Medical marketing increases as doctors combat declining reimbursements
Tuesday September 12, 2006
Source: Healthcare Success
Chances are, at least one of the healthcare practitioners in your life (e.g., doctor, dentist or physical therapist) is actively marketing his or her private practice. According to Stewart Gandolf, a partner with Healthcare Success, that wasn’t always the case.
“Private practice marketing for professionals was actually illegal until a 1977 Supreme Court case, Bates V. State Bar of Arizona. And while the various healthcare boards begrudgingly deemed marketing to be ethical over ensuing years, it wasn’t until now that we have seen an explosion in healthcare practice marketing.”
Mr. Gandolf should know. He has marketed private practices of all kinds (physicians, hospitals, group practices, surgeons, dentists, physical therapists, optometrists, veterinarians, chiropractors, podiatrists, psychologists, etc.) for nearly 15 years.
“I’ve spoken to, and consulted with, many thousands of doctors over the years on the topic of private practice marketing. Declining reimbursements are a primary reason for the explosion of healthcare practice marketing, but there are many other factors as well, including rising costs, increased paperwork, staff problems, longer hours, aggressive competition, etc. Furthermore, many doctors see practice marketing as a way of changing the very nature of their practice, so that they can spend a higher percentage of their time with cases that they either enjoy or simply reimburse well.”
Doctors can market their practices in many different ways. According to Gandolf, “It runs the gamut form simple marketing strategies like asking patients for referrals, professional networking, passing out practice brochures and the like, to more sophisticated practice marketing tactics including marketing-based medical websites, internet marketing strategies, yellow pages, print ads, radio and even sophisticated television ads.”
What kind of doctor markets his or her practice? According to Gandolf, all types.
“We work with all kinds of practices, from very large multi-million dollar groups, to small, start up healthcare practices. Perhaps surprisingly, doctors’ reasons for marketing vary tremendously. Some doctors want to help more patients in their community, some want to be able to give more to their favorite charities (some have even started charities with their newfound success), some want to target cases that they have special expertise for, some want to make a new location or associate more profitable, others need to stave off aggressive competition.”
The number 1 reason cited by doctors for marketing their practice? “They want to be able to spend more time with their families.”
Healthcare practitioners from every profession and specialty now market.
“In the old days, we saw mostly ‘consumer direct’ professionals, including dentists, plastic and cosmetic surgeons, chiropractors, ophthalmologists and others. These days, we also see many professional referral driven specialists, including radiologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, and many others.
As for the future, Gandolf expects healthcare marketing to rise at an increasing rate.
“We’ve noticed that the younger the doctor is, the more likely he or she is to market. Our theory is that baby boomers were taught by doctors who practiced in an era when medical marketing was illegal. Therefore, they naturally adopted their mentors’ conservative viewpoints. However, younger doctors have grown up in an era where marketing is everywhere: the Internet, TV, radio, magazines and even billboards. To younger doctors, medical marketing is not just acceptable, it is essential.”
Mr. Gandolf’s firm, Healthcare Success, provides medical marketing seminars, private practice marketing consulting, free practice marketing articles, speaking engagements on topics related to practice success and marketing and medical, dental and physical therapy brochures, logos and advertising agency services.