- When starting a private practice, you need to be proactive about marketing to attract new patients, as well as employing digital tools to simplify your processes where possible and keep expenses low.
- Using a combination of efforts, including content marketing, paid advertising, public relations, and event hosting, can all aid in growing your practice in different ways.
- While some free tools can help achieve these goals, in some cases, paying for a tool that saves you time and generates a strong ROI (return on investment) is the better way to go.
Building a medical private practice from the ground up
Whether you’re building a solo or group practice, or choose to start your private practice inside of a hospital or health center, there are a few basic things you need to think about when building a medical private practice from the ground up.
Outside of the costs of going off on your own, you need to consider how to market your private practice to attract new patients, and how to run your medical practice operations in an efficient manner by leveraging and adapting to modern technology. Here are the digital tools and tactics you should be using when starting a medical private practice.
Marketing your private practice
Once you’ve received funding as a result of a pro forma or business plan, some of the money needs to go into marketing your private practice to promote it and attract new patients.
If you’re invisible on the internet, it’s going to be very difficult for you to acquire new patients quickly. A web presence and established online brand will help you build your patient base and a name for yourself.
Building a web presence
Your web presence is not just about having a website – it’s about everywhere you show up on the internet. If you have social media pages, a website, and local listings, your prospective patients are much more likely to find you. While having these things alone won’t help you gain patients, they are a way to put yourself out there.
Consider posting content to places like your website and social media pages as a way to show that you have the lights on – you’re engaging regularly and can be reached for questions. That’s the bare minimum that creating content in these places can do for you. You can also use social media to share your services, promote events, or position yourself as an expert in a given subject.
Your website should be predictable enough that people visiting understand how to get what they need, but unique enough so that it doesn’t blend in with all the other sites they visit. Hire designers to build your website and design its layout – look out for ones who specialize in working in health care.
Content marketing and SEO
When you’re competing with tons of other health care practitioners for a good ranking on Google, one thing you can do to help yourself stand out is to have a strong content marketing strategy.
Your best bet is to hire a person or firm well-versed in SEO (search engine optimization) that can help you identify opportunities to compete for high rankings on Google. Finding those opportunities to reach the top of organic search results, so ones you don’t pay for, can help improve traffic to your site and win you more patients. However, this technique isn’t going to yield immediate results. Generally, the growth will accumulate over time. To build momentum before your SEO strategy pays off, you need to market in other ways.
Another must-have for your web presence is publishing and maintaining local listings. Make sure your private practice can be found in as many ways as possible. The minimum is to create a Google My Business listing.
With Google My Business, you can keep prospective patients up to date on hours, services, and upcoming events. You can post photos and videos to Google My Business, and you can also read and respond to reviews from there. More robust listings are favored by Google, so it is in your best interest to publish on it regularly and answer any reviews made there.
In addition to Google My Business, you should have listings on online business directory sites, like the Yellow Pages, as well as doctor-specific directory sites, like Healthgrades. You may even want to pay for a spot on a directory site. The best way to figure out whether one is a good fit is to search for the service you provide, like “family doctor near me,” or “family doctor Seattle,” and see what results pop up first. If one of the first results on Google is a directory page that you could pay to be on, you could secure a top spot on Google without waiting for results from an SEO strategy.
Don’t forget to maintain wherever your business is listed. If your hours or location changes, for example, you can be penalized by Google for having different results on different pages. Consistency across all local listings keeps your business algorithm-friendly.
Public relations and guest appearances
Even with so much digital innovation, nothing beats a good public relations campaign. The only thing different these days is that the internet offers far more opportunities to get exposure and make appearances.
The options here are limitless, but here are a few ideas:
- Be a guest doctor on podcasts
- Host a webinar on a topic relevant to your target demographic, with an offer at the end for something free in exchange for an initial booking
- Do a guest blogging exchange with someone in a complementary field – for example, work with a personal trainer or nutritionist and do a content swap
- Appear as an expert on radio shows
- Start a YouTube channel to offer general health tips
- Apply to be a speaker at virtual or in-person summits, conferences, or trade shows
- Shoot Instagram stories of health reminders or services you offer
- Write content offering seasonal tips for patients and pitch it to local outlets
- Use HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to search for stories where your expert opinion may be needed, and pitch your story to those reporters
- Pay for a wide press release distribution through a service like PRNewswire
- Reach out to local television stations to see if they need a doctor for some segments
The key to most of the ideas above is to keep putting yourself out there. Keep submitting content and ideas where the opportunities seem appealing, and don’t stop until you get a yes. It can take a while to get your foot in the door – for example, many news stations already have their local experts they like using – but be persistent with anything that continues to seem promising, and keep delivering ideas. Once you’ve established a presence in one or two areas, you can use that experience to book more appearances and gain more exposure. Over time, the opportunities will accumulate.
Paid search and other paid promotions
On the other side of the coin, you can start working on paid promotional materials before any organic opportunities come to fruition. You can also approach this kind of promotion from a few different angles:
- Paid search on Google – Bid on keywords prospective patients may use to find your services to ensure spots higher up on Google without needing to compete for a spot via SEO.
- Retargeting ads – You know when you shop on a clothing site, and the shirt you were looking at follows you around the internet? You can do the same thing. If someone visits your website, you can remind them to come back by placing ads on other sites they browse afterwards.
- Sponsored content – If you’re having trouble getting placement as part of your public relations efforts, you can also pay to have content published in publications your target demographic reads. Many email newsletters and websites have an option to do this.
- Social media ads – You can run ads for your practice on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram – anywhere you think your perfect patients are browsing. Depending on the network, you can get pretty specific with targeting to narrow in on who would be the best fit to see you.
For any of these promotions, finding people familiar with compliance when it comes to health care advertising is best.
If you’re looking to boost name recognition, sponsorship may be the way to go. Mind you, not all sponsorships are created equal. Be strategic in how you spend this money, and understand what kind of exposure the sponsorship is going to get you. Some of the most effective sponsorships can involve hyper-local organizations or very niche interests.
Looking for sponsorship opportunities near you? Start with local publications, chambers of commerce, and local business organizations. Or, tie in what you offer with an interest relevant to your practice or your personal life. For example, if your services include integrative medicine, sponsor an event about integrative medicine, or green living.
Open houses and other events
Nothing attracts people more than free food or prizes. If you’re new in town, a great way to draw a crowd, and target new patients, is by hosting an open house or special event. This is another good way to partner with some local organizations. Some business orgs or chambers of commerce will help you host a ribbon cutting, and even invite notable people from the area to attend. Offer free food, beverages, and some door and raffle prizes, and you’ll have a lot of RSVPs in no time. Make sure you have some way to get people subscribed to your email list before they leave for the night – this is the key to keeping in communication and building that relationship over time.
Communication is Key
Whatever you do, it’s important to stay consistent and put yourself out there. Being consistent with putting out content on social media and on your website gets rewarded by Google, and shows your prospective patients that you are available and can be reached in these ways. Once you get emails from people you want at your practice, keep them in the loop about what’s going on by you with email newsletters, complete with promotions and seasonally relevant advice.
Medical practice operations
Using telehealth software
The more ways you can make yourself available to potential patients, the better, and an easy way to offer more possibilities for patients to see you is to offer telehealth appointments. Using telehealth software is a great way to connect with patients for small matters, or assess them before you decide the appropriate follow-up.
Depending on the type of private practice you run, you may be able to regularly see patients farther away for telehealth visits as well. While there are many video conferencing platforms out there, they aren’t created equal. Make sure what you use is HIPAA-compliant (Zoom and Google Hangouts are not compliant out-of-the-box, for example) and easy for your patients to use.
The best thing to implement is something that requires no software downloads or account set-up: For example, NexHealth’s software allows you to send invites via SMS or email to patients, and they can start the video by clicking one link.
If you are working on growing a private practice, you need to keep an eye on your analytics. How many appointments are getting booked week-to-week? How many no-shows have you had? What is your patient satisfaction rating? How many visitors have come to your website? The more reports you can gather to assess the health of your private practice, the better.
NexHealth’s backend has dashboards that report appointments, cancellations, recalls, billing, ratings, and more. You can assess the performance of social media posts or website traffic using tools like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics. Depending on the email tool you’re using, you may be able to track performance of any promotional messages you send out as well.
Streamlining and automation
Trying to get a private practice off the ground is hard work, and you should spend as little time as possible on administrative tasks. Automating your processes wherever you can will help a lot in the long run. Consider automating email messages and reminders, as well as streamlining the intake process. NexHealth’s software includes workflows for text messages and emails, as well as digital forms that can be sent in the same way.
The benefits of implementing digital strategies
Digital tools and software can help grow your practice in countless ways. If you’re starting a private practice from zero, why would you use outdated tactics to grow and maintain your practice? Embrace new technology and use digital strategies, and you’ll be well on your way to building a robust practice.
Here are some of the necessary tools and software that new private practices should consider:
- EHR (electronic health records) – To digitize your patient’s paper chart
- Practice management software – To manage your business, including billing. Sometimes it’s connected to EHR, but sometimes it is not.
- Email marketing – To send out appointment reminders, annual checkup information, new services, promotions, birthday messages, etc.
- Text messaging (also known as SMS) software – To send similar reminders to email and get right in front of patients on their phones
- Telehealth software – To host virtual visits
- Digital forms – To speed up the intake process
- Online billing – To expedite the bill pay process
- Evaluation / feedback opportunities (e.g. surveys and ratings) – To ensure your work is on the right track, and fix problems before they get worse
- Digital booking – To save staff time on booking and rescheduling
NexHealth has a full suite of offerings, including solutions for marketing and operations, that can tie into your practice management and EHR software. NexHealth seamlessly integrates everything you need to run private practices with digital tools.
Who doesn’t like free? While you’ll have to pay for some tools along the way, here are a few you can use for free to accomplish some of the goals set out above:
- MailChimp – An email tool that is free for lists under 2,000 subscribers. Limited automation, but enough to get you started with emails.
- Google My Business – As mentioned above, a hub for you to manage your business, add posts, read and respond to reviews, and more.
- Google Analytics – Tracking that can be added to your website to help identify high-performing pages, opportunities for improvement, where your visitors are coming from, and so much more.
- Social Media Insights – You can find insights on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. to help you identify top-performing posts and the types of people who are engaging with your posts, among other things.
- Buffer – A social scheduling tool you can use to automatically publish posts to your social media pages. An account is free for up to 3 social media pages to schedule 10 posts at a time.
- Loom – A video tool you can use to make instructional screen-sharing content. Right now, Loom is free with a personal license and up to 25 videos.
- NexHealth – Through the pandemic, NexHealth is offering free telehealth software.
- Zoom & Google Hangouts – Free video conferencing tools that are not HIPAA-compliant out of the box
While some free tools are worth your time to use, others are not. Ease of use can supersede a low or nonexistent price tag, so keep that in mind when choosing what feels right for your practice. For example, while MailChimp is a free tool, it may not integrate as easily into your existing software as a tool like NexHealth can.
With these tips, you should be well-equipped to build a booming practice from the ground up. Remember – success doesn’t happen overnight, but the most important thing is to be consistent and push through until you make those connections and see the first signs of growth.