Marketing Your Medical Practice During the COVID-19 Disruption

An overview of strategies we're implementing at Influx Medical Marketing.

In this article:

With the rapidly evolving situation surrounding COVID-19, it might seem futile to focus on marketing your medical practice at this time. On the other hand, as a business owner and employer, solvency and cash flow are likely top of mind for you.

The good news is that there are a number of strategies you can and should be implementing right now to responsibly leverage and defend against the trends spurred on by this global event.

Here at Influx, we're implementing several measures and tactical pivots for our plastic surgery, medspa, and general healthcare clients. While these strategies may not all apply to you and your practice, we've put together this brief overview to cover the key changes we are making and give you some insight into our overall approach at this time. We hope that it provides you with some useful inspiration and info during this challenging moment.

To get a cheatsheet featuring the exact strategies we're implementing for our clients right now, download the full guide below.

Download the COVID-19 Practice Survival Playbook:

There are effective strategies you can implement immediately to safely and responsibly mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on your business. Download our Practice Survival Playbook to find out how you can navigate through this challenging time and come out on top.

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First Things First. Eliminate Confusion With Clear Messaging.

The first order of business in confusing times, such as these, must be to send a crystal clear message to your patients and potential patients. While this goes without saying, it can be easier said than done.

Start by drafting a concise statement that covers how your practice is managing matters. Speak to your team and find out what questions patients are asking most frequently. Make sure these get addressed in your statement.

Get your message out on:

  • Social media
  • Email (assuming you have a list of patients and past leads who have opted-in to email marketing)
  • Your website
  • You may also want to update your phone tree or voicemail system

If you need a cost-effective pop-up/banner solution to quickly insert your messaging into your website, look at Just Uno or Convertflow. Both have a free tier that may apply to you depending upon the average volume of traffic to your site. If you are an Influx client, we have developed a custom solution which we are already providing to you at no additional charge.

As this situation is rapidly changing, it is essential to keep patients updated as to how you are evolving with it. We recommend posting Instagram stories and creating a story highlight called Patient Updates, or something similar. Creating a highlight with these messages will effectively pin your updates to the top of your Instagram profile. You can also update your Facebook posts and pin these to the top of your FB profile. We are also updating cover photos on Facebook and other platforms with a clear announcement of the practice's status.

Your Patients Aren't Gone. They're Just Online.

While it is still the early days, we have not seen a dramatic drop in web traffic or inquiries at this time. If you're a social media user, you have likely noticed an uptick in social media activity. The fact is, your patients may physically be at home, but the internet is where they are spending their time. From the perspective of a digital marketer, this makes them sitting ducks.

We are watching this closely hour by hour, but the overall trend is a move from real-world activities to increased online activity, and this trend can be our friend.

As the dust settles in the coming days and weeks — with no sporting events to watch, no Coachella to go to and so on — hysteria will only transform into boredom. What better time to research a procedure or treatment you have been considering for some time?

Remember, in this e-commerce-driven, Amazon-Prime-filled, direct-to-consumer day and age, nothing is ever really shut down or unavailable. Downtime + internet = opportunity. Some businesses may just need to adapt a bit and think more like those with a web or mobile-app-based delivery model.

Let the Telehealth Begin

Telehealth is hardly a new concept, but it is one that private practices have yet to embrace fully. Whether that has been due to a fear of enabling digital price shoppers or the greyish areas around patient privacy, COVID-19 is already rapidly changing this.

This past Friday, March 13th, during his presidential address, Trump effectively wiped away any concern over legal ambiguity on the matter. He took this one step further today (Wed March 18th) when he announced a "dramatic expansion" of Medicare telehealth services as part of the U.S. coronavirus response and a suspension of applicable HIPAA penalties.

If you are a plastic surgeon or medspa, you may already be running your practice on Symplast. If so, you're ahead of the curve! If you haven't heard of Symplast, it is a cloud-based practice management/EMR system for plastic surgeons with video calling features and a patient-facing mobile app.

Which telemedicine software should I use?

If you aren't on Symplast, there are many standalone telehealth options, and with HIPAA penalties currently suspended, you have even more options available to you now.

In the past, there has been some question as to whether Skype or FaceTime could be considered HIPAA compliant. While this is not a current concern, patients may feel more comfortable knowing that you are using a fully secure and compliant platform.

Further, there is often a need to have patients send in pictures, and this can present even more challenges related to privacy and patient comfort.

If you want to look at a HIPAA compliant solution, outside of Symplast, we have found Zoom's healthcare-focused video conferencing product to be a good, compliant option. It also allows patients to transmit photos within the same secure interface.

Setting up a telemedicine page on your website.

If you can make it happen, we would advise that you create a page on your website featuring your telehealth offering.

It should contain the following:

  • An announcement letting your patients know that you are now offering video appointments

  • A brief description of how it works, who it's for and how to request a virtual appointment

  • A web form or calendar link to request an appointment.

If your practice software has an integrated calendar application that can be embedded on the site, enabling patients to select their time slot, this is a great thing to include. Even if not integrated, many practices choose to implement a standalone calendar/booking app. Giving patients the freedom to pick their own time can reduce friction and increase conversions. As long as you have someone who can manually keep your calendar app and practice software in sync, this can work in a pinch. Some practices simply allow patients to book and then immediately call the patient and adjust the appointment as needed.

Once your page is live, ensure you have clear calls to action from your home page and main site navigation leading visitors to it. You should also consider announcing that you are now offering video appointments on your homepage masthead, social media, and email.

Should I Be Spending Money on Google or Facebook Ads?

This may seem like the time to shy away from spending advertising dollars. Whether you spend and how much you spend depends, of course, on the specifics of your financial situation.

However, assuming you have some budget to spare, right now could be an excellent time to grab market share. As mentioned above, people are flocking to the internet for entertainment. While other practices may be dialing back their ad budgets, you can swoop in and grab a piece of the pie.

Adjusting Your Ad Strategy & Filling Your Pipeline

While we do think digital advertising can be effective during this time, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't adjust your approach.

A few quick things to think about:

  • If you're offering telemedicine/virtual consults. Update your ad copy to feature this.

  • With the government asking that surgeons refrain from elective procedures, you may want to focus on non-elective options. For plastic surgeons, one viable option may be targeting breast implant removal for recalled implants.

  • Conversely, you may want to focus on filling your future schedule with elective procedures by filling your pipeline with video consults.

  • Be sure to monitor your Google ad campaigns. To keep it simple, focus on your cost per click and cost per conversion.

  • If your cost per click is decreasing, this likely means that fewer bidders are going after your targeted keywords — this is your reward for staying at it while others are running scared. All things being equal, your cost per conversion should decrease accordingly.

  • If your costs are going up, there may simply be fewer patients searching for that particular procedure or service during this time.

  • Make sure to enlist the help of a digital advertiser to ensure your campaigns are correctly set up, monitor the above factors, and adjust accordingly.

  • Facebook and Instagram ads are rarely as hot as Google leads, but with increased social activity during this time, there are likely leads to be gotten here. Create and test ads that are timely and relevant, e.g., Request a video consultation now!

A Few More Ideas to Try On

Prepaid gift cards for non-surgical services.

For some of our medical spa clients, we have implemented a payment processing page where patients can purchase prepaid gift cards on a self serve basis. This makes the process no more difficult than buying a pair of shoes online.

During this time, practices that offer non-surgical treatments may want to offer a promotion wherein a patient receives additional account credit when they buy a gift card.

This can be an effective way to capture patients who can't resist a sale or those speculator types who love to buy low on services they already plan to get in the future. If you're in need of income, consider selling future services for immediate revenue.

By setting it up so patients can purchase online, you remove any back forth between patients and your team. It's now merely an e-commerce experience. Last December, we ran a similar campaign for a medspa client and generated over 70k in a few short weeks.

Implementing an SMS-based chat feature on your site

If you don't already have a chat widget on your website, we recommend putting one in place. Using the right widget, you can significantly increase your capacity to communicate with patients and prospective patients during this time.

We don't recommend using any chat products that require you to answer visitors before they leave your site. There are several good products that allow the patient to begin a conversation on your website and then carry it over to SMS via the patient's phone. This enables you to answer incoming inquiries as you can, without having to worry that the person will be unreachable as soon as they leave your site.

It is also essential to choose a chat product that has a mobile app so you can answer inquiries on the go.

One chat product that meets all these requirements is Podium. We are Podium partners and have found the product to be excellent. However, it is not the most cost-effective solution on the market. If you would like to explore other options, we have partnerships with several other companies and can help you find one the fits your needs. Contact us or download the full guide and reference the cheat sheet section.

Use this time to get ahead

Remember, this too shall pass, and the practices that get back to full strength quickest will be those that used this downtime wisely. This is the time to bolster your marketing efforts and check previously neglected items off your to-do list.

If you have been wanting to create a new website that better represents your practice, now is the time. This may also be a good time to put some effort into your online review strategy. Or maybe there are services you offer or wish to offer for which you have no content on your website. Adding these pages could help to give your SEO a boost.

"Content" can also refer to many other mediums beyond the written word. It could be an updated photo shoot you've been wanting to do, creating video for social media, or even starting a podcast!

Brainstorm a bit with your team. The possibilities are endless. The fact is that digital content is king in this day and age. You are the expert in your practice. You are the influencer. Your point of view is the only one that matters, and your patients want to hear it. If there's any silver lining to this unfortunate circumstance, it's that you might just have a little extra time on your hands. Use it to reach out and connect with your current and future patient base. You essentially have a captive audience at this moment in time. Don't be afraid to capitalize on that.

We hope you have found this information useful.

Please feel free to contact us if you need any help or even just want to ask a quick question. We'd be happy to provide some guidance.

Stay healthy and safe.

The Influx Marketing Team

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