In an ideal world, your practice’s patient-relationship strategy runs smoothly. The prospective patient responds to information they’ve received from their friend, or from your television, radio, newspaper, phone-book, or Web-site ads, by phoning or emailing your office. She or he then visits your office and is treated as a VIP guest. As a result, she or he leaves with a good feeling about your practice and the procedure that can improve her or his quality of life.
In fact, she or he feels great because you have taken the time to properly screen and educate prospective patients, and this instills a high level of comfort in her or him that is essential for the agreement to the procedure. By the time she or he leaves the office, surgery is scheduled and personal data are entered into your automated system that flags preoperative and postoperative appointment dates, birthdays, and future mailing dates, and integrates marketing-referral modules with the goal of ensuring an ongoing relationship with her or him and future referrals from her or him.
It is important to understand the value of every marketing opportunity. A basic value is associated with an incoming phone call. A strategic value is associated with scheduling a consultation. A tactical value is associated with the initial consultation and follow-up. And a trackable value is associated with scheduling the procedure, providing the procedure, and following up during recovery and in years to come. Yet, the journey through patient tracking from acquisition to retention is a difficult one.
Look for our next article that discusses Tracking for Your ROI
Tracking helps establish the true value that results from a marketing campaign, and can mean different things to different practices. For the purpose of this article, tracking monitors the progress and measures the success of each marketing effort to evaluate your return on investment (ROI).
The two primary components of tracking are the patient and the marketing opportunity. Tracking equates to knowing the conversion rate from each marketing form, the types of surgery requests that are acquired from each medium, and the income generated from each associated lead. The goal of patient tracking is to improve efficiency and obtain reporting data—thereby providing a true ROI value.
As the public has increasingly demanded fast, efficient, informative, and high-quality services, plastic-surgery practices have stepped up to the plate with a multitude of service enhancements. Whereas you may be enticed to invest in every marketing opportunity, tracking is only a means to determine the right opportunities for your practice.
Because of this, many entities have taken an interest in patient tracking. In fact, the US government—and the Food and Drug Administration in particular—have introduced postmarket surveillance initiatives that have brought attention to patient tracking. Equipment manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies continue to develop new technologies and products that can generate more income for plastic-surgery practices, but these efforts require supporting, trackable data.
Software companies have participated by creating automated systems that can help reduce costs, qualify and quantify trackable identifiers, and ultimately increase ROI. Perhaps more importantly, the push for stronger tracking tools has come from physicians themselves, who have demanded quantification of the ROI of new products. With the multitude of marketing options available, perhaps patient tracking is more important than the marketing campaign itself.
Learn more in our next article entitled, The Keys to Medical Marketing Tracking: Informed Consent.
Improve the return on your investment on your marketing campaigns by obtaining information on your patients before and after you’ve treated them!
Today’s patients enjoy personal attention. They seek 24-hour access, convenience, and security. Value-added services that provide personal attention include everything from short waiting-room times and convenient parking to “best practices” and enhanced educational services.
Following “best practices” during the initial consultation can help retain the right long-term (and trackable) patient. An informed consent approach is worthy to ultimately lead to a satisfied—and trackable—patient.
In the initial consultation, gather:
a four-page patient-history questionnaire;
a review of potential or current medical problems that may alter the procedure recommendation or outcome;
a total-health examination; and
additional or alternative treatment recommendations.
An in-depth consultation can help determine whether the marketing-opportunity investment has presented the right patient. The resulting data, if it is properly entered using the right database software, can create additional opportunities to follow up with the patient.
In many practices, additional interaction with patients can be accomplished by documenting and referring to personal data during all conversations—thus, strengthening the long-term trackable relationship. Appointment reminders, thank-you notes, birthday cards, and newsletters are also beneficial. Patients often enjoy receiving relevant physician-approved information.
According to Jupiter Research (Darien, Conn), 63% of consumers say they would switch health care providers on the basis of credible online content, communication by email, or online scheduling. Many of these consumers want the information directly from the physician. A survey conducted by Cyberdialog (New York City) shows that 77% of the people seeking health care information on the Internet want to get it from a physician.
Next, learn more about how to follow up and incentives.
Follow-up can be used to build patient trust and to obtain postoperative data. Whether a patient enquires about a concern she has or requests a referral to another physician, she always provides an opportunity to obtain trackable information. The strength of the postoperative support can also affect the trackable data. The ability to reach the physician by any form of communication, day or night, is valuable to plastic-surgery patients.
Documenting this information using automated software is crucial to making the appropriate follow-up. Depending on the software’s capability, follow-up can be limited or enhanced. For example, software is available to alert staff as many as four times after a patient “no-show.” Integrated practice-management software can store every aspect of the patient’s chart. Email communication and the practice Web site are also valuable and can simplify follow-up.
Follow-up can pay off in many ways. The great thing about patient follow-up is that it is not just good business, it is also good medicine. By seeing patients personally at 6months and 1year postoperatively, you can make sure they are satisfied, keep your relationship active, and answering their questions regarding maintenance and ‘what’s next?’ ”
In some plastic-surgery practices, incentives have been developed for follow-up and trackable data. A free consultation for other treatment or procedure options may be offered. Or, additional treatments or procedures may be subsidized.
You might want to extend to your facial aesthetic surgery patients a free chemical peel. Body-contouring patients may enjoy a free cellulite-reduction treatment. The idea is that if you offer an incentive, you can inquire about other relevant patient information.
The best opportunity to develop a comprehensive treatment plan is during the initial consultation. Additional anti-aging maintenance treatments can create opportunities for long-term aftercare follow-up.
Another opportunity for patient retention and trackable data has been introduced in medical spas. For example, a prospective patient who is initially too intimidated to proceed with surgery may come in for a massage or chemical peel to get a better feel for the practice. Likewise, a patient who has undergone a surgical procedure may return for a skin-care or nutritional consultation. Creating opportunities for follow-up is one of the best ways to gather trackable data.
Next, visit The Keys to Medical Marketing Tracking Identifying Sources
Tracking means accounting for the administrative hours necessary to exploit the opportunities that came about as a result of the marketing and public-relations campaign. If an opportunity isn’t time-efficient, it may not be cost-efficient. If tracking efforts require much organization and monitoring, then perhaps they are not worth the investment at all. Computerized tracking and quarterly review are essential. But whatever the expense, the trackable value of your marketing efforts and the patient satisfaction that they produced are essential for you to calculate the return on your investment. Learn more about printed material tracking!
The use of printed materials to build patient trust may serve your practice well with respect to patient retention and the collection of trackable data. You may opt to send patients a quarterly e-newsletter to keep in touch with them and to establish your practice as their trusted, knowledgeable resource on your area of expertise.
In fact, many types of mailings or print ads may be produced by a practice over the course of a year. These mailings may be in the form of letters, newsletters, postcards, birthday cards, and much more, as previously described. Print ads may feature the physician, practice, or procedures, or may announce new technology, an upcoming event, or a public-service initiative.
To help gauge the success of printed materials, the information contained in the document should be specific to “something,” such as a procedure, an event, or a survey. This will help determine how many incoming calls result from the printed materials. All documents must have denotable key codes to separate the successful from the unsuccessful. Printed materials that patients receive after initial phone contact and initial consultation can include information about the procedure, the surgeon, and the practice, and a map and directions.
This “kit” may also include other materials that assist with tracking, including a patient-history questionnaire, a comfort checklist, and preoperative and postoperative instruction lists—all of which can require a patient signature, completion by the patient, or interaction that demonstrates that the materials have been read. Seminar announcements may be beneficial. However, tracking methods must be in place to establish the number of signups, the number of people who actually attend, and the number of procedures performed as a result of the seminar. In the end, all materials should have an identifier to quantify trackable results. The right practice-management software will help determine whether the patient came in for consultation, surgery, or postoperative care.
The two choices available for mailings—email or “snail mail”—must be considered. Postal mail avoids potential HIPAA issues, but email may be more cost-efficient and easier to track. For example, the right e-newsletter that contains information about many procedures can provide quantifiable information about each procedure to help identify which ones are of greatest interest to your patient base. Unlike postal mail, the e-newsletter will reveal how many people opened it. An e-newsletter can also be easily forwarded to friends in the patients’ email address book, extending the possibilities for referrals.
Next month check out, The Keys to Medical Marketing Tracking: Identifying Internet Sources