One step every medical practice should take at the beginning of each year is to take the time to update its marketing strategy. The practice should set out its goals and challenges for the year, and then determine the role marketing will play. Once a direction is known it will be possible to develop a marketing plan for the website, build a social media editorial calendar, and take advantage of targeted local marketing opportunities.
Medical Economics recently released what they consider to be the top 10 challenges facing physicians in 2014, which should help in this process. While it may not be possible for individual practices to solve all of the challenges in one year, this list serves as a guideline for setting out what needs to be accomplished. Although the overall goals are to attract patients, promote office growth, and effectively manage provider time, some of the ways physician marketing can help meet these challenges and achieve those goals included:
- Payment for Medical Services: Many ACA changes will affect the way physicians are paid for their services. Physician marketing can help promote and educate patients about wellness programs, communicate changes and updates regarding payment for services, offer online payment opportunities, and communicate with patients about payment responsibilities. Doctors may need to set up some capability for e-service to answer questions and monitor patient health.
- Government Mandates: In addition to converting to the ICD-10-CM coding system, 2014 is the last year in which doctors who have not previously participated in MU (Meaningful Use) can do so and avoid financial penalties. HIPAA changes affect the ability to send health information to patients electronically and the need to update patients regarding privacy.
- Time: Most physicians pursue medicine because they want to help patients. But it is difficult to achieve this goal when being pulled away by government demands, insurance requirements and marketing needs. Outsourcing many of the marketing functions will be needed to allow physicians more time to concentrate on patient care.
- Changing Patient Populations: Millions of Americans will be enrolled in some type of new health care program. This offers a significant opportunity for physicians to reach out, educate these prospective patients on healthcare, and attract new patients to the practice. Many patients are self-diagnosing online, so doctors may have to participate more in the process of providing reliable information.
Perhaps most important is the need to maintain a realistic work-life balance. Meeting the challenges ahead may take some time and determination, but patients are likely to be just as overwhelmed as doctors. Those practices which take the lead in smoothing the way will be more likely to achieve long-term success.
Medical Economics says that every challenge should be looked at as an opportunity. With a well-defined physician marketing program, you should be able to build a stronger practice, continue to educate patients and provide superior patient care, and still have time to enjoy a better quality of life for yourself.