Establishing your own medical practice is every young physician's dream. The benefits of running your own medical practice are many: you set your own schedule; you have no boss; you control the direction of your growth; you get to pocket more of the monies due to you. There is the prestige; the feeling of being an owner; actually being in charge……… Nothing beats owning your own medical practice. That's a fact.
With that said, establishing a new medical practice involves many challenges. There are issues of location and a lease; establishing a corporation; equipment lease and payments; staff; billing; insurance; the list goes on. It's no wonder that many a new medical practice owner is overwhelmed. There is a lot of work and expenses that don't seem to end. At some point however the newly-established medical practice's owner gets to finally sit down and get down to the business of treating patients.
More often than not however the time that follows the ribbon cutting ceremony is also an unpleasant awakening. You've conquered so many challenges to finally arrive where you wanted to be for so long…… and now what? You look around, realize the extent of your overhead and experience a sense of profound loneliness. The entire office set up is in place; you're ready to go BUT there are no patients lined up around the block, just the prospect of next month's payments. You've done everything right: what happened?
You've forgotten that EVERY business - your medical practice included - requires marketing. I know, you're outraged by the very thought. You're thinking "I'm a doctor. I save people's lives. I shouldn't be bothered with marketing."
What is medical marketing?
The short answer is: medical marketing generates patients; develops physician's public image and protects the physician's reputation.
In the real world, every physician needs patient relationship materials (i.e. welcome letters to new patients, thank you letters for patients, patient surveys, thank you for a referral letter, etc.) as well as medical stationery with his or her own, distinctive logo.
Getting a new patient is important. Making sure that the new patient is satisfied and feels cared for guarantees the patient's loyalty and referrals.
To keep the relationship with your patient base strong a newsletter is a must.
One of the most effective and cost-effective ways of promoting medical practice is the Internet. Every medical practice but a new medical practice even more has to have a medical Website, there is simply no substitute for it. Now, there are Websites and there are Websites. Many a physician is "particular" when it comes to the appearance of a a medical Website. There are two things that make Websites powerful: strong, informative content and professional search engine optimization. Solid content gets read. Properly optimized medical Website can be found - under relevant keywords or search phrases - on the first page of major search engines. Once a Website can be found Online by your prospective patients and it provides them with good information, you'll get patients. (Most of your prospective patients are looking for you Online, as we speak.) Cute design is no substitute for either content or search engine coding of a Website. You might well have the prettiest medical Website out there BUT if it can't be found in natural search results on top of major search engines by those who DON'T know your name yet, you own a really good-looking paper weight.
Many a physician believes that having a Website is the beginning and the end of his or her efforts Online. No, that's just the beginning. If you "google" one of your strongest competitors, you're likely to find several pages of results. You need to have a developed presence Online, too. Why? Well, Internet is a powerful medium which can work for you or against you. If you fail to create your presence Online, others (a competitor, a scorned girlfriend, an angry - or moody - patient) will do it for you. Negative patient reviews can be contributed by anyone and worse, they can be posted anonymously.
Another issue of importance, in particular if you're a specialist, is marketing to referring physicians. It can be tough and sometimes even humiliating. It's good to have someone to represent you with referring physicians. First, you're not asking anyone for a favor (or a patient as it is the case); second, having "people" act on your behalf conveys the image of you as an already well-established specialist in private practice.
Last but not least, there is the most powerful weapon of all, known to "make" physicians' careers: medical publicity. Medical publicity (or media exposure, if you will) is unbiased and can't be bought which is why it is trusted by the public. Being featured in print, on the radio or on TV as an expert in your field sends a powerful message: you're an authority in your field. Patients want to be treated by an authority and will be even glad to wait for their turn. Your peers will take you seriously and show you more respect….
Yes, medical marketing is a "science" in its own right. It can be costly. (Medical marketing can be done all at once or little by little as your medical practice grows.) But don't forget that you became a doctor by learning from professionals and to succeed as a business owner, you'll need professionals to guide you in the marketing of your medical practice.