let your patients know that they can now follow you on your chosen social media platforms “for the latest information about your office”.
Oh heavens, we haven’t even discussed having a business website. If you don’t already have one, I seriously applaud the fact that you are still in business frankly. But let’s assume that you have a website. Make sure it is up to date with the latest information, that there are no spelling errors (spelling errors are my pet peeve and it drives me insane to see them anywhere, especially if I do it myself!) and that it looks professional. A poor looking website is a business killer, no doubt, because no one will take you seriously without a professional website, so make the investment. Beautiful images of the office, the physician, the staff are a must on the website and should convey what your purpose, values and mission are all about. And don’t forget to link your social media accounts to your website so your patients or future patients can find you and follow what you are up to.
This is just the basics of what you will need if you want to be a proud survivor of the bad soap opera that is desperately trying to be chiseled in stone about the demise of the solo health care practitioner. There is always hope that the hero will find a way to prevail in the end and I know that the future is still yet to be written. It will require that the hero learn new skills and connect with their communities in new ways. Those of us who champion ourselves as “heroes of healthcare” are supremely capable of adapting to change, we have had no choice if we want to survive.
Michelle Janes, CMM