Let’s Get Personal
Communicate to a targeted audience.
By Nitin Chhoda, PT
Aligning the goals of your practice with solutions that meet the needs of patients can simultaneously lower costs and improve the quality of care. By diversifying your services across different patient segments and proactively communicating targeted messages over time, your practice can get personal with patients and succeed in the new economy.
The three tenets of getting personal with patients include: patient segmentation, horizontal diversification, and proactive patient communication.
The best way to serve patients is to collect data points that identify exactly what the patient needs, and tailor your marketing efforts accordingly. Utilization of patient segmentation can open up exciting new possibilities for your practice.
The ability to segment patients using certain (nonclinical) characteristics allows a practice to engineer the marketing message precisely to suit the needs of specific sub-segments of the patient population. These characteristics may include:
- make and model of the vehicle they drive
- annual income
- activity level
- preferred mode of contact
- relationship status
- favorite holiday destination
- financial goal at retirement
The result of a precise marketing message is lower cost of marketing and a higher rate of return. A precise marketing message also results in higher patient satisfaction.
The creation of subdivisions, such as [your practice name] fitness and [your practice name] massage, allows your company to present services to different patient segments. In fact, the right name goes a long way in creating the right expectations for the patients.
Some therapists have taken the concept of patient segmentation a step further and used proprietary terminology to describe their work. To be the creator of a new and unique treatment concept that is proven allows a clinic to stand apart.
Horizontal Practice Diversification
Horizontal practice diversification allows your practice to offer a unique service (or several individual services) that are related to your core-service offering. This also allows delivery of the same core service using a new and unique payment model.
A private practice can then reduce or eliminate dependence on a handful of payers and referral sources and break free from traditional shackles. In fact, this concept can also change the way traditional medicine is practiced.
According to the Time magazine article “Medicine Is About to Get Personal,” published online in December 2014, a deceptively simple idea can redefine health care across the country: Pay frontline doctors a fixed monthly fee directly instead of through the byzantine insurance bureaucracy. Make the patient, rather than the paperwork, the focus of the doctor’s day. The result will be happier doctors, healthier patients, and a striking reduction in wasted expense. In one of the more intriguing experiments in the medical industry, Qliance Health, a Seattle-based company—founded by Dr. Garrison Bliss with his cousin, Dr. Erika Bliss—is applying this idea to managing the health of roughly 35,000 patients—about half of them on Medicaid.
The concept of horizontal diversification can be applied to your referral sources. Having several different physicians as referral sources for physical therapy may give owners a false sense of diversification.
In reality, this is simply vertical diversification among physicians—you stack up more physicians referring to you.
You need to go a step further and have:
- different physicians of various specialties
- various local businesses
- several patients
- various companies and corporations referring to several different services that you offer.
Proactive Patient Communication with Multiple Touch Points
Staying in touch with your patients and referral sources on an ongoing basis (even if they do not respond to you immediately) is a simple way to get ongoing referrals.
In fact, it takes several touches to get the desired response. For instance, if you are reaching out to a discharged patient and your desired response is that the patient refers you to a friend or family member. You can use different media to communicate and touch the patient’s life, but you have to take the steps to contact them.
Collecting every possible means of contact information, or touchpoints, gives the practice multiple avenues to reach patients.
Patients can be reached by phone, text, email, and regular mail. Do not rely on just one touchpoint. If a patient misses your message via email, they might get it via text, voicemail, or regular mail.
Touchpoint 1, Text: “Hope you are well. Just checking in.”
Touchpoint 2, Phone call: “I’m following up on my text from yesterday. What can we do to serve you or your family members? We have a range of wellness services available to help you improve your quality of life.”
Patients are busy. The therapy and service you offer are not at the top of their mind. In fact, they are likely to put it off until it is necessary. Proactive patient communication using repetition and multimode contact must be an ongoing process for your practice. The word ongoing in this definition is important because a patient needs to be conditioning about the benefits of physical therapy.
Here is a likely outcome of your efforts from the patient’s point of view:
- Touch 1 – Ignore
- Touch 2 – Ignore
- Touch 3 – What were you saying again and who are you again?
- Touch 4 – Oh, it is you. Hey, I remember your practice.
- Touch 5 – You remembered me? That was thoughtful of you.
- Touch 6 – Come to think of it, my brother hurt his shoulder last week.
- Touch 7 – I just asked him to call you. Say, when can I come in? I need some help for ___.
Reverse Engineering all Marketing
Reverse engineering all your marketing efforts can result in a positive return on investment (ROI). If you are going to spend money on marketing, ask yourself some key questions:
- “How much am I going to spend?”
- “How much am I going to get back?”
- “How can I track results?”
- “Should I do this again?”
In a nutshell, your practice needs:
- Clarity about and reinforcement of foundations for success
- ROI-based marketing methods
- Reliable technology and automation of systems
- Money management to grow your practice
For small- and medium-sized private practices, the allocation of resources (staff, time, technology) to communicate the right messages to the right patients is crucial. Plan what you are saying, the media you are using to say it, and the needs of the patient. Choose the right mode to communicate with the patient.
Patient segmentation and hypertargeting of your patient list will result in more efficient marketing campaigns. Combine these principles with horizontal diversification, and you will be able to get personal with patients. The result will be higher patient satisfaction, increased referrals, happy staff, and a profitable practice.
Nitin Chhoda, PT, DPT, is a private practice marketingconsultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.