Thursday, May 24, 2018

Good Business from Marketing that Focuses on Patient Comfort

Using nothing but “commonsense” marketing, a solo OB/GYN practice in New York built its business more rapidly than expected. Its initial marketing focused on two primary elements: a patient schedule that minimized waiting and an emphasis on patient comfort throughout the practice. Rejecting the sterile environment at the fairly large group practice where they once worked, the physician and manager decided to get away assembly-line, high-production atmosphere.They chose design elements to soothe patients and create a serene environment. They used fabric and wood, and soft colors and patterns that tend to calm visitors. Attention to detail yielded rooms that made provision for personal privacy and comfortable seating for companions. The fetal nonstress test room includes a comfortable recliner for the expectant mother. The consultation room feels more like a parlor than a meeting room. Generous placement of flowers throughout the facility adds to the homey atmosphere.When deciding to extend the physician’s availability with a nonphysician provider, the practice sought out a young, female physician assistant especially to make teenagers’ first gynecological examination or contraceptive consult less threatening. Patient charts include significant personal and family information, like important events, to prompt the physician to ask questions and make comments that demonstrate his personal interest in their lives. Finally, the practice makes diligent use of its Web page and Facebook presence to provide reliable information and help patients feel more connected with the practice. As a result of all these efforts, the seven-year-old practice continues to run at capacity—and has even added extended hours two nights per week and Saturday mornings.

We might be tempted to look at this solo practice as an example of “guerilla marketing,” that is, unconventional, low-cost marketing strategies that often get the best of larger companies’ expensive marketing campaigns in competitive environments. And while the term, coined and defined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book, "Guerilla Marketing" (now in its fourth edition—2007: Houghton Mifflin), loosely applies here, most of these tactics simply come under one heading: Patient-centered operations. You might impress some patients with a great Facebook page and a knock-your-socks-off Website. You may come up with a great direct mail marketing plan or an effective, low-cost community health education program that brings great PR. But this New York practice figured out the importance of what patients really want. Patients want a comfortable clinical experience with minimal wait times, kind and caring staffers, and a sense that physicians give them plenty of time and attention. Nothing builds a practice faster. Nothing wins enthusiastic patient loyalty more reliably. You don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of money pursuing these goals—but you have to place patients at the center of all your decisions, strategies, and operational designs.Today’s healthcare environment seems to conspire against great “customer service” for patients. We infer that this solo practitioner left his larger group practice out of unhappiness and frustration over what he perceived to be“assembly-line” medicine. He appears to have proven that efficiency does not rely on sterile,draconian, and impersonal office systems.