Are you finding it harder to get patients from traditional referral sources?
All the strategies to hold down healthcare costs are beginning to take a toll on private practice owners. Overhead expenses continue to rise, and profit margins shrink. Both take a significant bite out of therapists salaries.
Raising your fees really doesn’t do any good because no one expects United Healthcare to raise reimbursement rates anytime soon. They haven’t for the last 20 years so why should they now. (Don’t get me started on that).
Direct access doesn’t happen overnight. Less reliance on physician referrals hasn’t been a smooth transition for most clinics.
A new set of marketing and technological skills are needed.
Practice owners are looking for cost-effective ways to attract and retain patients that are a good fit for their practices.
You’ve probably heard the latest buzz about how easy and inexpensive it is to advertise with ads on Facebook and Google. Before you jump on the bandwagon and spend your hard earned cash on advertising you really don’t understand, consider this.
Nearly half of the world’s population is predicted to be using email by 2020.
That means most of your patients will be using email as a primary method of communication to an ever-widening circle of people including their healthcare providers.
Patients have demanded more transparency, value, and personalization from their healthcare providers, progressive owners have adapted.
New technology and best practices for email marketing help therapists to revamp their growth strategies in this new landscape.
As a result, email marketing has become a vital part of a growing therapy practice. Any therapist who is not using email is missing a prime opportunity to improve patient care and have a bottom-line impact.Any therapist not using email is missing a prime opportunity to improve patient care and have a bottom-line impact.Click To Tweet
However, there’s more to email marketing than meets the eye.
“Doing email marketing” in a therapy practice is not as simple as it may seem. Any practitioner who’s looked into email marketing knows it’s not as easy as writing a message then hitting the send button.
You need to have a healthy email list, comply with HIPAA regulations, create different types of emails for different kinds of people and circumstances (welcome emails, newsletters, thank-you emails, follow-up emails, promotional events, etc). l wrote a short list of Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts that you should read to avoid costly mistakes.
The whole process can feel overwhelming and confusing. That’s why most therapists stick with what’s comfortable and send another letter to physicians hoping that more patients will magically appear on their schedules.
Even though email marketing within the healthcare industry comes with a unique set of challenges, it’s one of the leading ways to grow your practice.
Without compromising your professional integrity or your patient’s comfort levels, you can use email to engage with people who will benefit from your skills and services.
More than likely you’re on someone’s mailing list right now and received promotional emails selling their latest course, book or service. You might have thought to yourself.
“I wonder if I can use email marketing to get more patients”.
Great idea but if you don’t know where to start, don’t worry about it. I’ve identified five best practices for email marketing to help get your marketing system off the ground.
By the time you’ve read through this post, you’ll have the essential information you need to set up an email marketing system.
5 Best Practices for Email Marketing
1. Narrow your focus
The secret to a successful email marketing strategy can be summarized in one word: relationships.
A well-designed plan is all about knowing and communicating with your patients– future, current, and past. You want to know who they are, what they need and what works for them.
It’s not about writing sales copy to convince people to do something they are uncomfortable doing.
While an email program doesn’t oversee your patient relationships all by itself, it does provide you the tactics and tools to manage patient relationships.
View your emails as a means of having two-way conversations to move people to the next step in the relationship with your business. Avoid the temptation to work on all types of client interactions all at once. Your communication will be muddled, and as a result, recipients won’t act on what you share.
Instead, target your communication to a specific type of client. There are four basic types of clients in your business.
Prospects- Attract people who are a good fit for your practice.
New Patients- Convert prospects to new patients through interaction and education.
Current Patients- Clear communication to deliver remarkable patient experiences and create customers for life.
Past Patients- Stay connected to previous patients offering solutions and asking for referrals.
Based upon your desired business goal for the next 30 days choose a patient type you want to serve and impact.
2. Build A Client List- NOW!
To create a profitable email marketing system, you need people on the receiving end of your emails. Building a healthy client list might sound simple, but there’s a lot more to it than putting a person’s name and address into a spreadsheet.
First, you need to request permission to communicate with people via email. A healthy list begins with people who have indicated they want to hear from you. Do not send emails to people unless they’ve given you permission to be your email list.
One way to document permission is to include it in your onboarding process. Add a question requesting that patients indicate their communication preference. Something like this:
“How would you like us to communicate with you?”
Email, please provide your email address
Most electronic medical record programs (EMR) have a field for recording patients email addresses. Unfortunately, most therapy practices do nothing with the email address once they capture them. At most they might use email to send appointment reminders.
Patients (and potential patients) who opt-in have shown an interest in what you offer and indicate they need your help. When you build a client list, you’ll have an opportunity to nurture a community in a way that creates loyalty with you and your practice.
A loyal following makes offering additional services and asking for referrals a lot easier down the line.
But as you may have already figured out, it’s not easy getting email addresses from total strangers. It’s a process of building trust and hard work to acquire contact information from prospects who browse your website, or you meet at community events.
Nevertheless, you should begin recording email addresses of future, current and past patients as soon as possible. Your client email list will quickly become your greatest asset for growing your practice. Here’s an Excel spreadsheet you can use to begin recording contact information.
Remember quality over quantity. It’s not the size of your list that frankly matters. It’s the quality of your relationships with the real people behind email addresses.It's not the size of your list that frankly matters. It's the quality of your relationships with the real people behind email addresses.Click To Tweet
3. Make Security a Priority
You should view email marketing as an extension of your practice. Consider it as coming under the rules and regulations that govern services provided with a professional license.
Ultimately, that means that the security of your client lists and emails is the top priority.
By now you’re well acquainted with the HIPAA Act of 1996, a far-reaching piece of legislation designed to protect medical information. You might not be as familiar with the Health Information Technology for Electronic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that establishes standards and safeguards relative to stored and transmission of electronic Protect Health Information (ePHI).
As more therapists use text and email to communicate with patients, concerns and confusions about HIPAA Security Rules have increased. HIPAA law has very few mentions of what is and is not acceptable when it comes to email messaging.
Questions remain on what HIPAA/HITECH means when it comes to using email in daily practice.
First, calling a stand-alone email service “HIPAA compliant” is not sufficient. Most email services and customer relationship management (CRM) system are for different types of industries, not just healthcare. These customer management systems themselves aren’t so much HIPAA compliant as they are HIPAA capable.
HIPAA compliant email services market a set of software tools and securities for healthcare providers.These email providers include HIPAA-level encryption, privacy safeguards, and other features to bring your communications in line with HIPAA regulations.
However, merely signing on with a HIPAA compliant service provider does enable you to email patients indiscriminately. Your legal standing is dependent on created proper safeguards to protect patient information. Vendors are not liable for your clinic’s internal operations.
You need to have policies and procedures that ensure the security of electronic protected health information (PHI) at a minimum. You need robust protection that dictates who has access to client lists and any PHI it may contain.
In other words, if someone can sit down at a terminal and effortlessly open your client list then you’re putting patient information at risk.
Make access to records password protected and don’t allow access any information that contains PHI unless necessary. Only permit admittance to support staff whose responsibilities include a role in email marketing.
4. Have a Business Associate Agreement
HIPAA requires that you possess a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) if you plan on using a 3rd party service to send emails as a function of your therapy business. If you accept payment for your services, you are functioning as a business.
A BAA is an associate contract between your business and another business to operate in good faith on your behalf as it creates, receives, transmits, or maintains protected health information (PHI).
Free personal email services like Gmail, Outlook, or Apple Mail were created to help people conveniently communicate with one another. Ease of use and readable text are higher priorities than security.
Because they are so easy to use, it’s tempting to use apps that you’re familiar with in your business to email prospects and patients.
Google did not design Gmail for healthcare practices working under HIPAA regulations. Any emails delivered through services like Gmail, Outlook or Apple Mail are vulnerable to privacy issues and if you’re not careful a HIPAA violation.
Gmail by default is for personal use and not business use. Therefore, Google will not enter into a BAA with you. If you want to use Google products, there may be a workaround that might allow you to send marketing emails that are HIPAA compliant.
Read this G Suite HIPAA Implementation Guide for directions on how to use G Suite correctly.
Office 365 is compliant with HIPPA security certification requirements. Microsoft has created a HIPAA implementation guide to help practices use Office 365. You can purchase full access to business apps like Excel, Word, and Outlook. Or you can choose only to use their email program.
5. Don’t Spam Your Community
It almost goes without saying, but many therapists unknowingly send marketing emails that are non-complaint with the federal CAN-SPAM Act.(Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing). The CAN-SPAM act covers all commercial messages that promote a product or service.
This law gives recipients the right to have businesses stop emailing them including healthcare providers. Violating this regulation can result in penalties as high as $16,000 per email. To stay clear of these fines, always keep these tips in mind:
Write emails to people as if you’re were talking to them face to face. Don’t use misleading subject lines or header information. The law gives you a lot of freedom but if you’re promoting a service or product be upfront about it.
Be clear on how to opt out of receiving future emails from you. Giving people the chance to leave your list is a good thing. There’s no advantage in keeping someone on your list who doesn’t want your emails.
Include your physical location and phone number in your email signature. It’s an easy way for recipients to contact you, plus it keeps you CAN-SPAM compliant.
Remove people from your client list who have requested it; you have ten days according to CAN-SPAM.
Email Marketing Summary
Creating an email marketing strategy from scratch can be intimidating. It’s easy to overspend your marketing budget if you don’t have a clear focus in mind.
Assess your current patient relationship management practices. Choose your email marketing starting point by determining your main growth goal for the next 30 days. If there is no clear phase, to begin with, I suggest starting with your current patients.
Identify how to use email to deliver a remarkable patient experience, create patient loyalty and to ask every patient for referrals.
Going the extra mile with timely, relevant and personal communication will get you off to a great start in creating clients for life.
Today’s marketer must have empathy, humility, and generosity. Most therapists I know have an abundance of each.
The lifecycle marketing framework can show you how to attract, connect and delight with people who are a good fit for your practice. It’s definitely a marketing framework worth exploring.
To get started download Infusionsoft’s Lifecycle Marketing Planner to help you grow your practice and feel good about it.
Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years he successfully managed his private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to launch their own business.
He has authored On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice and the Cash Practice From Scratch Course. His website PaulPotterpt.com is dedicated to helping therapists achieve professional and financial freedom. Connect with Paul on his website or LinkedIn paulpotterpt. You can also get more free resources at CashPracticeFromScratch.com.