By Joseph LaPorta, CEO of Flexeon Rehabilitation

In today’s ultra-competitive healthcare environment, it is crucial for the success of your practice—whether large or small—to differentiate your overall value-proposition to referral sources, patients, and the communities you serve. Unlike marketing within the products sector, where most of the focus centers on specific, tangible product features and benefits, marketing within the rehabilitation services industry requires a much more holistic approach. This strategy aims to define and differentiate each facet (or step) in a potential customer’s interaction with your organization.

It is also important to note here that contrary to popular belief and popular myth, marketing is not the sole responsibility of your marketing department or marketing person. Nor should it be an anxiety-inducing event or a once-a-year campaign. Rather, we consider marketing to be a continuous improvement process—with participation from your entire team—that eventually becomes a part of your organization’s culture.

In the rehabilitation services space, anyone within our clinic’s community is a potential patient and/or referral source—and every interaction and experience they have with us matters. When we master the art of providing a consistent, quality patient experience, our patients will drive longer distances, have better outcomes, and even tell their family and friends about their therapy. We must realize that our patient/customer has changed in recent years; they are busier, more informed, and have higher expectations of positive results. They tend to use technology more for research and scheduling, and they expect us to do the same. They appreciate referrals from their trusted physicians but recognize that they have choices when deciding with whom to partner for their journey back to health.

The holistic approach to marketing your practice takes into consideration three areas of focus:

  1. Quality: providing an effective manual treatment that progresses the patient forward
  2. Efficiency: moving patients through a painful recovery process in a timely and convenient fashion
  3. Access: allowing everyone an easy way to get the care they need

These areas of focus are all very much interrelated, and ultimately, they define the overall customer experience—both for the patient and the referring physician who views your practice as an extension of his or hers. This means that we must offer our patients a professional and unique experience at every interaction, and if one area is out of balance, that could influence our customers’ overall perception of care and outcome.

Now that you have an understanding of Quality, Efficiency, and Access, let’s discuss the four steps you should follow to implement holistic marketing in your practice:

  1. Organizational self-analysis

As the marketing leader or owner of your therapy business, you will need to take an honest look in the mirror to understand what your patient/customer experience is really like. This can often be a worthwhile and eye-opening experience. You can use tools like SWOT analysis orvalue stream mapping, or simply do the following:

  • Historical data review: These numbers will tell you a lot about who is coming to your practice, why, and when. Watch closely for sharp declines and inclines.

  • Workflow analysis: Call one of your clinics, schedule an appointment, and receive treatment. Record the increments in time that it takes to move through this process.

  • Benchmark: Compare each facet of your customers’ experience with the experience that your competitors—both local and national—are providing. Then, implement best practices in marketing, scheduling, treating, discharging, and billing.

  • Survey: Ask employees, patients, physicians, and vendors difficult questions about how your team is performing in each area.

  1. Holistic plan development

With the information you gained from performing the above exercises, you are now in a better position to outline your improvement plan. Next, come up with three ideas that will improve the patient/customer experience at each customer touch point, and list them.

  • Include employees in the planning process; this increases buy-in and invites newperspectives.

  • Develop metrics that define success (new patients, total visits, cancellations, etc).

  • Develop realistic timelines, budgets, and controls so that your plan is sustainable for the long run.

  • Make sure you have the right people in place—people who see the big picture and can adapt to provide a new level of care. It is just as important for a small shop as a large one.

  1. Execution or plan rollout

Well-researched ideas, exciting forecasts, and pretty PowerPoints are only 4% of the equation. The other 96% is the execution of a successful rollout.

  • Communicate the direction in real time and on a regular basis so everyone is informed and invested in the changes.

  • Invest in training so employees are not set up for failure. Everyone should be aware of changes and have clear, simple metrics.

  • Have regular operating mechanisms or meetings that allow for review of progress and challenges.

  • Expect progress, not perfection. As long as you are executing on the right activities the results will come.

  1. Post execution analysis or “look back”

This is simply an opportunity for you and your team to review what you’ve accomplished and decide if you’ve achieved what you set out to do. If you haven’t, now’s the time to adjust.

  • Marketing: Are you reaching out to your patients/customers, physicians, and communities on a regular basis via several methods of communication? Are you involved in the community you serve? Often, it is a game of numbers; try to stay in front as many people as possible on a consistent basis.

  • Scheduling: Are you answering the phone on two rings? Is the person who is doing the answering professional, friendly, and proactive when it comes to getting all scripted visits scheduled during that call? Do you send an auto-reminder to your busy patients/customers? Are your patients/customers able to find your clinic easily? Is there parking? Do you provide transportation or at least an umbrella when it is raining?

  • Treatment: Are patients/customers waiting in the lobby too long? Are they sitting on a machine for too long? Does the therapist really connect and listen to their needs? Is the clinic clean and organized? Is equipment old and antiquated? Is your therapist using the latest in web-based EMR technology? Today’s patients/customers want the latest in technology and are concerned if their clinician is behind the times.

  • Discharge/billing: Did the patient/customer understand his or her coverage? Did your therapist or therapy assistant explain the work plan? Did the patient/customer have an opportunity to provide feedback on his or her experience via survey? Was billing correct the first time, and was it paperless?

There you have it: a holistic approach to marketing your therapy practice. I know that I’ve challenged you here to consider this more comprehensive strategy as a better way to market your practice. I’ve done so because I am convinced that the overall experience of Quality, Efficiency, and Access are what really drives the marketing machine. 

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