Similarly, there are some patients who put their health first, and others who treat their health like a commodity; they don’t often consider the quality of care when they evaluate providers. They focus on spending as little time and money on their health as possible.
Now imagine – just for a minute, if every appointment you had was with the former group, the patients who appreciate your services and understand quality of care is more important than cost. Wouldn’t your life be better and your practice more profitable?
Maintaining (and growing) a health practice depends on having a steady flow of what we like to think of as “ideal patients”. Ideal patients are the ones that help keep the lights on.
In business, there’s a maxim that says 80% of your total revenue will come from only 20% of your customers. Called the Pareto Principle, this notion can help you guide your practice towards defining your ideal patients–the patients that can help ensure your medical enterprise thrives for years to come.
You can’t help patients unless your practice is healthy…and that means you need a minimum of 20 to 25 percent of these ideal patients to keep your bottom line healthy enough to stay in practice. If you want to grow, you need more.
But who are these ideal patients, and how do you get more of them?
Step 1: Determine Who Your Ideal Patients Are
Every medical practice is going to have a different definition of what makes an ideal patient.
It could be that you need a certain percent of your practice interested in a high-value product or service such as hearing aid sales, allergy shots, or a particular surgical procedure.
Or maybe you need a healthier balance of private pay patients to third-party patients to make sure you are paid on time and in full.
Maybe you’re looking for patients more likely to spread the word about your practice and offer patient referrals.
Perhaps you’re forging a partnership with another practice and need a larger portion of those patients to solidify your relationship…
Whatever the definition is of your ideal patient, it’s not uncommon for it to evolve over time. In order to guide your overall approach, however, it’s important to have a clear concept of who your high-value patients are. Here are a few ideas on how to do to that:
- Products: Look at your offerings and determine what products and services are most valuable to your business and identify what types of patients are most likely to need them.
- Accounts receivable: Managing your cash flow is crucial to being viable. Which insurance and third-party payers pay on time and in full?
- Bills: What products and services are too expensive to make a profit on?
- Reviews: Which patients are most likely to leave reviews or good mouth you to their friends and family?
- Referrals: Which organizations, doctors, or patients are most likely to refer another patient to you?
Create a picture of the ideal patient
Once you have the necessary data analyzed, you can create accurate “marketing personas” or a mental picture that you can use to guide your decisions towards attracting more ideal patients. What characteristics do these patients share? This could include anything from annual personal income to the cars they drive to their education level.
You can use your analytics and personas to guide determinations about who your future high-value patient are and how to attract more of them.
Step 2: Think About Branding
If you run a hearing practice, you probably already know that there are something like 30 million people in the United States alone could benefit from a hearing aid. By using your analytics to create personas, you can start to determine which among those 30 million possible customers are your preferred customers. Who is more likely to admit they need a hearing test? Who is most likely to need a hearing aid? How can you attract them to your practice instead of the competition? Once you’ve made that determination, you can settle on a branding strategy that effectively communicates your core values and benefits to those patients.
Your branding should emphasize how a patient might feel after receiving treatment. And that branding should be consistently applied everywhere, including:
- Your practice website: Most patients will first encounter your practice in its online space, so your website should project how you want your practice to be assessed, both in terms of values and in terms of branding.
- Signage and color schemes: You don’t have to go overboard with this, but patients should know precisely where they are when they walk in the door, even when your practice is in a shared professional building.
- Communications: It’s not uncommon for practices to send out a wide variety of correspondence, from emails to required paperwork. All of that messaging should be branded so patients feel well served by you throughout the process.
Your brand is your chance to communicate who you are to your ideal patients.
Offer the Right Services and Then Market Them
The next step of the process sounds simple, even though it can be logistically challenging. Once you’ve used data and analytics to identify your high-value patients, you should audit your services to ensure you’re offering what those prospective patients want and expect.
Having developed the right list of services for your practice, you need to let the world know about them. This is usually accomplished with a comprehensive marketing plan. Most practices rely on the expertise of a highly qualified medical marketing company to help develop and enact any such plan. Usually, any comprehensive marketing plan will:
- Help you nurture existing patients. A hearing aid provider may offer patients free maintenance on devices, for example, or other incentives to keep coming back. After all, in a few years they may need a new one or they may know other patients who need hearing aids. An orthodontist might offer siblings a free evaluation, or cookies when they come in for visits so they want to get braces.
- Tweak your marketing and internal processes to attract more ideal patients. For example, we often find that training your front desk on how to ask for reviews and referrals can dramatically increase your success rate.
- Attract more new patients who fit your ideal. These days, every service from social media to direct mail to email lists allow you to target your efforts with astonishing specificity. You can use some of the information you’ve uncovered to effectively market to your highest value patients.
The benefit of marketing–and marketing the right services–means that your ideal patients are more likely to know about you, use your services, and rave about their results. This step, essentially, synthesizes the previous two steps into one cohesive and actionable strategy.
Keep Your Practice on the Cutting Edge
As technologies and marketing strategies change, your practice will need to adapt as well. Your ideal patients today may be more or less challenging to nurture in the future. That’s why you should always update your marketing plan as you go. Attracting ideal patients to your medical practice can start with a single step. Following the right path will mean those patients can also lead you to a profitable future.