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As therapists, we have been conditioned to treat and heal patients. At the end of the treatment process, the patient is usually grateful and brings a home made cake, a gift or a handwritten card, which we proudly display in our office.
In most cases,the relationship ends at this point; patient discharge.
For a savvy private practice owner, patient discharge represents a foundation for building a relationship that grows with time. It’s an ideal opportunity to provide the patient valuable, relevant information in a consistent manner.
To be successful, a clinic must educate and empower the patient, and the best way to achieve this is to communicate with the patient post-discharge using a consistent, information driven mechanism.
An empowered patient is not only well treated, but also well educated. Consistency of communication and the quality of information disseminated to the patient set the foundation for a long standing patient relationship, which can be worth several thousands of dollars per year for the clinic.
Consistency of contact begins with personal communication during the visit and phone / postcard / email follow up after the visit. By educating your patients, physicians and local media to recognize your clinic as a local authority in your field/specialization of therapy, your clinic will instantly set itself apart from competitors. This will also increase your potential to command cash-paying programs?
In order to establish and consolidate the position of your clinic as the primary provider and to build a steady and predictable flow of high-value patients, your clinic must offer a broad range of services and 2-3 specific programs that enable you to stand out against competitors. Examples of such programs include vestibular training and fall prevention for seniors, pre- and post-pregnancy physical therapy, injury prevention for athletes, fitness and lifestyle management programs, etc.
A regular source of communication with the patient community is mandatory. If you don’t make an effort to stay in the patient’s mind, they will gradually forget about you, or visit another therapist. A good practice not only retains patients, but also enables them to refer other patients. Communicating with patients and doctors can be done via phone calls (time consuming but effective) or personal contact (door-to-door marketing, extremely effective but labor intensive). Some therapists use direct mail options like postcards (expensive and targeted, with variable response rates). In the 21st century, more and more therapists are using email and the internet as a form of marketing. This is instant, measurable and generally free. As a clinic owner, it is important to find the single most cost-effective method of marketing and communication to maintain contact with the patient post discharge. The intent is to transform the individual from a patient into an ardent fan and a powerful referral sources.
This requires the integration of a powerful, automatic marketing system in your practice.
Ideally, such a method should lead to a constant, reliable stream of patient referrals that grows each month. This will allow the development and execution of cash-based niche programs that are independent of insurance reimbursements.
Old school marketing, the kind that involves the therapist going door to door soliciting doctors has now been replaced by therapist to patient marketing. As a clinic owner, your goal is to be first and foremost in the minds of patients and be considered a leader in your community. When patients perceive you as the provider of choice, they will ask their physicians for a referral directly to you. In the new age of physical therapy marketing, patients are the primary referral sources. A patient should know your clinic, like what it has to offer, and trust the staff enough to ask for a direct referral. The way to achieve this is to give them information about your clinic and your brand of physical therapy. As a private practice owner, you must create a unique identity for yourself in order to stand out as a respected physical therapist and community leader.
Sending a mailed, faxed or e-mailed newsletter is the quickest, easiest and least expensive way to promote your name in the local community. You get an opportunity to brand your clinic’s identity and conclusively establish yourself as the expert therapy provider in your local community. You should write a fresh newsletter to your patients, friends, family, physicians and any other referral sources every other week for best results. Whether it is standard care or a niche program, the public will look to you as a source of meaningful information and seek your services for physical ailments.