By Travis Schneider, chief corporate development officer, Tebra.
Two-thirds of economists believe an economic downturn is in the pipeline for the U.S. economy. While there has been a myth that the healthcare industry is recession-proof, historically, that has not been the case. Expert reports suggest the health sector tends to be affected later during a recession and typically takes longer to bounce back.
Independently owned practices tend to see the effects more quickly than other healthcare institutions. The rising cost of medical care often delays many Americans, with nearly seven out of 10 putting off an appointment or procedure due to the cost. Independent practices must take a proactive approach to safeguard their business and continue delivering care to patients.
Invest in Practice Growth
Many businesses tend to cut expenses at the first sign of a recession, and marketing expenditures are often the first on the chopping block. However, previous recessions have proved that businesses that continued to market during times of a downturn were not only able to stay in business but also bounce back faster. As the lead generating funnel for a practice, it can be detrimental to reduce marketing efforts. Investing in practice growth technology and clinical management software are worthwhile marketing investments that will help retain a practice’s patient base, expand its market share, and attract new patients.
By Travis Schneider, chief corporate development chair, Tebra.
In a digital-first world, it is more important than ever for physicians to implement strategies that meet patients where they are. To grow and retain a patient base, physicians must implement tools and technologies that set them apart from other practices and physicians online. With the right practice growth software and business strategies, independent practices can quickly execute the best methods to grow and retain their patient base.
Optimize Your Website For Search Engines
When selecting a healthcare provider in today’s digital age, 74.5% of patients turn to the internet. To remain competitive, your practice needs a strong online presence. First, examine and optimize your website by ensuring it is user-friendly and that information like phone numbers, provider information, and addresses are accurate.
Search engines, like Google, are where patients start searching for healthcare information. Ensuring your website features keywords related to the practice and healthcare field can help boost the search engine optimization (SEO) ranking. The higher a practice website ranks, the more visibility the website will have with potential patients using Google to find their next physician.
Another way to optimize a website is by ensuring that the pages of the website are also SEO friendly. This means content on a website should be unique, include links to drive traffic, and have relevant keywords throughout the page content.
Maintain a Great Online Presence
Start by claiming and updating your Google business profile through Google My Business (GMB) to build an excellent online presence. Doing so will ensure prospective patients see the most accurate information about your practices and services. In addition, by displaying various business information in multiple formats, Google makes it easier for patients to find information about your practice without the need to navigate directly to your website.
Like your Google business profile, updating your profile on popular sites like WebMD, Yelp, and Facebook is crucial. All information must be accurate and engaging. For example, include your practice address, hours of operation, key services, and photos or videos showcasing your office and providers. In addition, patients may research potential new doctors; without updated profiles, you risk losing patients.
Take Advantage of Patient Feedback
According to PatientPop’s survey, 74% of patients report that reviews affect their decision-making when selecting a new provider. Having that positive reputation online can make a difference in retaining and growing a patient base as an independent practice.
Physicians should focus specifically on Google reviews, as 69.3% of patients report that they are more likely to rely on Google for authentic patient experiences. One way to encourage online reviews is by implementing patient satisfaction surveys. Additionally, PatientPop, a leader in practice growth technology, data reports state that patients being asked for feedback by their providers immediately after appointments are more than twice as likely to take the initiative of submitting online reviews.
Building an online presence and optimizing the patient experience will help physicians and independent practices retain and grow their patient bases over time. In addition, patients want to ensure they will be taken care of by the physician they choose to seek care from.
Examine the Complete Patient Experience
While it might sound like an obvious patient retention strategy, keeping your patients happy is essential, especially in a busy healthcare practice with many moving parts. Many factors can impact the patient experience at any point in the patient journey, so independent practices must understand the entire patient experience from when they find your practice to post-appointment follow-up.
The patients’ top priorities include a provider who listens, welcoming staff, and a short wait time. Patients will contemplate switching providers for greater convenience, so adding tools to simplify the patient experience is a valuable investment in patient retention.
From online scheduling and digital patient registration and intake to automated appointment reminders and telehealth options, providing simple conveniences can add to a better patient experience — and, ultimately, better patient reviews.
Communicate with Patients Directly
When physicians strengthen the provider-patient connection, it goes a long way in supporting a practice’s growth strategy. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. One easy way to do this is to communicate with patients how they prefer.
Current survey results indicate that 2 out of 3 patients prefer to receive appointment reminders via text message. However, when the questions they have might be more involved—say, questions about you or your staff—nearly one-third prefer a phone call. These statistics show patients prefer human contact and communication when things get complex.
Practices can also take retention communications one step further by implementing email marketing campaigns. These campaigns can be custom-designed to increase patient engagement, provide specific information about health conditions, and share practice updates. By segmenting your patient base through email marketing campaigns, you can deliver targeted, relevant information that matters to patients while also establishing a deeper connection with patients.
Patients have an abundance of healthcare providers to choose from, and with big players like CVS, Walmart, and Amazon entering the landscape, the competition is fierce. As a result, independent practices must prioritize their online presence and patient experience. The ultimate key to success for independent practices is cultivating patient relationships over time.
By Travis Schneider, founder and co-CEO, PatientPop.
Running an independent healthcare practice isn’t easy, and few practices have the resources or bandwidth to chase down late payments. While most patients want to pay their bills on time, it’s clear that many don’t – which leads to an unhealthy revenue cycle that can threaten a practice’s success and/or growth potential.
A 2019 report indicates that 22 percent of physician offices said that 10 percent or more of all patient accounts go to bad debt, which can take months or even years to recover.
For those practices that have trouble collecting timely patients, taking a closer look at the organization’s billing strategy can often reveal several opportunities to get paid faster. By evaluating current practices and asking the right questions, practices can make important changes that can improve the long-term financial health and success of their practice. If your practice is struggling to collect timely patient payments, here are the top three questions to consider:
How Does Your Healthcare Practice Handle Invoicing?
Postal mail is a nearly obsolete means of collecting payment. Thus, practices that use paper invoices sent via the U.S. postal service are less likely to receive timely payments. From delivery delays to misplaced bills or stamps, there are simply too many ways a well-meaning patient can get derailed when trying to make a payment. That’s why digital invoicing and online bill payments are the wave of the future – and savvy practices know, it not only improves revenue cycle metrics but can also enhance the patient experience.
The Patient Pop’s Patient Perspective Survey for 2021 reveals that more than 50 percent of patients prefer a digital experience when it comes to paying their bills. Digital, transparent invoicing and billing can support a healthcare practice’s patient retention strategy too.
According to the same survey, more than a third of patients (36.4 percent) have left a healthcare provider in the last two years — and many cited issues with costs or billing as a primary reason for making the switch. Acceptance of digital payments makes it fast and easy for patients to make their payments.
By Travis Schneider, co-founder & co-CEO, PatientPop.
Developing a top-tier practice requires doctors to be more than great practitioners. If you do not have a loyal patient base and a positive reputation, you will only be facing an uphill battle in your path to success.
Your ability to attract and retain patients will depend on how well you and your staff understand your patients’ needs, especially with patients having more choices for healthcare than they ever have. Healthcare practices may feel the same pressures that brick-and-mortar retailers face now. Look no further than Walmart’s Health Center Program and Amazon Care to see what the future portends.
To gain attention and stay competitive, you will need to position your practice as a top-of-mind option for prospective patients. At PatientPop, we regularly survey patients to identify what they care about most concerning their healthcare experiences. Our 2021 Patient Perspective Survey results underscore the obvious: All private practices must consider patient feedback and nurture patient relationships to attain meaningful and consistent growth.
Fortunately, the blueprint for achieving this is straightforward. With the right technology and workflows in place, you can respond to patient feedback and deliver personalized patient experiences in a way that sets your practice up for success.
Cover Website Fundamentals and Claim Your Online Profiles
Today’s patients will turn to the Internet first when researching a physician’s capabilities and reputation. Our survey found that 74.5% of patients have done just this while looking for care or selecting a primary care physician or specialist. Therefore, your practice needs to have the proper online marketing fundamentals to capitalize on this trend. This process starts with tailoring your website and marketing channels to satisfy your ideal patients’ needs.
First, refine and optimize your website to ensure it is user-friendly and mobile-ready. To see where your website currently stands and uncover other improvement opportunities, PatientPop has created a “competitive scanner” that any practice can use to determine their online performance in their market, compared to others in their specialty. Within moments, the scanner offers a closer look at your Google rank, online reputation, overall web presence, as well as your website’s speed, searchability, and more. You can use your report as inspiration to make changes to improve your digital footprint and searchability.
Once you are comfortable with your website’s appearance and performance, optimizing your site to engage with prospective patients using Google is essential. The search engine giant currently owns an 88% market share of the online search sector, and we have found that it remains the search engine of choice for patients seeking new providers.