Organizations Still Seeking the Secret Sauce to Successfully Marketing Employed Physicians

By: Ruth Padilla, MA

[box]“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” Colin Powell[/box]

Many of us have marketed employed physicians for decades or been involved with merger or acquisition work that has brought on large, complex and expensive physician practices. Whether a start-up practice of one or the acquisition or affiliation of large groups, we have all types of relationships in our organizations with varying degrees of success in building healthy practice volume.  As we work with hospitals around the country that are highly engaged in the employment model, we’ve seen several key themes that demonstrate best practice and reliance on the mastery of the basics – whether the practice is large or small.

The Recruitment Effort:  Best practice organizations will tell you there is a multi-pronged approach to the selection of a physician to join their team.  Recruiters do their jobs well and drive physician interest toward their organization, but it is the organization’s responsibility to ensure a cultural fit before the physician is signed.  Marketers should be engaged in the recruitment process from the get-go and ask key questions that help determine whether the physician is “marketable” and has the right mindset to build their business. It is true that sometimes an organization needs a physician so much so that we overlook the individual’s “marketability,” but more often that not, such oversight poses time-consuming and expensive challenges.

The Onboarding Process:  Given the financial investments involved, a formal onboarding strategy that helps new physicians build their practices as quickly as possible is imperative. Marketing is responsible for integrating physicians into the organization, from assisting in parts of operational readiness to building the right strategies to deliver on the ROI.  Best practice ensures there is a strong and identified onboarding team, a good plan and that the physician(s) is also proactive and vested in their own quick ramp up.

Every Practice Needs a Roadmap: While discipline around the creation of a marketing plan and budget is vital, the plan doesn’t have to be long and exhaustive.  Best practice dictates that the preparation and work around developing a well-thought-out practice plan makes sense, whether the budget is small or large and whether the plan is more internally driven or externally focused.  The roadmap keeps the practice in-check.  The plan should be nimble enough to be adjusted based on what is working well and/or what improvements need to be made.  When plans are made well and agreed upon, there are few surprises.  It also becomes easier to see where synergies among several practices can occur. This may lessen expense across the board, as well as remove silos and create more integrative thinking among the practices for effectiveness.

Internal Players Meet and Collaborate: Best practice organizations will tell you it is not solely Marketing’s responsibility to get employed physicians busy (although some may think otherwise).  Physician liaisons and business developers need to know what marketers are doing.  Marketing needs to know what leaders are thinking and the practice needs to have key areas of involvement in supporting and sustaining their growth. The collaboration removes duplication.  It creates opportunities.  It helps avoids missteps and inefficiencies with time and resources.

Know Your Consumer and Referral Sources:  It seems so basic, but many organizations still struggle with key data within the practices.  Understanding who sends the practice business, whether they are physicians or unique referral sources, is critical to practice growth.  Having a mechanism to not only know, but also respond to these referral sources with timely feedback creates engagement that helps build loyalty and trust over time.  If the practice weighs heavily on consumers for volume, strategies shift to understanding customer needs and developing the tools that engage consumers most effectively, including responsive website design, rich content, marketing automation, CRM, public relations and many other effective tactics.

Satisfy the Patient and Create Some Mechanisms for Spot Checks: Ultimately this is where the rubber meets the road. Retaining patients is far less expensive than acquiring new ones; and we need to do both.  Best practice organizations know their strengths and weaknesses through continuous measurement, whether through standard surveying techniques, customized mystery shopping or simply verbally asking their customers about their experience. More importantly, they use that data to better position the practice and/or create needed change in order to stay a step ahead.

If you’re struggling to develop effective strategies around physician practice growth or you just need support in key areas, we’d love to help.  To learn more, contact me at rpadilla@barlowmccarthy.com.