Medical Practice, Marketing and Branding
As a Dr you’ve spent years becoming credentialed and learned about your medical specialization. Now you’re finding that sustaining and growing your practice requires you to enter into competition with other Drs or Healthcare Professionals to get new patients and referrals. You’ve realized that you have to learn about marketing and branding your practice. A sound marketing and branding campaign can help grow your practice, increase patient-retention, and when done right will be an inspiration. This article will give you a comprehensive overview of branding and marketing your practice, so you can work confidently with the best design in association with the marketing team you can take help or afford.
So far what as common man we would have been exposed to the only kind of marketing the doctors are interested in are the signboards in front of their chamber with the in numerous degrees. By looking at it, is it possible to tell the good ones from the bad ones? But if Dr’s are really good, if they have a bunch of happy patients who are really satisfied in their work, why not use these happy patients as a medium? Why not facilitate them by helping them spread the word around on behalf of Drs? Why not invite them in a social event? Why not keep a database of them, assign someone to regularly call these people and check on their health? Why not create a small demonstrative video advising people in different preventive measures and show this video in different places? Why not create a word of mouth-able slogan and spread it around?
While these are just drops in the vast ocean of activities that doctors can do to position themselves as attractive brands, it does not take away the importance of the fact good doctors are few and far between. And if the good ones come out and brand themselves, it will be beneficial for him as well as the patients who can actively find him through such branding. Then maybe, just maybe, patients no longer have to suffer in the hands of a bad doctor.
Competent doctors get referrals from colleagues and other health care professionals. Competent doctors also have clients that return for subsequent consultations. Bad doctors are discredited by colleagues and their patients through bad word of mouth. Moreover, if they transgress seriously enough, they get de-registered.
As doctors have to abide by stringent and necessary ethical guidelines with regards to marketing and advertising by various enforcement associations and legal policies the aspects of marketing and branding of Dr’s has to be done with utmost care and concern.
What Every Doctor Should Know About Marketing and Branding?
The years it takes a Doctor to attain credentials for medical practice, the effort, the sacrifices and the mountain of skills in medical specialization one has to acquire, makes setting up a medical practice a real investment. Yet even after establishing such a practice, it sometimes becomes impossible to sustain and develop it into a profitable enterprise. Needless to mention, Dr’s are in the business for the income. Competition has increased even the new Consultants in practice realize the need of branding and marketing their medical practice. It is time to get alert.
There is need to get out to the public and inform them of their presence, their ability and willingness to help them, their unique medical services and the reason why they are the best suited to deal with their medical problems. Doing that essentially constitutes branding and marketing the business.
Effective marketing for a Dr is all about confidence & image his patients have of him & his fraternity colleagues respect him for his vast knowledge, apt medical treatment and patient satisfaction. Most important fact is that the Dr’s practice should project the right image to his potential patients & referral Dr’s through all his marketing and finally treatment outcome
Are you are a referral-based specialist practice or are your patients coming from the general public?
After answering this question, the marketing paths can be defined.
Branding and marketing Dr’s practice effectively requires that you undertake a meticulously researched, planned, executed and evaluated campaign. The following is a sample process with the essential features of such a successful campaign.
Steps in Branding and Marketing for a Doctor
1. Define your practice’s image for the current and prospective patients to identify with.
2. Define the unique selling proposition of your practice that sets you apart from the competition.
3. Design your creative and distinct logo and then develop standard graphics to be used in all your corporate prints (fonts, branding colors etc).
4. Design complementary corporate materials like business cards, newsletters, letterheads, envelopes, signage, prescription pads, brochures etc.
5. Research your market and define your target clientele in age, preferences, medical concerns, geographical reach etc and then prepare a marketing budget corresponding to the market.
6. Design printed marketing materials that are highly informative, easily understandable, attractive, brief and precisely formatted for legibility. Always include office hours, map to your place, Web address, services, telephone etc on each printed material.
7. Form high strategic business partnerships with reputable medical practices in the area such as patient referral agreements, ensuring that all engagements are on a win-win basis.
8. Distribute your literature and key adverts in the waiting room and prepare patient giveaways such as pen. Make sure that the waiting room is overly comfortable.
9. Get a website and brand it too with informative content and highly navigable pages that are Search Engine Optimized for bringing targeted visitors to your site.
10. Buy and brand all marketing touch points (Choosing Marketing vehicles-explained in detail below) as positioned, planned and budgeted.
11. Have all staff wear a distinct uniform set that sets you a part and gives an additional touch to your look with care and concern for patient.
These are only some of the essential activities that Dr’s should undertake in the process.
Benefits of a successful branding and marketing campaign will be increasing Dr’s clientele base, refining the clients who come into their practice to their specialization niche and retaining all of the clients who come to them.
The unforgettable aspect besides Marketing & Branding of Dr’s
Word of Mouth- is the most important marketing and branding tool for any Dr in his clinical practice that actually develops from Dr’s attitude towards the patient and his treatment style and knowledge. Word of mouth brings confidence among the patients.
To win patients by word of mouth 3 Simple Goals Dr’s should set when communicating with Patients. As patients and their families are faced with higher cost of treatment they will start demanding higher quality in their healthcare. Dr’s can stand out by striving to keep these three simple goals in mind when communicating with their patients.
1) Educate – Apart from writing a prescription or filling EMR Dr’s need to fully educate the patient on disease symptoms, it effect on health in short and long run, the medication & lifestyle modification benefits as required. Dr’s apart from direct interaction to patients can write blogs on disease, update the social media on disease information or links to disease information, post disease related facts on their website for patients to acquire knowledge and comply with treatment protocols for better outcomes.
2) Inform – As more patients and their families are using smart phones and mobile devices Dr’s should be able to text patients and let them know that a prescription needs to be discussed and written in reference to reports of tests received or a follow-up is required. Dr’s should maintain information of all patients visited or track through system of EMR and guide patients with timely information of visits etc.
3) Remind –reminders of selective patients for appointments can be set in PC, smart phones or EMR. Using social media campaign, Dr’s will be able to remind patients of services offered as well mention upcoming events or other special announcements.
Dr’s practicing 3 goals for patients as educate, inform & remind will come very close to their patients and with better treatment outcome spreading word of mouth publicity by such patients is certain
Your marketing strategies depend upon whether you are targeting the individual or the referring practice. If you are targeting the individual or perhaps even companies, you have more options available such as local newspaper advertising, direct mail, coupon mailers, yellow pages, etc. However, if you are targeting referring physicians or practices, your activities will be more focused. In this case you’ll need to decide if you are going to do this through one-on-one or group meetings (highly recommended) or by sending marketing collateral in the mail (or both). Your marketing agenda should tailor your efforts to your specific needs. In either case, you’ll need the highest quality marketing and promotional materials you can afford.
Some of the marketing vehicle options available are
- Social Media usage
- Visiting Cards, Brochure & Handouts on Disease Information or Treatment Options.
- Dr Meets and visit to clinics
- Academic Updates by participation in CME, Live Procedures Transmission
- Authoring Book on Medical content, Patient Information Material, Case Studies, Paper Presentations at important National & International Conferences
- Advertorials in Print Media on disease awareness , disease prevention and innovative topics
- Participation in Digital Media Shows on health and pioneering treatment options available in present or in future.
- Satellite Clinic, Polyclinic & Nursing Home Affiliations in home country & overseas for international patients.
- Participation in patient awareness programmes & treatment campaigns
- Telemedicine Network Association
- Testimonials of Patients & Awards
- Other aspects-waiting room, support staff Care
Let’s discuss all one by one
Website plays a very, very valuable role in helping to educate about the Dr and treatment options. Website offers patients tips about disease prevention and a link to get connected to their doctors and most importantly, patients can do this in the privacy of their own home. This allows them to get information and as required will hopefully lead to good discussions when visiting the Dr.
For Web development you must have a brand coordinated website design that is easy to navigate and informative. A website is very much like a virtual employee and you want your best employee greeting web visitors. The website will become a prominent part of your marketing plan, so make sure you’ve also hired a professional that will make it SEO-friendly (easily picked up and ranked high by search engines). Particularly for plastic surgeons, dentists, psychiatrists and other professionals reliant on web traffic, your goal is to show up on the first page of Google for the keyword search terms that patients will use to find you. Additionally, you also want to show up on Yahoo! and MSN on the first or second page. However, if most of your patients come from referrals, then your web presence will be much more engaged with providing information. In this case while SEO may be less of a priority, credibility certainly is not. And don’t forget to include directions to your practice as well as any patient information sheets or other information that will help spare your receptionist. Dr can’t be away from internet revolution and presence, the fact has to be understood and accepted
Many doctors and others in the healthcare industry are nervous to participate online. It makes sense when they work in an environment of privacy and patient security but see people on Facebook seemingly sharing everything from relationship status to what one had for lunch.
So if you are among the doctors, pediatricians, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals scared to take your practice — and reputation — online.
Here are 4 safe and practical healthcare marketing tips for healthcare professionals unsure about what to share online and how to participate in social media on the popular networks including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ etc.
1) Keep It Professional. If you keep up with family and friends on Facebook, create a Facebook business page and keep it separate from your personal profiles. And make sure to double check the privacy settings on each. This is one area where you do not want to mix business with pleasure.
2) Create Your Own Image. Everything you do online will become part of your brand and help (or hurt) your presence. Don’t wait for negative reviews or bad press posted from someone else. Flood the Web with quality information relative to your expertise and suitable for your niche. Blogging regularly is a great way to do this.
3) Google Yourself. Have you searched your name on Google lately? Don’t worry about being humble here. Do a Google search on your own name often — and don’t forget your business or practice name and other keywords or phrases related to you. You want to know what others are viewing when they research you and your practice.
4) Protect the Patient. This one may be obvious, but keep patient specifics offline. Take the precautions an extra step and avoid direct communication (concerning their personal information) on social media networks. Do interact with everyone and share general guidelines, healthy tips, and share your general knowledge where all can benefit.
The power of Social Media has to be used with utmost care and caution for sustained advantage if you have to run faster in race for long.
Visiting Cards, Brochure & Handouts on Disease Information or Treatment Options
Consultants in private or hospital affiliation must have proper visiting cards with following details as degrees in brief, all addresses of patient contact with telephone numbers and timings. The trend catching up of photo attached visiting cards could be personal choice of the Dr, but certainly helps in identification and differentiated branding aspect.
Brochure with details of Dr’s experience, Specialty detail, affiliation hospital & nursing home detail, special achievements & Treatment Options with patient testimonials including or excluding (as per Drs choice) gives visual impact in marketing efforts and thus reinforce branding.
Consultant meeting referral Drs Community should carry along with Visiting Cards their Brochures and Handouts apart from use of the same promotional tools by the marketing team of hospital or self employed PRO’s.
Dr Meets and visit to clinics
Firstly visit to clinics of referral Dr’s about introducing self and services offered for referring patients. Secondly meeting Drs for referral patients in form of courtesy meets as lunch or dinner in groups either informally or formally with arranging self introduction and specialty academic update can help develop relations fast for referrals. Meeting once will not help much but sending thanks letters, maintaining contact on phone and revisits along with timely providing information or feedback of referred patient or connecting on important days of year shall help sustain relations and shall be a source of continuous referrals. Dr’s need to plan the meets and visits in targeted areas for developing referral base through a self employed PRO or affiliated nursing home or hospital affiliation marketing team.
Academic Updates by participation in CME, Live Procedures Transmission
The referral Dr fraternity must be made aware of consultant’s knowledge, interpretation of medical facts and patient treatment outcomes. CME has been used from years as an important marketing tool for consultants for branding their knowledge and services to referral Drs Fraternity. Recent trend of live procedures transmission is catching up as Knee Hip Replacement or Bypass Surgery transmission to a group of referral Drs. Consultants should ensure academic updates participation by working out meticulously planned calendar. They can take help of the marketing team, PRO’s self employed or pharma executives visiting them for planning & execution.
Authoring Medical Books, Patient Information Material, Case Studies, Paper Presentations at important National & International Conferences
Apart from academic updates authoring books or creating medical awareness material and presentations in conferences will make the referral Dr Community fast acknowledge the consultants knowledge and efforts for patient treatment outcomes. This shall as well build strong connect with referral Dr’s by updation of the medical knowledge. Consultant should devote certain time for authoring medical material. Such medical material crafted and distributed will help them establish fast and lead them ahead always.
Advertorials in Print Media on disease awareness, disease prevention and innovative topics
Branding self by writing advertorials is a form of CSR initiative. Most leading news papers have a health column and encourage advertorials. If consultants can really contribute in form of advertorials on disease, treatment options or innovative techniques the general awareness about the disease and allied specialist consultant rises. This works best to gain patients directly than referred by Dr’s. Consultants should get in touch with print media houses though self connects, appointed PRO’s or marketing teams of hospital/nursing homes promoting them and ensure that they get planned advertorials published for helping them brand along with their specialty treatment and affiliated hospital or clinics.
Participation in Digital Media Shows on health and pioneering treatment options available in present or in future
Television is the most watched digital media along media shows in destinations as malls etc. Since health awareness is growing at a steady pace the digital media has to be used to advantage for consultants wants to project them fast and differently. Through self initiative or appointed PRO’s by self or affiliations this area needs to be tapped as planned. Digital Media shall help consultant to brand differently as reaching out to targeted masses fast. The selection of channels and timings of telecast shall play a crucial role along with chosen topic and complete update in the given time slot in a planned format needs to be taken care.
Satellite Clinic, Polyclinic & Nursing Home Affiliations in home country & overseas for international patients
With the growth of ICT (Information Communication Technology) satellite clinic setups are coming up in affiliation with bigger tertiary care hospitals and specialist either available through telemedicine network or visiting these centres. Consultants trying to establish their practice have to align themselves with such clinics. Affiliations to polyclinic or Nursing Homes practiced from years have helped consultants establish faster. The latest in row Satellite Clinics concept to has to be used to advantage for reaching out to catchment areas and patient convenience and driving referrals to bigger set up of hospitals consultants are affiliated. Overseas clinics of super-specialty is becoming vibrant for attracting international patients and Medical Tourism Benefit Destination India
Participation in patient awareness programmes & treatment campaigns for Corporate and General Patients
Consultants have to reach out to masses as a branding exercise. The vast spread of corporate sector and general patients needs to be largely explored by conducting disease awareness, detection and treatment camps. Planning & coverage of target area residents and corporate houses through marketing team efforts or self appointed PRO’s for various activities for prospective and existing patients has to be ongoing activity for increasing the patient flow regularly.
Telemedicine Network Association
The power of ICT cannot be undermined. Those consultants aligning to Telemedicine network gain prominence and connect to distant area fast and can gain national importance. Consultants should get connected to such networks and explore advantage of ICT connect with their patients. The Consultants as well the hospitals or Nursing home affiliations of such consultants benefit in long run as for advance treatments such patient finally reach the treatment options as advised by their consultant for largely developed confidence during the telemedicine consult.
Feedback & Testimonials of Patients & Awards
Good testimonial given by a patient is the biggest award for a Dr in form of satisfied patients. Consultants should always ensure feedback of patients a brief format should always be left with clinic or hospital staff for the same along with testimonials to be taken for treatment outcome. Such feedbacks can be used to give improvised treatment and testimonials can be used in websites or brochures with taking consent from the testimonial patients.
Consultants seem to be less interested in nomination for various awards. But the fact is that awards reinforce the credentials of better quality and are a source of recognition. Hence consultants should spare some time for nominating them or other Drs for the good work being done that get’s noticed in form of awards they are aware and choose to nominate or participate. Feedback along with testimonials and awards is an innovative way to learn and brand self for providing highest standards of medical treatment and patient satisfaction with motivation.
Other Aspects as waiting room & support staff care
The waiting chambers shall have comfortable seating & ambiance with all information of allied specialty on walls (as possible in a set up). Make sure that your brochures and some giveaways are readily available in waiting room areas along with Drs Chamber as required. Consider a kids’ corner to help out patients with small children. A relaxing waiting room that makes every patient feel at home is something to market.
The fact that branding goes beyond design, it also applies to your support staff. Your patients are the lifeblood of your practice, so take care of them not only with expert medical care, but also excellent and courteous office and billing support. You and your staff are part of your brand.
Before it’s too late-Ask yourself
Check in with your own practice. For example, ask yourself
- Am I doing enough to keep the appointment books filled?
- Am I contacting patients that need periodic or an annual evaluation?
- Do referring physicians have marketing materials from my practice at their fingertips?
- Am I doing enough to keep current patients engaged in my practice?
Advice to Consultants
After reading this article consultants need to reassess their marketing and branding planning with ensuring that are they having all elements of marketing and branding as envisaged in whole article. Subsequently need to implement all planned marketing and branding with help of marketing team available from affiliated hospitals or nursing homes or self appointed PRO’s is purely Consultants choice. Reassessing the potential and achieving success with time will help consultants to win race with effective marketing & branding. The proven fact remains you have to Brand Out to Stand Out- for Credibility-Consistency-Connection.
Brief About Author
Dr Ravindra Pratap is among the top management teams in SevenHills Hospital & Health City. With a profound experience of over 17 years in Sectors spanning Pharma, Retail Education & Healthcare in some of the leading organizations as Sanofi Aventis, Novartis, Micro Labs, Future Group, Indira Groups of Institutes is an independent thinker& analyst expert and helps implementing workable strategies for sectors across the experience domains
Issued in Public Interest
(As an author of this article I have not used any examples to avoid offending or endorsing any brand in Healthcare in India. This article is based on purely my personal experience observing healthcare as an expert with a wish to see that the hospitals read and view that are they really serious on developing the Hospital in a 360 degree approach that helps them to break even before agreed or generally accepted timelines in Healthcare Industry)