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Patient attraction: how to boost your bookings & fill your waiting rooms

allied health dental general gp Aug 26, 2021
Session 3

It’s no secret the number 1 concern of start-up healthcare practice owners is having no patients. You need a return on investment, and fast! But how can you get bookings from Day 1?

The simple answer is an integrated marketing strategy and plan. Planning early is key. Here, we look at marketing for healthcare start-ups - creating your strategy, promoting the new practice, your website, the practice environment, and tips for being busy on day 1.

Marketing for healthcare start-ups

In today’s competitive healthcare marketplace, successful practices use a multi-pronged approach to attract patients, focusing on the benefits their services provide, satisfying patients’ needs and wants. A chiropractor doesn’t sell spinal manipulation and massage but pain relief. An orthodontist doesn’t sell braces but a beautiful smile.

Who is your ideal patient?

Know your target audience… your ideal patient. Focus on quality patients who’ll be loyal and long term. Consider each type of patient’s “pain points” (or problems) and how you can solve them.

SWOT, 5Ps and strategy

A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) will highlight any gaps. Use your SWOT and the 5 Ps of marketing - product, price, promotion, place, and people, when planning.

Strategy points to consider

  • Your unique point of difference. Why should patients choose you? What’s your wow factor?
  • Your ‘brand personality’ defines the look and feel of the practice. Are you going for a glossy, high end or more relaxed feel?
  • Practice names are important. With the end in mind, consider how your newly chosen name will look and how it will add value when you sell the practice
  • Your billing strategy is important and will position you in the market. Identify your ideal patient’s needs and wants. Will the fast patient turnover of 100% bulk billing give you job satisfaction and attract loyal patients who’ll be with you long term?

Consistency, consistency, consistency

Founder and Director of Marketing Practice, Michelle Taylor, says the secret of marketing is consistency and repetition of brand and message in your marketing communications.

“Everything should be integrated and congruent; the logo, colours for interiors, communications, website, making it all recognisable as your practice,” says Michelle.

“Regarding marketing for start-ups, I recommend using free marketing. A Facebook page, Google and email…you get so much more value with digital marketing,” she says.

Wow ‘em with your website

From doctors to dentists, allied health and more, most people now search online for healthcare services, so a website is essential for patient attraction... and the future sale of your practice.

“It’s all about good first impressions,” says Adam Smagarinsky, Healthcare Marketing Specialist, Practice Boost.

“Your website should be fast, modern and professional - reflecting your current practice branding. Include practice information, a convenient booking button (helps generate revenue), Q&A, blogs, and social media feed. A great website will infer the quality of your practice for prospective patients and employees.

Content relevancy to searchers’ queries and authority built via backlinks to other websites will contribute to search engine optimisation (SEO), helping the website to rank on the first page of Google,” he says.

  • Mobile optimised, uncluttered design, well written content and engaging images of your practice/practitioners will project your brand personality, enhancing your credibility and professional reputation
  • Spend $3,000-$10,000 on a professional website, layering other advertising and marketing around and connecting with links
  • Quarterly email newsletters can link to your website. A free marketing activity, newsletters update patients on practice initiatives, reminding them of your existence

Healthcare practice design: the best designs are people-centric

Whether building new or refitting an existing space, clever interior design will drive practice brand, the patient journey and practice flow.

Danielle Saez, Senior Interior Designer, Evoke Projects, says good healthcare interior designs are people centric.

“Because patients can be anxious and uncomfortable, make it welcoming, safe and calming – a place they’ll return to because it gave them a good feeling. This feeling can be enhanced by the inclusion of links to nature through plants and natural finishes, which have been shown to lead to increased wellbeing,” she says.

Danielle’s top tips include:

  • Arrival – consistency both outside and inside with logos and signage, including wayfinding signage
  • Consider the functional layout, technology and equipment needed, acoustics, visual privacy and security, staff area and COVID safety guidelines for a hygienic and clean space
  • Consider internal signage, task lighting, and natural light for a light and airy space. Colours should be integrating with website and branding colours
  • Patient flow is very important and delivers a seamless user experience. Use logical spacing sequence in design, and design to relieve frustration and delays
  • Reception should be open, uncluttered, and well-lit with a large enough reception desk and adequate data and electrical points. Waiting rooms should be target market appropriate with furniture to suit all ages
  • Treatment room/s are the most financially viable rooms, they are your productivity hubs! Build in acoustics and ensure the space is conducive to workflow
  • Corridors of sufficient width to maintain physical distancing
  • Build in air conditioning and filtration systems to avoid retrofitting

The design process

This includes space planning, concept design, visuals, 3-D walkthrough, and design documentation. 3-D visualisation allows a virtual tour around the proposed space.

7 tips for a busy day 1

With your location secured, you’re on the pre-launch runway! Now your aim is building anticipation about your upcoming practice, helping to reinforce you as a professional leader within your community:

  1. Add signage to your new site, indicating a new healthcare practice coming soon
  2. Know your ideal patient. What they read, listen to and how to reach them. Digital marketing via several channels is best. Repeat your message over 7 times for consistency
  3. Create a Facebook business page using content of benefit to readers. Content clearly showing the benefit of choosing you as their healthcare provider
  4. Create a Facebook video educational series to establish your expertise and credibility, and tailor topics to your ideal patients. They’ll get to know you, like you and trust you
  5.  Build a VIP wait list you can email with practice updates, opening details and an invitation to book on your first day. Gather email addresses from any patient health education events you do
  6.  Many patients need wrap-around, interdisciplinary healthcare so it makes sense to meet other local complimentary healthcare practitioners. Meet and greet educational evenings can produce strong referral networks. Win-win!
  7. Google Ads (pay per click) can capture those actively searching but can be expensive. Facebook ads are much cheaper and with your ideal patient identified, your ads can be directed at these people. Advertising may be expensive, but consider the costs if you don’t

Consultation centre stage

Most importantly, the consultation is your grand performance. It is your chance to shine and develop lasting relationships with your patients.

A friendly manner with expert assessment, treatment and patient education builds trust and confidence in you as a healthcare professional. And that’s when the magic of word-of-mouth endorsement happens. It’s how reputations are made and cemented. It’s where your practice brand is gradually built, patient by satisfied patient.

Marketing rules and guidelines

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), whose core role is to protect the public, and with whom healthcare practitioners are registered, has requirements around advertising and you’re advised to read the AHPRA Guidelines to ensure your marketing is compliant.

A resource which may be useful is from the RACGP, it helps you establish, manage and enhance your practice using the General Practice Toolkit.

Now you know how to tell people you exist, what you do and why you do it. Who you do it for and why you’re different. Follow your marketing plan, take that first step and good luck!

If you need assistance, the presenters below are happy to help:

Michelle Tayler

Founder and Director

Marketing Practices

0425 448 888

[email protected]

For a complimentary marketing discussion CLICK HERE

Download the Patient Journey Map which contains all the common touchpoints to analyse the patient journey for your specific practice.

Adam Smagarinsky

Healthcare Marketing Specialist

Practice Boost

0424 003 160

[email protected]

Danielle Saez

Senior Interior Designer

Evoke Projects

0424 933 771

[email protected]

Download the Well Practice Checklist which provides a list of things to consider under each WELL principle.