Struggling to get your practice noticed? Rev up the way you manage it to raise its visibility in the local marketplace!
Market potential for your hearing care practice is significant. More than 36 million American adults in the United States have some degree of hearing loss, according to the CDC. In this article we show you how to rev up the 5 key “practice management engines” to raise your visibility—to attract more patients and boost your profits.
The primary “engines” of practice management are marketing/sales and technology. First let’s tackle marketing and sales.
The key to boosting your practice through the marketing/sales “engine” is to find effective (and frequent) ways to move your products and services from “concept to the customer.” This engine is essential in converting prospects into patients.
As a starting point, ask yourself: Who makes a difference? Loyal customers! So it makes sense to grow your practice through the influence of existing patients. Here are some surprising facts to consider, as discovered through a recent research study on patient behavior that was commissioned by CareCredit: when considering their options for hearing care, patients devote nearly as much effort to researching cost or finances as they do researching their treatment options. Other studies show that more than 50% of those who purchase hearing aids will go to a competitor for the next pair, and that some 60% of hearing aids are bought by people who have had them before. Are you doing all you can to satisfy your current patients? (Tip: Give your current patients more reasons to recommend you to others, and to keep coming back to your practice for hearing aids. Are you offering them a variety of payment options and products to help meet their hearing care needs?)
Each time you offer a new payment option or new hearing product, it gives you a chance to tell patients about it. The recent CareCredit study on patient behavior found that 74% of patients were not aware financing was available for hearing healthcare, yet 48% indicated they would consider financing if it meant they could receive treatment right away.
When you provide high-quality products along with great service, your loyal patients will become evangelists for your practice, and that can be more powerful than paid advertising to bring in new patients. Instead of spending your funds on placing advertisements, which doesn’t always deliver a reasonable return on your investment, try these tactics:
- Offer an incentive for referrals. Typically, you will face fewer obstacles when getting a referral from an existing patient – rather than a brand-new prospect answering an ad. You could offer a $20 gift certificate to your current patients who refer someone (who becomes a new patient).
- Provide a flawless office experience. To get your regular patients to spread the word about your practice, you’ll need to offer a remarkable experience. Many resources are available to enhance your patients’ experience (ie, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/206760). Pay attention to the entire experience for your patients—from making an appointment to walking into your office to getting fitted with hearing aids to what kind of financing options you offer to help them pay for the product. These patient experiences are all part of the marketing engine.
- Use a resource partner to help generate leads. With CareCredit, a third-party patient financing program for enrolled providers, you can get free customized training and phone support along with your membership—and a dedicated marketing team that offers office visits to help grow your practice!
- Use your website as a marketing vehicle. A responsive website increases your visibility to the broadest audience possible, and is the foundation of your business, so consistently post Web content that is engaging and relevant to attract new readers (patient prospects).
- Build a library of testimonials on your practice website – and develop some positive reviews! You can also get reviews on websites like Yelp, Vitals and Healthgrades. Then be sure to share them and switch out the testimonials from time to time to keep things fresh.
- Establish an active presence on social media. Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter—regularly.
Over 80% of providers are concerned about dwindling profits due to lower reimbursements. They’re also worried about issues with billing systems and processes, according to Black Book 2014. The good news is that there are ways to manage your practice through technology:
- Stay on top of things with updated technology. It might sound pricey, but with newer cloud-based systems you can usually use a “pay-as-you-go” model. That means the vendors get paid when you do!
- Your practice needs to have the ability to collect payments. With the right automated processes, you can improve performance and build trust with patients. (Be sure to have a timely, matter-of-fact talk about payments with patients at the outset.)
Clinical Expertise & Services
Be sure to gather an “ace team” at your practice that coordinates efforts to offer patients the best care possible, all under one roof. For example, your practice may include an audiologist, a hearing instrument specialist, and an Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) doctor—all in one location.
Jay McSpaden, PhD, an audiologist and hearing instrument specialist, says it’s important to get all the specialists together in one place: “To offer the best hearing care possible, neurotologists or otologists, audiologists, and hearing instrument specialists should form into a hearing care group that makes the most of the expertise of each of the three professions involved.” The patient will benefit from the centralized services of all three disciplines and won’t have to go to specialists in three different locations.
To keep your office running smoothly, communications among all staff members—from front office to back office—is essential, including:
- Front-office staff – a friendly crew who can greet patients and are trained to work with them effectively regarding products, payments, etc.
- Group trainings – ensure that everyone in your practice is “on the same page” by attending training sessions together
- Go digital – transition to electronic record-keeping and appointment scheduling, and all else to keep the practice running smoothly
Consider ways to automate processes, from collecting payments to handling all the financial aspects of running your practice (when needed, get extra help from third-party service providers). For example, when you offer patients a deferred payment financing option like CareCredit, you are providing a service that automates many of the processes for you.
Keep a realistic budget. When trying to fit a marketing budget into the overall financial picture for your practice, go small—rather than overstepping your bounds. “Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint,’ says Thomas Hofstetter, managing partner, Points Group Marketing Services in Florham Park, NJ. “I would recommend going with a smaller budget, but committing to it for the long-term.”
All in all, the ultimate goal of marketing is not only to increase your visibility and attract new patients, but to satisfy your patients throughout the entire patient journey with the excellence of your hearing care services. By taking a step back to focus on the handful of practice management “engines” or tools outlined here, your business can move well into the limelight!
This content is provided by CareCredit and The Hearing Review.
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