Attracting patients is a key concern for doctors starting out in private practice and for those with established practices who want to increase the frequency of their practice sessions.
How are you attracting patients?
Marketing is essential to the success of any business, including private medicine. While unfamiliar to many doctors, it does not have to be complex or time-consuming. So here are some effective strategies to help promote your business.
The most effective way to expand your practice is through word of mouth and via existing patients, friends and family. Are your patients familiar with the full range of services you offer? Are they aware you are actively aiming to expand your practice?
Contented patients will automatically act as ambassadors and refer you to their friends and colleagues. It is also a good strategy to maximise communication with your colleagues – including GPs and specialist consultants.
Traditional marketing methods
With current focus firmly on the innovative world of digital marketing, it is easy to overlook tried and tested methods of promoting your practice.
- A brochure or simple flyer is a cost-effective marketing tool, which can be handed directly to patients and potential referees or simply displayed in your waiting room.
- Articles in relevant publications will enhance your reputation.
- Paper newsletters are another potent tool for marketing your practice; there are many available options once you start thinking creatively.
Check your online profile
Google your name and see what you find. Prospective patients will do this before they book their first appointment. It is vital to take control of your online presence.
Ideally, your website should be prioritised within any list of results. It is not necessary to pay for listings – there are numerous free directories featuring private doctors in London.
You should ensure your details are listed accurately and updated on each one of them. You may get mentioned on websites such as Mumsnet. While you cannot control this, you can engage with the process positively.
A website is an integral aspect of digital marketing and a powerful communication tool – allowing you to monitor, amend and update content as your practice develops. It is often the first port of call for potential patients and a vital component in promoting your unique expertise and services.
Fundamental technical components include:
- 24-hour email contact which is highly visible.
- well-designed, user-friendly interface.
- fully compatible with mobile device access.
Make it easy for potential patients visiting your site. Ensure your phone number and email are highly visible and facilitate this with a one-click appointment process.
Blogs are a vital tool in promoting your business and communicating positively with patients. Frequent blogging is a highly effective way of reassuring prospective and existing patients and letting them know what to expect when they book an appointment. By citing existing patients’ positive experiences, using real examples, you can ensure readers will have highly positive expectations.
Use social media to your advantage as part of your digital marketing strategy. It is a highly-effective way of driving patients to your website prior to booking an appointment.
By posting content related to your personality and practice, you can strategically attract more patients. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all relevant in this field.
- LinkedIn is primarily used to network with colleagues and patients;
- Facebook to interact with patients and to perfect and control your public profile.
Speaking at conferences
Good speakers are continually in demand both nationally and globally. This could be an excellent opportunity to impart your expertise and expand your network.
- Speaking commitments require careful planning, both leading up and afterwards.
- Focused research to establish the right event, location and correspondence procedures would be logical first steps.
- Allow plenty of time for this process.
With careful planning, a successful event can yield productive results and, ultimately, bring you more patients. It does not have to be ambitious in scale; a well-planned social gathering can be very relevant – if you get the initial focus right.
- Think about your guest list, whether a small-scale occasion or a focused educational event with the aim of referring doctors.
- Allow plenty of time to choose the right venue and location, appropriate catering and, crucially, allow sufficient notice for your guests to plan their attendance.
To summarise: authenticity is always a good strategy – use the marketing tools you feel most comfortable with – but do not be afraid to branch out. Good luck.
Talk to us about how we can help attract new patients. We have a team dedicated to marketing private medical practice and have a wealth of experience for you to tap into. Call us today 020 7952 1460 or via send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Director Jane Braithwaite regularly writes for the Independent Practitioner Today and her latest series entitled Private Practice Growth Guide is a must read for anyone looking to attract more patients and increase the frequency of practice sessions.
Our commitment to GDPR
The European Union has taken a monumental step in protecting the fundamental right to privacy for every EU resident with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will be effective from May 25, 2018. Simply put, EU residents will now have greater say over what, how, why, where, and when their personal data is used, processed, or disposed. This rule clarifies how the EU personal data laws apply even beyond the borders of the EU. Any organisation that works with EU residents’ personal data in any manner, irrespective of location, has obligations to protect the data. Designated Group, including Designated Medical is well aware of its role in providing the right tools and processes to support its users and customers meet their GDPR mandates.
Designated Medical’s Commitment
At Designated Medical, we have always given our clients and contacts’ the right to data privacy and protection. We have never relied on advertising as a means to generate business and we have never sent direct advertising to our contact database, and never will. This means that we have no necessity to collect and process our contact database’s personal information beyond what is required for the delivery of our services and to ensure we optimise how we can help and support them.
Over the years, we have demonstrated our commitment to data privacy and protection by meeting the industry standards for data protection. All client sensitive data is saved in an encrypted storage facility which is tightly regulated. We have also made significant investment into our IT infrastructure and we recognise that the GDPR will help us move towards the highest standards of operations in protecting customer data.
How is Designated Medical preparing for GDPR?
We have reviewed all our data and touch points where we collect data and have ensured that we are fully compliant by the time the regulation comes into effect. Designated Medical also understands its obligation to help clients and contacts get ready for the big day and has published useful information to assist them in the process.
We have thoroughly reviewed GDPR requirements and have put in place a dedicated internal team to drive our company to meet them. Some of our ongoing initiatives are:
- Identifying personal data – All our data is categorised and integrated with our marketing systems to ensure consent and accessibility. We have invested in systems to ensuring accuracy and control of data across all systems.
- Providing visibility and transparency – The most important aspect of GDPR is how the collected data is used. Designated Medical’s key role is to provide our clients and contacts (the data subjects) with the access to effectively manage and protect their user data. Designated PA has contacted each and every contact allowing them access to opt in and out and update their personal information.
- Enhancing data integrity and security – Data privacy and data security are two sides of the same coin. As our clients tighten their data security measures, Designated Medical would like to extend a helping hand and have a team of marketing experts who can assist with GDPR compliance. We have invested heavily in our IT infrastructure to ensure we maintain a high level of security and integrity.
- Portability and transferability of data – GDPR gives data subjects the right to either receive all the data provided and processed by the data controller or transfer it to another controller depending on technical feasibility. With this new right in mind, Designated PA is able to export data at an individual level as required.
What does this mean for our clients?
We understand that meeting the GDPR requirements will take a lot of time and effort. And as your partner, we want to help you make your process as seamless as possible, so that you don’t have to worry about compliance and can focus more on running your business. If you need assistance with implementing processes that are GDPR compliant, get in touch and our team of marketing experts can assist. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have a self assessment tool for businesses which is definitely worth a read.
What should you do to be GDPR-ready?
If you are just getting started with GDPR compliance in your business, here’s a quick to-do list to keep in mind. The ICO have also produced a 12 step process to preparing for the regulation here.
- Create a data privacy team to oversee GDPR activities and raise awareness
- Review current security and privacy processes in place & where applicable, revise your contracts with third parties & customers to meet the requirements of the GDPR
- Identify the Personally Identifiable Information (PII)/Personal data that is being collected
- Analyse how this information is being processed, stored, retained and deleted
- Assess the third parties with whom you disclose data if
- Establish procedures to respond to data subjects when they exercise their rights
- Establish & conduct Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA)
- Create processes for data breach notification activities
- Continuous employee awareness is vital to ensure continual compliance to the GDPR
Are you GDPR ready?
12 Steps to take now
Guide to General Data Protection Regulation
Key Definitions of GDPR
Data Protection Self Assessment Toolkit
What qualities make a medical secretary invaluable? Can you future-proof yourself to remain an essential employee in coming years? It won’t be enough to learn new software when technology in healthcare continues to advance at quite a frightening rate. You’ll need to have more up your sleeve to future-proof your career.
Prepare for the future
Looking ahead is key to future-proofing your career. What tasks do you do now that might feasibly be replaced by artificial intelligence? What technological developments are coming that may transform healthcare? You need to consider not just what’s happening now, but what innovative ideas are already being tested. Don’t just focus on the technology – think about what difference it can make to doctors and patients. This doesn’t need to take up much time every week if you use a few carefully chosen resources to keep you in the know. For example, The Medical Futurist details the latest in health technology and how it will impact healthcare. Sign up to the newsletter or find him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Learn to learn
You’re more likely to have a future-proof career if you embrace career and personal development as an ongoing process. Employers are more likely to value learning agility in the future over discrete stints of formal education. Bear in mind what technological innovations are taking off, and look for relevant webinars, lunchtime updates and online modules. This has the advantage of boosting your network connections, which is also great for increasing your chances of staying gainfully employed.
The World Economic Forum has looked in detail at the skills employers are likely to value in years to come. Their conclusions, based on data from hundreds of companies, are that ‘soft skills’ will increasingly come to the fore. Employers think that while robots can take over repetitive tasks such as typing, they will have more need of those with social dexterity as well as problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Designated Medical provides flexible medical secretary support and we’re always looking for dynamic, forward-thinking medical secretaries! Continue your career with Designated Medical.
London millennials are more ready than ever for insured private healthcare. So has your marketing strategy caught up? Jane Braithwaite reports.
Key to the success of any business owner, including private healthcare practitioners, is to understand their clients/patients so that the marketing and delivery of services can be tailored to meet their exact needs.
It is imperative to understand how patients’ views are changing over time, particularly with the progressing use of technology and ways this is applied.
Understanding the characteristics of different age groups is also vital, particularity when considering technology.
Those marketing and communication methods that were successful five years ago are probably not ideal today and who knows what our patients will expect in five years’ time.
One effective way to keep abreast of changes is to consider the results of patient surveys. They give us some valuable insights into the minds of our patients and we can learn a great deal on the changes we should be making now to ensure continued long-term success.
Top Doctors, the global company connecting patients with healthcare specialists, recently commissioned a survey to better understand the beliefs and attitudes of Londoners towards healthcare.
Residents from all 33 London boroughs were questioned in September 2017. Being one of the most diverse places to live in the UK, it is safe to say this survey is likely to have questioned people from many different backgrounds.
The results make for interesting reading – particularly, the differences in opinion between the different age groups questioned. The survey found 41% of 18- to 34-year-olds (or millennials) have private health insurance, compared to just 20% of Londoners over the age of 55.
These figures represent a change in terms of the typical user of private health, as the post-war ‘baby boomers’ would historically have been the generation most likely to have private health coverage.
The figures are also indicative of a difference in market use between our capital city and the rest of the country. Recent research released by health and social care market intelligence provider LaingBuisson found that, overall, just 10.6% of the UK population have private medical cover.
So, what do these results say about the attitude of millennials living in the capital to healthcare and, by extension, the private healthcare industry? And how can London’s private practices ensure that they are engaging with this age group?
Millennial attitudes to healthcare
Multiracial business people working together connected with technological devices like tablet and notebook – teamwork, business, working concept
The Top Doctor survey results show a clear change in the behaviours of millennials and baby boomers, but what is behind this difference in attitude?
Let’s first consider attitudes to the NHS. The 2013 King’s Fund report Time To Think Differently showed millennials do not consider collective welfare as important an issue as older generations, and also found ‘marked differences’ in NHS satisfaction rates between those over and under 65.
With this being the case, it could be said millennials might be supportive of individuals contributing financially to healthcare rather than it being solely the responsibility of the state.
The King’s Fund research put forward the idea that the generations following the baby boomers will not benefit from the same levels of financial security as those who came before them and, as a result, may be more focused on their own needs than those of others.
Could this be a reason why there appears to be an increase in private healthcare coverage in younger age groups?
The idea that millennials are stepping away from the NHS is further supported by another survey carried out in 2017 by DocTap.
This survey found that same-day appointment services offered by private practitioners were popular with the millennial age group and that many would prefer to pay for such services than wait for an NHS consultation.
Additional benefits, according to those surveyed, include consistency of care – that is to say, being able to see the same doctor at every appointment – longer appointment times and a sense of being able to take their time with their clinician.
The survey by the private online GP service also found that younger generations are much less committed to the notion of the NHS being the sole healthcare provider in comparison to older generations.
Millennial use of private healthcare insurance
Despite the evidence seeming to point to the idea that millennials favour private healthcare over the NHS and the fact that they are more likely to have a private healthcare plan, only half of this age group use their insurance to make a claim. Why is this?
You could say that there is simply less need for younger generations to access healthcare as much as older generations. People of this age group will, of course, be healthier and less prone to chronic conditions that occur with age.
Those who do have conditions that require regular specialist care may well find themselves in the position where their insurance policy will not cover any pre-existing conditions and, as a result, it is more financially viable for them to receive their treatment on the NHS.
Some younger patients may simply be minded to avoid using their healthcare policy because it does not provide extensive coverage. For example, some workplace private healthcare policies do not cover all aspects of care. The policy may only cover outpatient tests or there may be a financial limit on the amount a patient can claim back.
Furthermore, an opinion from the US is that millennials are more cost-conscious.
This age group is more likely to consider the cost of treatments before receiving them and when taking into account that a workplace may have a limit or an excess to pay, there may well be added costs associated with private care that millennials are not prepared to commit to.
How can private practices engage with this group?
The Top Doctors survey found that in London just 50% of the 18 to 34 age group have used their private healthcare insurance. This is high when compared to the over-55s, where just 35% have not used it.
There is, of course, no way to convince people to attend consultations and receive treatment if there is no need for it, but for those who do need to access expert healthcare in the private sector, it would be sensible to ensure your business is reaching this age group, who are – in London – more likely than any other group to have private medical insurance.
How to engage with millennials
➲ Recognise why private healthcare is popular in this age group and do what you can to tailor your service to their needs. If it is longer consultations that are popular, look at amending appointment times. If it is same-day appointments that prove popular, think about how and if this could work for your business.
➲ Liaise with your target audience and market your practice based on your findings. If you have existing patients in this age group, reach out to them to request feedback and ascertain what is important in terms of what they expect from the patient experience.
➲ Use appropriate platforms to market your business. Use social media, gaming and apps to reach this generation.
➲ Be authentic. Use testimonials and appealing stories of people’s healthcare journeys to help people to engage with your practice brand and better understand your values.
➲ Use content that is high-quality and shareable on social media – this will be more effective in terms of reaching out to this group than more traditional advertising methods.
➲ Think about how you can use technology to communicate with these patients. Communications that are tailored to the individual and accessible through smartphones might be attractive to this age group, but practices should be mindful of concerns about security and privacy.
➲ Millennials are highly likely to research their symptoms online before visiting a doctor. Private practices should recognise this behaviour and may want to provide health information on their websites as a way of engaging with this group.
➲ Millennials look for companies that reflect their personal values when choosing products. Think about what kind of impact you want your practice to make on society, and make sure this message is incorporated into your marketing.
Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.
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Professionals working in the UK health industry are ideally placed to identify problems experienced by patients and colleagues. Every day they see the issues that could be improved by a new way of doing things, and many are now using their medical knowledge to address these problem areas in innovative, creative ways.
Jane Braithwaite looks at some success stories, what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and what support is out there to help doctors bring their innovative ideas to market.
What makes a doctor entrepreneur?
Some medics make the transition from medical school straight to business and do not complete specialist training. Some doctors continue their training and develop their ideas while continuing to practice.
Others are consultants or GPs who use their specialist knowledge to bring quality, problem-solving tech solutions to market. The medical backgrounds can be varied, but one thing is consistent – the entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to see a problem and fix it with a great solution.
However, insider knowledge of the healthcare industry does not mean that an idea will automatically translate into a successful business. Doctors will have been medically trained, but many will have had little to no experience in relation to building a successful business based on a new idea.
To build a business and be a successful entrepreneur, several key traits are needed, including an ability to analyse problems and the self-belief to take those solutions all the way.
Furthermore, at some point, there will be a need to know how to run a business and this includes knowing how to lay its foundations, deal with administration, finance and human resources.
Knowing when to delegate and hand over tasks like this to other experts is also a skill that needs to be learnt.
This website combines patient reviews, specialist information and appointment booking to provide a one-stop shop for patients looking for a private specialist in London.
Co-founded by Stephanie Eltz and Suman Saha – along with chief executive Oliver Thomas and chief finance officer Daniel Jung – these doctors joined forces in 2015 to develop their vision of creating a service that brought doctors and patients together.
An online community focused on medical students and junior doctors, Generation Medics was formerly known as ‘Help Me, I’m A Medic’ and is the brainchild of Dr Hinnah Rafique.
Since 2013, the website has grown to be the UK’s largest online community for medics, with a community of more than 4,000 members. Generation Medics has won two UnLtd national awards, and provides medics with online support, revision aids and access to national conferences.
Dr Lewis Potter’s GeekyMedics site focuses on supporting junior doctors by making revision ‘less painful and more productive’.
Video guides, quizzes and case studies make this Newcastle University graduate and Clinical Entrepreneur Fellow’s network hugely popular, with more than four million downloads worldwide and over 130,000 subscribers on YouTube.
Co-founded by Dr Kartik Modha, a north London GP, myHealthSpecialist is an online resource for patients and GPs to find doctor-recommended private and NHS specialists.
With more than 3,000 GPs and specialists listed, the site aims to improve care and save time by connecting patients with the right specialists.
The need to help doctors develop their business skills is recognised by several organisations, with programmes and networks in place to build these skills. These are:
A joint venture between NHS England and Health Education England, launched in 2016. This programme aims to provide guidance to junior doctors with innovative ideas, helping them to develop their product or service with the goal of bringing it to market.
Doctors will be able to develop the knowledge, skills and leadership capabilities required if they are to successfully bring their ideas to market. The initial success of this unique scheme has led to it being extended; as of last year, dentists and healthcare scientists can also apply.
Successes include Dr Suman Saha, co-founder of Doctify, and Dr Lewis Potter, founder of GeekyMedics.
Doctorpreneurs is an online community aimed at connecting doctors with similar interests in entrepreneurship and health tech.
Founded in 2011, the company originally focused on organising events, providing interested parties with a way to network. The team grew in 2014, and the company now boasts an impressive events schedule, student ambassador network and start-up school.
Supported by the office of the Mayor of London and NHS England, Digital Health London provides support to those looking to bring ground-breaking ideas to the UK healthcare industry.
By providing innovators with guidance in relation to intellectual property, commercialisation and finance, Digital Health London aims to generate economic growth and improve health outcomes and experiences.
So the opportunities for networking, developing and expertise-sharing are available, and with the UK’s small business market growing with a record 5.5m private-sector enterprises in business at the start of 2016 – up 97,000 on the previous year –could it be time to start thinking creatively and find a solution to a problem?
➲Do your research – With so many new and innovative healthcare services out there, doing some background research is invaluable. Check out your competition and see how you can differentiate your idea from others.
➲Perfect your pitch – ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ You should keep in mind that not everyone will have your frame of reference and people will sometimes just want to know – very simply – what your product is and how it will help them.
➲Set clear and achievable milestones – Avoid wasting time and overthinking your concept. Set yourself some realistic milestones that lead to clear goals.
➲Recognise your weaknesses – As a doctor, business skills may not be your forte. Take advantage of online resources and communities to help build those skills and develop your understanding of what it takes to run a successful business.
➲Call in favours – Working in healthcare means your colleagues will have experience and talent in many areas: communications, IT, and marketing. These colleagues could potentially help you develop your idea or could even be future business partners.
➲Network – Go to conferences and industry meetings. This will help build your understanding of areas of the industry unfamiliar to you and build your network of industry connections.
➲Don’t give up the day job – Your medical expertise and position provides you with in-depth healthcare knowledge. Remember that you are where you are today because of your interest in medicine; keep up to date on developments in healthcare and keep up your connections within the NHS and private healthcare.
➲Save people money – Creating a service or product that lowers cost will help to increase uptake of your product or service once it comes to market.
➲Help everyone – A product that helps one group of stakeholders but not another will not go far. Make sure that your product does not make life more difficult for a certain group of users/workers. Look at feedback from users to determine how you can go about making this happen.
➲Be willing to take a risk – Not all business ideas are successful, but this does not mean you shouldn’t try. Even if an idea does not come to fruition, you will undoubtedly learn some valuable lessons along the way.
Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.
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This year has seen some significant IT security breaches in both the public and private sectors. From the WannaCry ransomware attack on the NHS to smaller, but no less distressing, attacks on private medical practices, these stories have received heavy media coverage. As a result, it’s likely that public awareness of these kinds of cyber attacks has increased and that patients will quite rightly expect clinics to have effective IT security systems in place to protect their data. This week, we’ll be taking a look at why hackers target medical information, and what practitioners should be doing to make sure their practices are safe.
Why is personal medical data so valuable?
Hackers target healthcare organisations for a number of reasons. For a start, large healthcare organisations – such as the NHS – are considered an easy target due to the sheer number of email accounts associated with it. In addition to this, the type of personal information held by these companies and organisations can be used to demand a hefty ransom. Earlier this year hackers stole over 25,000 photographs, and other personal information such as passport scans and National Insurance numbers, from the database of a Lithuanian cosmetic surgery clinic. The ransom demanded was up to €2,000 (in bitcoin). This information can also command a high price on the black market. “On the black market, medical record information can cost up to 50 times more than credit card information,” says David Schluter, Managing Director at Fluid IT . “Unlike credit card information, it can’t be changed easily and can be key in staging ID fraud,” he continues. “It can be used in a broad range of fraud; fake insurance claims, financial fraud, and cyber criminals can even use it to purchase drugs online and then sell these on the black market.”
How can practices improve IT security?
There are many things practices can do to improve IT and data security, and education is a huge part of this.
“Medical practice staff need to really understand the value of this kind of data,” says Schluter. “It’s important to take data security very seriously as the risks can be enormous, but there are many excellent resources available to help managers support and educate their staff.” There are frameworks and toolkits available through online sources such as the ICO, or Cyber Essentials, all of which can guide the development of company policies and training. These resources can also help prepare staff for the enforcement of new data protection regulations next May (the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation).
In addition to this, there are other ways to improve IT security:
- Communicate regularly with staff regarding potential threats. For example, discuss how to spot suspicious links from unknown sources, explain the impact an attack could have on the practice, and emphasise staff obligations in relation to company equipment.
- Cyber liability insurance will provide cover for various scenarios; mandatory data breach notifications, investigating an incident, notifying data subjects, legal costs and regulatory fines.
- Work together with law enforcement agencies. This will help to disrupt hackers’ plans, and sharing threats and vulnerabilities means that others can benefit from this information.
- Encrypting emails and documentation containing personal information. “Devices should also be encrypted,” offers Schulter. “This offers an additional layer of protection, and makes it much harder for criminals to steal information. However, an encryption expert should be consulted before a practice implements this to ensure it has been designed in a way that suits the business.”
Beyond cyber crime
Cyber criminals are becoming more effective and more organised, so it’s a good idea to think beyond the capabilities of your IT systems to combat the threat. An all-inclusive approach to IT security is required. Secure systems need to be backed up with policies and procedures, so staff know what their responsibilities are in terms of data protection and security.
The risk of security breaches does not only come from cyber criminals, as a prestigious US cosmetic clinic found out earlier this year. A member of staff stole as many as 15,000 medical records, including medical photographs. Whilst the team member’s actions are now the subject of a police investigation and it is not clear what became of the information, this case goes to prove that data safety is not just a matter of having the most up-to-date antivirus software in place.
Cyberattacks are unfortunately not preventable, and it is sadly a threat that all companies – not just those in the healthcare sector – face. They can affect thousands of people (this year’s major WannaCry attack impacted around a quarter of a million computers across the globe) and can disrupt vital services. It’s crucial for anybody working in the healthcare sector to recognise this danger, and working in line with their organisation’s IT policies can help to minimise the risk of being hacked.