Starting your own medical practice is an exciting (and nerve-wracking!) way to take the reins of your medical education and previous healthcare work into your own hands. However, it does come with risk and upfront expenses, which is why the rush towards consolidation within the healthcare community continues to grow.
Becker’s Hospital Review revealed that 60% of community hospitals are now part of an enterprise health system. Projections are clear that the trend is likely to continue over the next three years, with a projected value of $5.5 billion in healthcare.
While it’s not easy to start and grow your own practice, there are many reasons why it’s an appealing choice to make. Having your own practice gives you the autonomy and freedom to determine your workflow. Having a private practice also allows you to expand healthcare access to local areas that might be underserviced and need help.
Owning a private practice means you are not only a practicing clinician but also a small business owner. Both of these jobs entail a lot of work and sacrifice. This can quickly become overwhelming. To help your private practice succeed, you have to think like an entrepreneur and incorporate well-proven marketing strategies.
Here are my top 10 tips to help you build your client base:
- Identify your ideal client
- Build a website
- Expand your social media
- Be great to your clients
- Hire great staff
- Create a welcoming environment
- Ask for feedback and referrals
- Scrutinize your process and improve it
- Participate with insurance companies
- Build participatory care
Let’s look at each of them in greater detail.
1. Identify Your Ideal Client
While it may sound slightly counterintuitive to narrow your focus when you want to expand your client base, finding your niche is key to growing your business.
By understanding the demographics in your area, you’ll be able to identify the ideal type of client who will be likely to call your office for help. For example, does your community have a large retiring population? Young families? Aging baby boomers?
Once you’ve identified the type of client you’ll be working with, you can laser all your business and marketing efforts precisely towards this group (or groups). Defining your ideal customer allows you to market your private practice in a way that attracts those individuals.
Also, appealing to customers you are well trained to support allows your private practice to start on a strong note. This good reputation will take you far in building a larger client base. Highlight your unique strengths and emphasize the quality of services rather than quantity.
2. Build a Website
In today’s age, almost everything is done over the internet. When looking for a doctor, the first step many of your potential clients will take is to search for physicians in their local area via an internet search engine.
Having a website you own is the cornerstone of all your marketing efforts, with a place to connect with your patients more profoundly and tell them more about what you have to offer.
Having a professional and easily navigable website is necessary. While free website-building sites are available, they don’t always look as good as a site you pay to have developed. However, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress are among the highest-rated sites that offer free versions. Here’s a report of the top 10 free website-building sites that show you the pros and cons of each.
A list of pages you’ll want to include on your site are:
This page gives your clients an overview of and welcome to your site. It should be attractive and inviting and clearly show people how to navigate through the pages.
Most people want a chance to get to know you a little before calling the office. The more relatable, friendly, and approachable you are on this page, the more they’ll want to call into your office. Include a profile picture.
Include the names of your staff, along with a profile picture and a short blurb about them.
Although you’ll want to include the clinic name, address, and phone number on each page, you should also have a dedicated contact page for your site visitors with the following information:
- A contact form
- Your email address (for those who don’t want to use the contact form)
- Phone number
- Office hours
- A map (preferably a Google map)
- Directions from north, south, east, or west
- Links to your various business social media profiles
Frequently Asked Questions
New clients will have questions, and they’ll likely be the same questions you hear over and over again. Save yourself (and your patients) stress by answering the most often asked questions here, and make sure to link this page directly from your Contact page.
Break down what you offer by explaining the services you provide in your office. The more information you can give online, the more your clients can see your philosophy and how their experience will be when they visit you.
Insurance Acceptance and Rates
The more open you are on your site, the more confidence you build in your prospective patients. For example, include a list of your rates, your cash pay policy, if you accept insurance, and what insurance you accept.
- Client intake form
- Cancellation policy
- Client disclosure release form
A great way to drive traffic to your newly finished, professional-looking website is by being active on social media. You don’t need to create an account on every social media platform to have an effective social media marketing strategy. Just focus on creating quality content for the social media accounts you utilize.
Social media is free and is a fantastic way to engage with potential clients. Facebook and Twitter are good platforms to start on. Social media offers you a chance to give to your customers and contribute to them to go beyond the standard visit time they can interact with you in an office setting.
Use social media to:
- Keep in touch with your patients by replying to their comments.
- Share news and information about particular medical issues.
- Retweet information that is relevant to your work.
- Show your expertise by posting short articles.
4. Be Great to Everyone
This practice should go without saying, but one of the best ways to build your client base is to be consistently great with everyone you encounter during the day. It’s easy to assume that’s what we all do, but sometimes the busyness and stress of the day can get on top of us, and we don’t leave every patient feeling like they have been heard and what’s happening for them matters to you.
Since building patient loyalty stems from their overall satisfaction, having time to nurture your patient relationships is vital to the long-term success of your practice.
The best marketing tools in the world won’t matter in your practice if your patients don’t feel respected and helped by you. Of course, we all get referrals by word-of-mouth, but whether they are positive or negative, it most often comes down to how people are treated when they’re in your clinic.
5. Hire Great Staff
It’s not enough for you to be great to everyone who comes into your office if your staff doesn’t take the same care you do with your patients. While the roles of office staff are heavily administrative, a huge component of their work is interacting with the patients, and how well they do so will reflect on the entire practice.
Administrative work is mainly viewed as being detailed oriented and requiring a high degree of organizational skill, but a critical piece of your office staff’s work is their ability to provide excellent customer care.
Customer service experiences set the expectation for the quality of care throughout the rest of the clinic. Your patients want more than treatment; they want care. They have basic expectations from their visit to your office — quality medical care, a comfortable and safe environment, well-maintained patient records, respect for their data processes, and caring and empathetic staff.
6. Create a Welcoming Environment
The more welcoming your environment, the easier it is for your clients to refer others to you. For example, adding photos of a nice-looking practice on your website can help to encourage new clients to visit.
Focus on providing an exceptional experience by offering useful information, such as helpful fact sheets and instructions on how they can claim insurance or medical rebates. Leave your brochure or flyers in the waiting room so that clients can share them with their friends and family.
7. Ask for Feedback and Referrals
Gathering patient feedback about the level of care you provide is critical for maintaining a patient-centric practice. This process can be automated, so you don’t have to worry about manually sending surveys to patients after each visit or remembering to ask them to complete one every time they come in. On busy days, patient surveys are a perfect example of the small yet essential things that can slip through the cracks.
You can use a survey to conduct industry research, customer experience, or measure customer satisfaction. Speaking of reputation, ask for feedback from previous clients to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Clients will appreciate this follow-up as a means of touching base, and their feedback will help you identify any problem areas and your company’s greatest strengths.
As part of the feedback process, ask clients if they are comfortable giving a testimonial that you can then feature on your website to humanize your brand. Eighty-eight percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so let your past clients encourage potential buyers to join your client list.
8. Scrutinize Your Process and Improve It
With so many automated tools available to healthcare practices, you no longer have to sacrifice time, productivity, and profitability. As you look for ways to improve your care, patient satisfaction, and communication throughout the continuum of care, healthcare automation is an excellent way to improve your office processes.
Here are four practice processes that, if automated, can cut down on many day-to-day tasks that can eat up time. Implementing several of these processes will improve practice productivity and increase profitability.
Rather than having to call every patient, an appointment reminder software service will automatically remind patients of their upcoming scheduled appointments and even allow you to customize the message and time it’s delivered based on patient preference.
Missed Appointment Notifications
When your patients are forgetful or have emergencies that cause them to miss appointments and get off track with their healthcare, some systems will automatically send a notification to let the patient know they missed it and invite them to reschedule it. In addition, some platforms include convenient online scheduling, allowing patients to schedule an appointment at any time and from anywhere.
Keeping up with when patients are due for their next appointment and trying to reach them on the phone for scheduling can be ineffective and burn a lot of hours in the day. An automated recall system dramatically improves this process and eliminates that task from your list, so you don’t have to sacrifice productivity.
Automated Revenue Cycle Management
How many person-hours and postage are you wasting sending multiple statements that may not even result in a payment? Implementing an automated revenue management tool can eliminate this issue and help you streamline this practice process while significantly improving your collections.
9. Participate with Insurance Companies
Don’t let often-complicated insurance-company rules and processes thwart your reach to clients who need to use insurance coverage. Reimbursement from private and federally funded insurance companies can set you apart as a private practitioner. In addition, becoming a participating provider with insurance companies will broaden your patient base.
A comprehensive health care system that prioritizes primary care must also emphasize the cost and affordability of care. This is important not only for consumers but also for the decision-making of physicians, clinicians, payers, and government agencies.
10. Build Participatory Care
In recent years, group visits, where a doctor treats or sees multiple patients simultaneously with the same illness or condition, have grown in popularity. The trend of group consultations is part of a movement within healthcare known as participatory care. Participatory care is a medical philosophy that centers around patients creating active partnerships with their doctors and physicians.
With increasing pressure in healthcare due to rising costs, growing patient expectations, and new technologies, more people are invested in their physical well-being and want to work together towards experiencing better health.
Read this Fullscript article for an in-depth look at this emerging shift in healthcare.
So often, we feel we’re all alone in growing our private practice. We need someone to partner with or be mentored by who share the same vision and ideals. If you could use some help with this, I’d love a chance to talk with you and hear about your challenges and successes!