Editor's Note: Nationally recognized physician, speaker and author Neil Baum, MD, talks doctor-to-doctor about successfully generating income from ancillary services in a doctor's office, beginning with internal marketing.
Marketing is one of the keys to success for generating income from your ancillary services. You need to begin with internal marketing, and letting your existing patients know what you have to offer them.
It is likely that your practice may include hundreds of potential users of your ancillary services and you just need to let them know that these services are available. This is easily accomplished by placing signage and posters in your reception area.
Beginning with Internal Marketing
Use signage that is clean and professional looking, not a piece of white paper taped to the window that separates your receptionist from the reception area. You may also want to have elegant, tri-fold, color brochures that describe your new ancillary services and the benefits of your services that are now available within the office.
It is also important to make certain that your staff is fully knowledgeable about the service and can describe the benefits and answer the most frequently ask questions. This can be done in an informal fashion, but it is far better is to have a formal overview training with the staff, such as that a staff meeting. Alternatively, you could have the staff meet with the vendor who supplies the service when they come in to train the technicians on the operation of the new equipment.
Even though providing ancillary services at your office is a convenience to your patients, if they receive the service from a staff member they may have a different perception about that service than they do when they have a face-to-face encounter with you, the physician. As a result, it may be necessary to educate your patients about the benefits of receiving services in your office rather than elsewhere.
Patient Safety and Accreditation
Your practice must emphasize patient safety and the professionalism of the staff members who provide the ancillary services. This is where accreditation efforts will provide additional benefits. Make sure that any materials you create about these services include the fact that your facility is accredited on a regular basis. This communicates not only that you are compliant with regulations, but that that you put patient safety first.
Many ancillary services, such as Botox injections, hair transplants and weight loss programs are not covered by insurance and will be out of pocket expenses for patients. The more money patients pay out of pocket, the more effective and tailored your marketing efforts will need to be.
You can use your website as a vehicle to market your ancillary services. Begin by checking the Internet with several key words and see what sites emerge. For example, if you are offering a weight reduction program, go to one or several search engines-such as Google or Yahoo-and type in weight loss, the name of your city, and your practice today and see what sites turn up. If your site doesn't appear as one of the top 5 sites, then you have some work to get your site in an optimum position among the search results.
No practice can have a successful ancillary service without a highly motivated staff. Your staff can be great ambassador is for this service, especially if they have availed themselves of the service. For example if the practice has implemented LASIK eye surgery and several of the staff have had the procedure, they can be great advocates to your existing patients for the surgery.
Bottom line: Implementing ancillary services is not for the faint hearted. But such services allow you to keep patients close to home, provide better diagnosis and treatment, and even contribute to collegial relationships with other practices. Added income is always a plus, but the services must be incorporated with attention to detail. Then you'll also see an added bonus to your bottom line.
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