We write a lot about patient-centered care, which makes sense, because it is the care model of the future. In this paradigm, patients are—as they should be—front and center when it comes to making decisions about their health care. Of course, this type of shift requires providers to change the way they deliver their services—you know, more collaboration, greater transparency, and widespread use of technology that fosters seamless health data exchange. But it also requires a shift in the way providers market their practices. Sure, marketing to referral sources and payers is still a necessary part of the game, but in this new model of health care, marketing to patients is absolutely crucial. To do so successfully, physical therapy clinics must adopt marketing strategies that focus on the things patients care about most—namely, getting better, faster. Here’s everything you need to know to do just that:
1. Assess your strengths—and weaknesses.
Getting a baseline understanding of your strengths and weaknesses is a fantastic starting point for any marketing campaign—especially one geared toward patients. After all, you must know what you’re working with before you can sell it. And selling something that you can’t actually deliver could land you in some serious trouble. While payers may not discuss their grievances about a particular provider with one another, patients surely do. So, now’s the time to take an honest look at your performance—and the best way to do that is to collect and track outcomes data. That way, you’ll have objective information that demonstrates not only the quality of your services, but also your patients’ satisfaction levels. And those are key indicators of a successful practice.
Incorporating Outcomes Tracking
As we wrote in this guide to tracking outcomes, there are several necessary steps for implementing a solid outcomes tracking program in your practice, including the following:
- Adopt an integrated outcomes tracking solution that provides a diverse library of evidence-based, industry-accepted tests that are already familiar to—and respected within—the healthcare community at large, along with risk-adjusted national outcome comparison reports.
- Be sure everyone in your office—front office staff, billers, assistants, administrators, and therapists—understands why your practice is collecting outcomes data.
- Educate your patients on the benefits of completing OMTs, and make sure they know how to do so correctly.
- Establish a process for administering OMTs—including assigning responsibility for specific steps to certain staff members.
2. Tailor your message.
Today’s patients have a choice when it comes to their healthcare providers, which is why one-size-fits-all marketing techniques aren’t going to cut it any longer. Instead, opt for a tailored message that gets to the heart of what patients care about, which, as I wrote above, really comes down to getting better, faster. But even that’s too general, because patients with low back pain are seeking providers who not only specifically treat that condition, but also excel at doing so. And the same goes for patients with any other condition or injury.
Using Your Data
That’s where your outcomes data comes into play. Once you know the areas in which your practice excels, you’ll be able to craft messages that entice patients to select your services. For example, if your clinic produces exceptional outcomes for patients who are recovering from total knee replacements, then you can—and should—include that in your marketing. (If that’s the case, you may also want to consider participating in the CJR.) On the other hand, if your clinic isn’t performing exceptionally well for patients with shoulder injuries, then you may want to halt shoulder-specific marketing efforts until you’ve had the opportunity to level up in that area, which in this case may mean completing additional training or bringing in a staff member with the necessary skill set. Just remember that, in this case, your marketing materials are meant for patients, so be sure you’re communicating in a way that the patients understand (i.e., don’t use clinical or industry-specific jargon that doesn’t actually address your potential patients’ pain points). Instead, keep it crystal clear and to the point.
3. Target your market.
Once you’ve crafted your data-backed marketing message, you’ll need to determine how to deliver it. While there’s definitely something to be said for ensuring your front-office staff understand how to use your outcomes data to market to patients who call your office—what better way to communicate your value and allay financial fears before a patient’s first visit?—you’ll also want to get your message online. After all, that’s where most of your patients are going to find you. And what do patients value most online? Social proof—which means that in addition to creating a professional website and valuable content, you’ll want to get comfortable using social media and start working on generating an arsenal of positive online reviews.
Networking with Purpose
Earlier this year, Sarah Lyon, OTR/L, published a guide to help OTs use social media to better network with their colleagues. Well, her sage advice not only stands for all rehab therapists, but also applies when marketing to patients:
- “Set a goal,” she wrote, because “no one has time to throw spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks.” Rather, be clear with your intentions for developing a social media strategy—before you begin.
- “Find the right network.” There are plenty of networks to choose from—including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest—and each one serves a different purpose.
- “Be genuine.” In other words, regardless of the platform you choose, “Don’t try to sell something to someone you just met. Don’t ask too much of them.” And my personal favorite: “Don’t be spammy or scammy.”
Looking for even more great strategies to improve your social media marketing efforts? Check out this section of our physical therapy marketing guide. Lyon will also be speaking at this year’s Ascend summit. Check out the full agenda—and register to attend—here.
Soliciting Patient Reviews
As WebPT’s Lauren Mulligan writes in this post, “If you really want to broaden your patient base and increase your revenue, you’ll need a strategy for getting your current and former patients to sing your praises publicly.” And what’s the best way to get your patients to leave you a review? Ask. “At the end of a great appointment—or at discharge, when a patient has successfully completed an entire treatment plan—tell your client how important he or she is to your business, and then ask if he or she would be willing to leave an online review of your clinic,” Mulligan wrote. To make it even easier for your patients to sing your praises, she also recommends including “direct links to all your review profiles—including your own clinic website—in easy-to-see and easy-to-access locations, like your website, business cards, and email signature, especially if you email appointment reminders or post-session thank-you messages.” Just be sure your patient has had a truly positive experience before you request a review, because it can be tough to recover from negative reviews.
It’s been a few years now since some form of direct access became available in all 50 states, which means—hopefully—you’ve already begun marketing your services directly to patients. Now, with the industry-wide shift toward a more patient-centric care model, it’s even more important to market the things patients value.