In one sense, you’ve probably already been using email to develop your therapy practice. Before you had a website or a Facebook account you used email to communicate with colleagues and reach out to prospects.
It’s been nearly 50 years since Ray Tomlinson, the man credited with inventing email sent the first message. After I received an American Online free trial CD in the mail in 1996, I set up my first AOL account and heard my first “You’ve Got Mail” greeting.
Like most of you, I’ve become dependent on email as my primary mode of communication in my personal life and business.
Typically, the usefulness of a tech tool fades over time but not so with email. To this day email remains the preferred way to communicate with friends, family, and business associates all over the globe.
A recent study by Adestra reports that 73 percent of Millennials prefer businesses communicate with them via email. Also, nearly half of respondents used email to make purchases online.
Email is a fantastic way to communicate with our patients. A growing number of our patients prefer to hear from their therapists by way of email.A growing number of patients prefer to hear from their therapists by way of email. It's a fantastic way to connect.Click To Tweet
Therapists don’t have to restrict email communication to appointment reminders or newsletters. Email allows you to effortlessly and strategically communicate with patients for a variety of purposes.
Email marketing is an integral part of a growing therapy practice if you implement it correctly. You can use an email system to market to prospects and previous patients by sending newsletters or targeted health tips on specific conditions.
Therapists can also design and schedule emails far in advance, freeing up time for face to face patient interactions and running your practice.
Before you get started here are a few of my do’s and don’ts of email marketing in a therapy practice.
Do’s & Dont’s of Email Marketing
Do follow HIPAA-HITECH regulations
Many therapy practices avoid email marketing fearing HIPAA violations and fines, for good reasons. The laws regarding email communications are not crystal clear and open to interpretation.
HIPAA and HITECH guidelines permit you to communicate with your patients via email, but you need to take the necessary steps to ensure sensitive patient information is safe.
Have your patients opt-in to email communication with your clinic. Inform them of the potential risks of sending healthcare information and tell them not to share personal health information via email. Emails with patient health information (PHI) must be encrypted.
Don’t use Gmail or Outlook to email patients.
Free personal email services from Google, Microsoft, or Apple were created to help people to communicate with each other. Ease of use and readable text are more important than security. They are not software systems ideally suited for healthcare practices working under HIPAA regulations. Any email you send is vulnerable if you’re not careful.
In most cases, to send HIPAA compliant emails’ therapists must ensure that messages are encrypted from inbox to inbox. Unencrypted emails, especially emails that contain PHI are at risk for a HIPAA violation.
Gmail is for personal use. G Suite offered by Google, and Microsoft 365 are for business use. If you are using G Suite of Microsoft 365, you will need to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA), a HIPAA requirement. Read the G Suite HIPAA Implementation Guide for directions on how to use G Suite correctly.
Do use an email marketing service that is HIPAA-compliant
Don’t assume just because you pay an email service provider like MailChimp or AWeber, it’s automatically secure and meets HIPAA requirements.
When choosing an email service provider, it’s important to make sure that the service will meet the security measures in the way you intend to use it. You must protect emails that contain patient health information with encryption. Even something as simple as a name and email address can be considered PHI in specific circumstances.
When in doubt, consult with a HIPAA law expert to determine whether an email service will meet legal standards.
Don’t send emails to patients who haven’t opted-in
None of us likes to get junk mail. By all means, you should avoid automatically signing up patients to receive newsletters or emails from your office. It’s common courtesy and good business to ask for permission to communicate with patients via email.You should avoid by all means automatically signing up patients to receive newsletters or emails from your office.Click To Tweet
You may request patients’ email addresses on your intake forms but do not send them emails unless they’ve allowed you.
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
Do send personalized emails.
Ask all of your patients to choose what kind of communication they want to receive from you. Some may only want appointment reminders. Others will indicate they want to read your newsletters or health tips.
Tailor your communication to meet the specific needs and wants of your patients as much as possible. Most email service providers will allow you to segment your email list into groups. Most provide open email rates and other statistics which indicate which content is most popular.
Email marketers use this data to refine their messages to a specific audience. Use the feedback you get from your patients to give them more of what they want from you.
Email marketing systems allow you to personalize the message to a particular segment of patients or specific conditions. They also provide you the ability to automate patient follow up sequences.
One simple way to segment your patients is to ask them to indicate their communication preference on your onboarding form.
What types of email communication would you like to receive from us?
- Appointment reminders
- Health tips on specific conditions
By law, you need to make it easy for patients to opt-out of receiving emails from you. That means that at the bottom of every email needs to include an “Unsubscribe” link.
Do make your emails interesting.
Think about the emails you always read that are interesting and a pleasurable. Consider the overall tone and length of your communication. People are overloaded with too much information so only include what you need to say to get your message across.
Make sure your emails are useful, professional and consistent with your practice brand. Check for grammar and spelling errors.
Make your emails mobile-friendly. According to a report from Movable Ink, two-thirds of all emails in the US are opened on a smartphone or tablet. If your emails are difficult to read on a mobile device, your emails will end up in the trash.
Ultimately, any email marketing system for a therapy practice boils down to doing what is best for patients and helps you reach your practice goals.
Put yourself in your patients’ shoes and ask yourself two questions:
“Why am I sending this email?”
“How would I feel if I received this email?”
Once you’ve decided that your email is worth sending follow these simple guidelines:
Only email patients who have given you permission.
Do everything you can to make communication secure.
Don’t spam patients with unwanted and irrelevant information.
Send personalized health tips that make patients’ lives better.
Only send emails that are purposeful and add value.
Avoid sending patient health information unless necessary.
Following these practical suggestions will help you connect with patients, grow your practice and be aligned with HIPAA rules,
I created the Expert Roundup Email Marketing Guide to help therapists use email to increase word of mouth referrals. In the guide, you’ll find additional free guides and resources to help you set up a simple email marketing system for your practice.
My goal with the Expert Roundup Email Marketing Guide is to help you set up a simple system to send marketing emails to your clients and referral sources. I want to help you send the right message to the right person at the right time to grow your practice. That process begins with having the right strategy.
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.