7 Best Practices for Driving Spine Center Profitability With Marketing

In order for a spine center to be successful, it is important to procure and maintain a high volume of patients. Marketing, advertising and other forms of outreach can attract patients to the center. However, developing relationships with local physicians and specialists is also an effective method for increasing patient traffic. Both methods work to bring patients to the center thus, both methods should be utilized — patients equal profits.

Unfortunately, not many spine centers have a great amount of time to put toward patient outreach and building physician relationships. Any marketing materials and time spent needs to be cost-effective, time-effective and produce positive outcomes.

Here, Daniel Goldberg, director of business development for New Jersey Spine and Rehabilitation in Pompton Lakes, a spine practice founded by Richard A. Kaul, MD, in 2003, discusses seven best practices for handling marketing and business development to increase profitability and patient volume:

1. Dedicate a position to marketing and business development. The first best practice is simple. Hire an individual to focus all their efforts on public relations, media relations, marketing and business development for the spine center or practice. As a physician, running the clinical and business operation aspects of a spine practice or center may be too time-consuming to focus on patient outreach and laying the foundation for physician relationship building, especially alone. An employee can share some of the burden. Hiring a marketing director will also increase the changes that the methods used will be effective and produce results.  

2. Write for your patients. Writing blogs for your practice's website and submitting to national and/or local publications is a great way to reach a specific patient population. It brands the practice as an informative and knowledgeable source while also increasing brand recognition. Mr. Goldberg uses this best practice at NJSR and it is effective.

"I identified potential patient populations such as what groups have high incidents of spine injuries and then looked for local and national publications that are suited to that population. For instance, if your patient population is older then AARP magazine might be a great avenue for reaching that patient base," says Mr. Goldberg. A key is to take larger national stories and make them relatable to your audience.

"If there has been a story in the news about a famous athlete who was injured, you could write a story about that and how a certain spine procedure or treatment treats that injury and how your practice can help," says Mr. Goldberg.

3. Focus on wording. Give some thought to how you phrase your marketing. According to Mr. Goldberg, while offering complementary consultations to bring patients into the office is a great idea, be careful how you word the advertisement or flyer. "Free has been overviewed and overused, it is now a taboo word," says Mr. Goldberg. "Nothing in this world is free so patients may think there is a catch. Also, 'free' may lead patients to believe that the spine center is lackadaisical in its efforts or not as accomplished as others." Use words like "complementary" or "no cost" to be more effective, says Mr. Goldberg.

4. Differentiate your practice. No matter where a practice is located, a goal should be to create a unique brand to differentiate from competition. In New Jersey and New York, there is a lot of competition in the spine industry. "I would consider it a failure to think that people believe NJSR and another practice offer similar levels of care," says Mr. Goldberg. "You have to make it known that your practice can offer a higher level of care. What do you do that is special? What do you do that is above and beyond. It is important to share that information so patients know."

5. Use social media to target a specific audience. Whether you have 1,000 or 10,000 followers if your social media outreach is not reaching quality individuals than it is not effective. "[NJSR's] age demographic is 30-60 year olds," says Mr. Goldberg. "It would not be a good idea for the practice to follow an 18 year-old on Twitter because an 18 year-old does not need our information and will most likely not be a patient for many years."

You do not need to deny a friend or a follower, but do not waste time seeking out individuals who do not fit your patient population. Mr. Goldberg also recommends trying new things with social media and staying up-to-date. "The science of social media is not a science. While everyone has their tricks and tips, it is all very subjective and still evolving," says Mr. Goldberg. "Things may change tomorrow so it is best to try to stay current with trends and adapt."

6. Do not give medical advice online or via social media. It is very common for individuals to ask specific medical questions online or on social media. It is better to direct them to the practice's website or give them a phone number to call. Giving out wrongful advice in response to a patient's question online can be detrimental to a practice or a physician.

"It would be misleading and confusing to a patient if I were to respond to a question if later one of our physicians gave the patient a different diagnosis," says Mr. Goldberg. "You do not want to be inconsistent."

Every patient is different and every case is different. It is better to use social media to direct patients to your practice's website. "You want your social media to be educational and an avenue for increasing patient volume."

7. Track your return on marketing and advertisements. As for any organization or company, it is important to track the return on investments in marketing and advertising. If you place an advertisement in a magazine, newspaper or even on a website, you want to compare the advertisement's cost to what it generated for the practice.

"An advertisement costs a low amount of money so if it generates one patient, the patient's treatment more than covers the cost of the advertisement," says Mr. Goldberg. "However, you should still set benchmarks. The ad may have paid for itself a thousand times over due to the one patient but that does not mean it was effective."

It is not always possible to determine how many views or impressions a print advertisement received. A benchmark for success could be the amount of inquiries the practice receives per week. Even if an individual calls and references the ad, you know that it was effective. Encourage your receptionist or secretary to ask individuals who call the practice to ask how they heard about the practice, which will give you an idea of where your referrals come from.

More Articles on Improving Spine Center Profitability:

10 Ways to Improve Profitability for Pain Management
8 Steps to Increase Orthopedic Case Volume at an ASC
15 Points on Marketing for Ambulatory Surgery Centers

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