The 2018 flu season broke records for clinic visits (according to the CDC) and hospitalizations. Urgent care and family medical clinics have worked tirelessly for the last several months and may be ready to breathe a sigh of relief to return to normal patient levels. While flu visits hopefully decline, providers will continue to see a healthy schedule of patients in the coming months thanks to allergy season in the South.
But what happens in May when practice loads often lighten? Does every practice just see enough patients during cold and flu season to sustain it through the sunny days of summer?
While it’s tempting to pull back on your medical practice marketing, spring and summer opens new opportunities for your clinic. Many patients may have avoided coming to the doctor for routine check-ups or yearly wellness exams during cold and flu season. With fewer patients on the schedule, providers have more time to foster relationships with these patients and build up a clientele that lasts even through next year’s flu season. Start marketing wellness exams in advance of the summer slump.
Growing medical practices start planning now to implement new summer marketing strategies to keep patient flow steady.
- Buy a list of people within a twenty-mile radius who will turn 65 this year and send out mailers. Medicare covers an initial “Welcome to Medicare” wellness exam in the first 12 months a person is covered by Medicare. Residents turning 65 have received a ton of mailers from insurance companies offering to help them choose their coverage, but they may not have received anything from a local medical clinic. Send a letter in an envelope in order to preserve the patient’s privacy. A handwritten note at the end of the letter may also increase the response rate.
- Send a letter to current patients in your database who are turning 65 this year and those over 65. Don’t limit mailers only to non-patients on a list you purchased. Your patient management system holds a lot of useful data including patient ages. Medicare offers both a welcome and yearly wellness exam. Remind your eligible patients to make the most of these benefits.
- Send a letter and e-mail to patients covered by insurance wellness exams. Go back to your patient management system and pull a list of patients with insurance that covers a basic wellness visit. Send those patients a reminder before the summer slump to check their wellness benefits and any rewards their insurance offers for completing a wellness check up. When they call for an appointment, schedule their appointments during the months patient counts typically dip.
- Create social media marketing geotargeted to people within a twenty-mile radius of your clinic. Because of HIPAA laws, retargeting and saved audiences based on customer e-mail addresses are not an option for medical clinics. Clinics can, however, target wellness ads to specific demographics in specific geographic areas. Practices should be careful to word any ads to avoid calling out specific illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure and instead promote the benefits insurance and Medicare offer for wellness exams. Social media advertising can be very closely targeted and also inexpensive which makes it a great tool for experimenting.
- Geotarget Google adwords to people in a twenty-mile radius of your clinic. As with social media ads, retargeting and mentioning specific conditions is not considered best practices and may be a HIPAA violation. With one in twenty Google searches focused on health issues, pay-per-click advertising for medical practices can increase the chances a potential patient sees a provider’s ad when they are ready to take advantage of wellness benefits.
- Hand out cards to patients when they come for their wellness exam. Due to anti-kickback laws, medical practices can not reward patients for referring new patients who use government insurance such as Medicare. Providers can, however, ask their patients to make the referral without offering any inducements. When a patient is happy with their healthy check up, a provider can simply offer them a business card, tell them how much they enjoy helping the patient care for their health, and request they pass the card along to a friend or family member who needs a primary care provider. Many providers report feeling a little icky about asking so directly for referrals. When a provider has built a strong relationship with a patient, it’s just the logical next step to ask them to send their friends and family. In today’s world, it’s part of business.
- Schedule wellness exams when patients leave from a sick visit. This one should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway. When you have a patient who arrives for a sick visit and they have either Medicare or private insurance that covers wellness exams, ask them when they would like to return for their wellness exam. The receptionist at check out should make this just a part of their routine. Ensure the receptionist does not schedule wellness patients during the busiest part of the year but rather reserves those appointments for the slower summer months.
- Meet with referral partners. Providers find referral partners in many places: realtors, specialty clinics, hairdressers, human resources departments and on and on. Providers who find a slower summer schedule can take advantage of the downtime to schedule lunch or coffee with those referral partners. The stronger their relationship with those referral partners the more referrals they will receive.
Every business deals with some ebb and flow. Medical providers can take steps to fill the gaps in their schedule left by the natural absence of the acute winter illnesses. As a medical marketing agency, we’re constantly researching new (and old) methods that help providers keep a steady flow of patients through every season. What methods have you found are more likely to increase wellness visits during the summer months?
Are you looking for medical marketing services or new ways for marketing a medical practice? Check out our guide to creating a referral program.