Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Do's and Don'ts of Medical Marketing

In order for your medical practice to succeed and grow, you must nurture it through medical marketing. Although many doctors cringe at the thought of having to promote their practices as if they were businesses, they must promote themselves if they want to continue attracting new patients, increasing revenue, and perhaps even opening new office locations.
However, doctors have to be careful not to be too aggressive in their medical marketing approach. Without even realizing it, a doctor could be breaking several state and federal laws by marketing and advertising aggressively. Nevertheless, doctors don't have to abandon direct-to-consumer marketing and advertising completely, as long as they are careful not to break any laws. Here is a list of medical marketing do's and don'ts that will help you stay on the right track.
Develop a thorough marketing plan with specific goals and objectives in mind. Make sure that you also have a tracking system in place that will help you determine what is enabling you to meet your goals and what isn't. Educate your target audience, whether it consists of referring doctors, patients, or the community. Educating and helping others is the key to success in modern medical marketing.
Give away small gifts and services as incentives in your marketing program, but never cash or anything that could be converted into cash. The retail value of gifts cannot exceed $10 per recipient. Make sure that all of the marketing materials you use are straightforward, accurate, and not deceptive. You also have to be certain that your employees and marketing consultants understand that the marketing materials used have to be clear and not create unjustifiable expectations.
Review the Office of Inspector General (OIG) guidance materials regarding medical marketing before planning your marketing campaign. The OIG has issued opinions about medical marketing arrangements and the offering of items, goods, and services to beneficiaries of federal healthcare programs.
Promote the delivery of preventive care services. As long as the delivery of preventive care services is not tied to Medicaid or Medicare reimbursable services, you are allowed by law to give incentives to promote the delivery of preventive care services such as prenatal services or post-natal well-baby visits. Consult a health care attorney to ensure that your medical marketing efforts do not violate any state or federal laws.
Waive coinsurance or deductible amounts because you can violate several laws by doing so. For example, a physician can face fines of up to $10,000 for offering a waiver to sway the decision of a Medicaid or Medicare-eligible person to choose him over another physician. There are exceptions to this rule, however. As long as the waiver is not offered as part of an advertisement or solicitation, the physician does not regularly offer waivers, and the physician only offers the waiver after determining that the patient is in financial need, no laws would be violated.
Wait for patients to find you. You may be a great doctor but most patients won't hear about your practice unless you put yourself out there. Be proactive and use medical marketing methods to attract more people to your practice. Expect to see results overnight. Medical marketing takes time and the results will take a while to manifest. If you are patient, you'll see your efforts bear fruit.
Use medical terminology or illustrations that are difficult for the general public to understand in your marketing materials. Make sure all of your marketing materials are readily comprehensible. Use deceptive, high-pressure advertising tactics that create unrealistic expectations. Make unsolicited phone calls to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. In order to call them, they must have been your patient in the last 15 months and you must have their permission to call.
Say in your advertising that patients will not have out-of-pocket expenses and that Medicare or insurance is accepted as payment in full. In addition, you should avoid saying that you provide discounts to beneficiaries of Medicare. Provide discounts for services if the patient commits to purchasing another item or service at a specific price. Offering contingent discounts is a violation of state and federal laws.