Do you meet the needs of self-pay patients in your private practice?

Do you meet the needs of self-pay patients in your private practice?

There are a number of articles in the press regarding the current demands on the NHS resulting in increased waiting times. A recent BBC news article suggests that long NHS waiting times appear to be pushing people into paying for private treatment. Data suggests that there were 69,000 self-funded treatments in the UK in the final three months of 2021 – representing a 39% rise from the same period before the pandemic. 

Given this, we look at 5 things private practice should consider to meet the needs of self-pay patients. 

1. Consider the needs of self-pay patients  

The headline numbers, which currently suggest 6.6 million people are on NHS waiting lists, lead us to believe that this will result in an influx of patients turning to private healthcare for treatment. While this assumption will no doubt lead to more private patients as people seek out alternative treatment options, it is necessary to consider other factors. 

Not all patients facing long NHS waiting times will have the funds to turn to private healthcare, especially with the current increase in the cost-of-living crisis that adds even more financial pressure.  

To be effective, a private practice needs to consider exactly which patients they are trying to attract. Considering the exact patient profile and developing an understanding of what they are looking for will mean services can be tailored specifically to those looking for private healthcare. 

With the added financial constraints faced by many, offering treatment payment plans is likely to be a key consideration for many self-pay patients. 

2. Understand the private healthcare market  

Developing an understanding of the conditions within the current private healthcare market will assist in creating an effective strategy for private practice.  

In addition to the higher demand for services from patients, recent figures from PHIN suggest that there is a 12% reduction in the number of active consultants in private healthcare from July-Dec 2021 compared to the same period in 2019.  

With the increase in demand from self-pay patients due to NHS waiting times and a reduction in the number of private consultants, there is likely to be an increased number of enquiries received from patients seeking advice and treatment.  

If systems and staff capacity in are not available to deal with an increased number of patient enquiries within private practice, this could have a negative impact.  

It is vital to develop a robust business strategy that includes reviewing receptionist and PA capacity to ensure an adequate number of experienced staff are available to respond to enquiries and manage the treatment journey of self-pay patients. 

3. Keep a clear and consistent message  

By understanding the needs of self-pay patients, it is possible to develop a clear and consistent message that relates to your audience. 

If you specialise in diagnostic testing it would be beneficial to develop specific offerings that will make these services relevant. For example, tailoring specific well-woman or well-man health screening packages rather than simply listing individual diagnostic tests that people may not understand. This helps present what you do in an easy-to-digest format.  

It is also important to make sure that you highlight the key aspects of your service and address the key issues that self-pay patients have. Most potential patients will want to know about your practice and experience, how quickly they can be seen, what is involved and how much it will cost. 

Presenting this information in an upfront and clear manner will help inform patients about your practice and lead to enquiries from those that are looking for a treatment that you provide. 

4. Develop an effective online presence 

Given that there are fewer active consultants in private healthcare and there is likely to be more demand from self-pay patients looking for treatments, it is essential to make sure your practice can be found by these patients. 

Data from PHIN suggests that while London continues to be the most active self-pay market, there has been increased demand in other geographic areas. Self-pay patient numbers between October and December 2021 compared to 2019 have increased 90% in Wales, 84% in Scotland and 75% in the East Midlands.  

This means that offering services remotely and attracting enquiries from these growing geographic areas is a crucial factor to consider.  

The best way to do this is to have an effective online presence, which starts with having a website that clearly outlines what you offer. It is then necessary to ensure your website is found by those self-pay patients looking for treatments. There are many ways to achieve this but implementing a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Content Marketing Plan will help ensure your website attracts enquiries from your specific target audience.   

5. Monitor and review  

It is vital to monitor and review all activities to determine how effectively your private practice meets the needs of self-pay patients.  

Performing patient surveys, monitoring call enquiries, and reviewing marketing activity will help develop a better understanding of what elements are working and where modifications might be necessary.  

For example, monitoring website visitors and where this traffic is coming from will help inform whether your current strategy is working and more importantly provide insights into what potential patients are looking for when they visit your website. 

Regularly monitoring and reviewing these aspects of your business will help to tailor your service in a way that meets the needs of patients.  

 Summary 

There is no doubt that the increasing NHS waiting times will lead to an increase in the number of patients turning to private healthcare. The challenge for private practice is to ensure it understands the demands of this market and can effectively attract and deliver treatments to these patients. 

Achieving this requires developing a robust strategy that includes ensuring effective levels of experienced staff to deal with an increase in patient enquiries looking for treatment advice. 

With the demand for self-pay treatment increasing in other geographic areas in addition to London, there is a need to implement effective marketing to reach patients in these areas. Developing an effective online website presence together with ongoing monitoring will better place private practice to meet the needs of self-pay patients. 

At Designated Medical we are experts in providing flexible, experienced support for all your private practice needs. An integrated approach allows our carefully selected team members to embed into your practice, allowing you to concentrate on delivering exceptional service and care for your patients. Our experts offer bespoke support across Accountancy, Bookkeeping, Medical PA and Marketing. Our team can work to suit your requirements – tailored to your practice, as and when we support is needed. 

 

Contact our Marketing Director Michelle Wheeler to discuss your needs.
michelle@designatedgroup.com
020 7952 1008
How to help your staff financially

How to help your staff financially

This article was written by Jane Braithwaite and originally posted on Independent Practitioner Today.

For the last few months, one of the top news stories each day relates to the increasing cost of living in the UK. The headline as I write is that inflation has hit the highest rate in 40 years and reached 9% in April 2022. Maybe by the time you read this it has gone even higher. Energy prices are increasing drastically as well as the cost of food, clothing and many other household items. As a result of the increase in inflation, the Bank of England raised the base rate of interest for the first time in many years, putting more pressure on homeowners with higher mortgage payments. 

With the additional increase in National Insurance, this is all putting a significant number of people in the UK under financial pressure. I think it is safe to assume that most employees would like a pay rise in their current job or they will start to look for a new role with a higher salary. As employers, there is a risk that we will lose staff if we do not take action to support our current employees.

Pay demand 

Most employees will be demanding a pay increase at least in line with inflation so that they feel they are at least standing still in terms of their financial well-being. But for most employers, the prospect of giving every individual within their company an inflation-based increase is simply not a possibility. Offering every employee a pay rise in line with inflation is not only difficult for most employers to deliver, but economists would warn us against doing so for other reasons.  

Now, I am no expert when it comes to economics, but my understanding is that economists caution us against increasing salaries across the board, as it would allow spending to continue at current levels, which will cause inflation to continue to rise resulting in a vicious circle. I am happy for anyone to question this, of course, as many readers of Independent Practitioner Today will have a far deeper understanding of the issue than I can claim to have. Research shows us that one of the most common causes of stress for individuals is their financial well-being and this is going to become a major concern for many more in the coming months and potentially years. 

Extreme stress 

As employers, we also appreciate that if our teams are feeling stressed in their personal lives, they are not going to be able to perform to the best of their abilities in the workplace and extreme stress can also lead to a higher absence rate from work due to ill health. 

So, what do we do to support our employees through this difficult time? If increasing salaries in line with inflation are not possible and not advisable, then what do we do as employers? Maybe the answer is to increase salaries where possible by a margin not in keeping with inflation but enough to try to alleviate the situation for individuals, especially for those on lower salaries. There may be other ways in which employers can help by thinking beyond the immediate issue of salaries. 

Several schemes may be relevant to our employees, including season ticket loan schemes which aim to help employees where the cost of commuting is a major budget item. Research by the company Employee Benefits confirms that this is one of the most common benefits offered by employers, with 59% of employers doing so. 

The season ticket loan is an interest-free loan for employees to cover the cost of travelling to and from the workplace via modes such as tram, rail or bus. Some schemes can also be used to cover parking costs too. The loan repayments are paid monthly through the employee’s net pay over a set period.

For keen cyclists, the cycle-to-work scheme could be an attractive possibility. It allows employees to save 26 to 40% on their bikes and accessories. The employee has no up-front payment and the monthly payments are taken tax-efficiently from the employee’s salary by their employer. 

Tax breaks

During the Covid pandemic, when we were all advised to work from home if possible, the Government introduced tax breaks to help alleviate high energy bills. From April 2022, this tax break has been tightened and while some employees can claim, for many this is no longer possible. Without a doubt, heating costs are higher for those working from home and next winter this will become more of an issue. If the Government is not going to provide support for home workers, then employers may need to step up. 

For companies who have introduced a working-from-home strategy, there will be cost benefits associated with reducing the need for office space and a proportion of this saving could be passed on to employees to help with higher energy costs. A different type of approach would be to offer an Employee Discount Scheme to help employees save money on their purchases. These schemes offer employees discounts for products and services that they are likely to buy regularly. For example, one company called PerkBox offers discounts at Sainsbury’s and M&S.

The final suggestion is to help employees manage their finances more effectively by offering access to support services and financial training. There are lots of organisations and training providers offering such support and these could prove to be very helpful to some employees. But this type of approach needs to be handled with extreme care to avoid any suggestion that employees are being judged or criticised.

Tone deaf

In recent times, we have seen numerous politicians slated for their comments regarding individuals being unable to budget and unable to cook. It was even suggested that individuals solve the issue by taking on extra hours or an extra job. All of these comments appear tone-deaf to people who are working hard just to keep their heads above water. Everything I hear and read suggests that the cost-of-living crisis is going to be a long-term issue and so, as employers, we must do what we can to support our employees. 

One obvious solution for our employees will be to move to a better-paid job and so, if we do not take action, our biggest issue will be a recruitment crisis, which is time-consuming and expensive. Retaining our employees by supporting them will prove to be the best option for both employer and employee. 

If you have any specific questions that you would like answered in coming editions, please do get in touch. 

Companies that a doctor can use to implant the Cycle to Work scheme include:

www.bike2workscheme.co.uk
www.cyclescheme.co.uk

The cost of living crisis and what this means for employers.

The cost of living crisis and what this means for employers.

This article was written by Jane Braithwaite and originally posted on Independent Practitioner Today. 

For the last few months, one of the top news stories each day relates to the increasing cost of living in the UK. The headline this morning is that inflation has hit the highest rate in 40 years and reached 9% in April 2022. Energy prices are increasing drastically as well as the cost of food, clothing and many other household items. As a result of the increase in inflation, the Bank of England has recently raised the base rate of interest for the first time in many years, putting more pressure on homeowners with higher mortgage payments. With the additional increase in National insurance, this is all putting a significant number of people in the UK under financial pressure.

What does this mean for us as employers?
I think it is safe to assume that most employees would like a pay rise in their current job or they will start to look for a new role with a higher salary. As employers, there is a risk that we will lose staff if we do not take action to support our current employees.

Most employees will be demanding a pay increase at least in line with inflation so that they feel they are at least standing still in terms of their financial wellbeing. But for most employers, the prospect of giving every individual within their company an inflation-based increase is simply not a possibility.

Offering every employee, a pay rise in line with inflation is not only difficult for most employers to deliver, but economists would warn us against doing so for other reasons. I am no expert when it comes to economics, but my understanding is that economists caution us against increasing salaries across the board, which will allow spending to continue at current levels, which will cause inflation to continue to rise resulting in a vicious circle. I am happy for anyone to question this of course, as many readers of the IPT will have a far deeper understanding of the issue than I can claim to have.

Research shows us that one of the most common causes of stress for individuals is their financial well-being and this is going to become a major concern for many more in the coming months and potentially years. As employers, we also appreciate that if our teams are feeling stressed in their personal lives, they are not going to be able to perform to the best of their abilities in the workplace and extreme stress can also lead to a higher absence rate from work, due to ill health.

So, what do we do to support our employees through this difficult time?

If increasing salaries in line with inflation are not possible and not advisable, then what do we do as employers? Maybe the answer is to increase salaries where possible by a margin, not in keeping with inflation, but enough to try to alleviate the situation for individuals, especially for those on lower salaries.

There may be other ways in which employers can help by thinking beyond the immediate issue of salaries.

Several schemes may be relevant to our employees including season ticket loan schemes which aim to help employees where the cost of commuting is a major budget item. Research by the company Employee Benefits confirms that this is one of the most common benefits offered by employers, with 59% of employers doing so. The season ticket loan is an interest-free loan for employees to cover the cost of travelling to and from the workplace via modes such as tram, rail, bus, etc. Some schemes can also be used to cover parking costs too. The loan repayments are paid monthly through the employee’s net pay over a set period.

For keen cyclists, the cycle-to-work scheme could be an attractive possibility. It allows employees to save 26 to 40% on their bikes and accessories. The employee has no upfront payment, and the monthly payments are taken tax efficiently from the employee’s salary by their employer.

During the Covid pandemic, when we were all advised to work from home, if possible, the government introduced tax breaks to help alleviate higher energy bills. From April 2022 this tax break has been tightened and whilst some employees can claim, for many this is no longer possible. Without a doubt, heating costs are higher for those working from home and next Winter this will become more of an issue. If the government is not going to provide support for home workers, then employers may need to step up. For companies who have introduced a working from home strategy, there will be cost benefits associated with reducing the need for office space and a proportion of this saving could be passed on to employees to help with the increasing cost of energy.

A different type of approach would be to offer an Employee Discount Scheme to help employees save money on their purchases. These schemes offer employees discounts for products and services that they are likely to buy regularly. For example, one company called PerkBox offers discounts at Sainsbury’s and M& S.

The final suggestion is to help employees manage their finances more effectively by offering access to support services and financial training. There are lots of organisations and training providers offering such support and these could prove to be very helpful to some employees. This type of approach needs to be handled with extreme care to avoid any suggestion that employees are being judged or criticised. Over the last few days, we have seen numerous politicians slated for their comments regarding individuals being unable to budget and unable to cook. Yesterday it was suggested that individuals solve the issue by taking on extra hours or an extra job. All of these comments appear tone-deaf to individuals who are working hard just to keep their heads above water!

Again, I repeat that I am no economist, but everything I hear and read suggests that the cost-of-living crisis is going to be a long-term issue and so, as employers, we must do what we can to support our employees. One obvious solution for our employees will be to move to a better-paid job and so if we do not take action our biggest issue will be a recruitment crisis, which is time-consuming and expensive. Retaining our employees by supporting them will prove to be the best option for both employer and employee.

If you have any specific questions that you would like answered in coming editions, please do get in touch

Jane Braithwaite
MD of Designated Medical

At Designated Medical we believe that with the right professional team to support you, your possibilities are endless. That is why we offer flexible, experienced support for all your private practice needs. An integrated approach allows our carefully selected team members to embed into your practice, allowing you to concentrate on delivering exceptional service and care for your patients. Our experts offer bespoke support across Accountancy, Marketing, Medical PA, HR, and Recruitment and can work to suit your requirements – tailored to your practice, as and when we are needed.

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