Attracting Ideal New Patients to Your Practice

Written by on April 1, 2014 in Features - No comments

There are many ways to “stage a practice for success”. Some are practical, some are legally required, and some are just plain smart business.  From the smart business angle, one of the key factors to focus on is attracting new ideal patients.

What is an ideal patient?

Have you interpreted your professional obligation as an obligation to market to, see, and treat virtually anyone who can use their telephone and present their body in your office?

I would like you to consider that this type of thinking leads to requiring escalating numbers of patients in order to grow your practice, which no doubt leaves you over-worked and stressed.

I am not suggesting that if you have the capacity to serve those seeking care, you deny them access based on a social standard or profile because that would be wrong and unethical.

What I want you to do is to simply identify characteristics of those patients you especially enjoy serving and make a specific effort to attract and retain those patients. Again, this does NOT mean to turn away patients that are not your “ideal patients.”

What types of patients and clients do you enjoy serving? What are their common denominators? Health attitudes? Income? Occupation? Hobbies? Lifestyle? Personal habits? Age? Cash? Insurance? Condition?

Every practice and practitioner will have a different set of qualifiers that creates their ideal patient. There are a few qualities that universally go on all ideal patient profiles. All ideal patients are patients:

  • You enjoy working with
  • That need your help
  • Who will happily pay what you are worth (privately, via insurance, or a combination)
  • That will get great results from the services you can/do offer

Now taking a look at just that short list of criteria, can you imagine what it would be like to have a practice full of these types of patients?

How do you discover your ideal patient?

You start with categorizing your current patients so you can see what your ideal patients have in common, then creating your ideal patient client profile, identifying who they are, what their issues tend to be, and how to identify their biggest problems. Then, you look at obstacles and challenges that you have the solutions for (or can create solutions for) and where to find them.

Again, knowing your ideal patient is so important; it is the foundation of creating a successful (and personally fulfilling) practice. Without knowing this you won’t have a clear picture on the best way to talk to your ideal patients, so that they listen and be engaged. You won’t know what to do for them, you won’t know what products and services to create for them and you won’t know where to reach them.

Step 1: Categorizing Your Current Patients

The best place to begin to find your ideal patient is to start with what you have. You may have hundreds or even thousands of patients that have been through your doors over the years. Pick a random day’s patients load, maybe two days: one you remember as a great day and one you remember as a so-so or bad day.

Categorize your patients into categories ranging from best patients to worst patients and include a category for so-so patients.

Once you have everyone sorted out, gather your good patients and search for common threads. Why did they come to you? Are they all professionals? Blue-collar? Single? Young? Old? Married? Moms? Do they all have a particular health concern? What is their insurance? What are their health attitudes?

There are no specific rules here, and after analyzing these patients you may discover that the unique factors in your ideal patient transcend age, sex, income, occupation, and other qualifiers: Your ideal patient maybe an attitudinal description.

One of my clients is a young family practice physician, and she enjoys working with young executives who are busy, on a tight schedule, and travel frequently. She caters to these executives locally and provides telemedical care for established patients while they are traveling. She has identified her ideal patient as an age range, income level, and lifestyle and is now catering to them.

Once you have all of the common threads sorted out, begin to create your ideal patient profile based on these traits. This profile will serve as a guide for you to speak to and find your ideal patients in your marketing efforts. Then begin to transform your practice physically in your office amenities and offer established and new services to meet the needs of your ideal patient.

In my previous example, my client who serves busy executives made sure her waiting room had free wireless Internet. She also offers these executives “walk-in” hours that our slightly earlier and slightly later than typical office hours. Her practice has coffee, tea, and bottled water available. She offers established patients telemedicine appointments when they are traveling.

Step 2: Find where your ideal patients hang out, and be present there.

Start by taking a look at the common threads you found in your favorite patients to get ideas on where in your community you can begin to build a presence.  For moms, perhaps it is at schools or gyms with childcare? For business professionals, perhaps it is at Starbucks, chamber meetings or at large cubicle-filled corporations? If you are targeting seniors, maybe it is the local health fair?

One of my clients, a dermatologist, performed simple skin cancer screenings in a “feet on the ground” type of marketing plan for a large executive sales firm. She performed one afternoon of 31 exams and yielded 25 new ideal patients for her practice.

In addition to “feet on the ground” type initiatives or getting out in your community, you also want to look at online to determine where these patients are hanging out digitally. Since it simply isn’t possible to go through all of the places your ideal patient is collecting in droves in your community, closely examine a few places that you will need to be present online. This includes social media, websites, blogging, and stay-in-touch marketing vehicles.

Going back to my family practice client that works with executives, she used her stay in touch tactic to let her established patients know that she would be able to see them for telemedicine visits as they traveled. The work she did, literally staged her practice for success.

To sum it up, discovering and marketing your ideal patient is key to staging your practice for success by growing a successful and personally fulfilling practice.

by Audrey McLaughlin, RN
www.physicianspracticeexpert.com

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