Targeting in-office medical service messaging to individual patient needs.
By Zachary Holland, OD, FSLS
Oct. 25, 2023
Patients often need substantial education within your office to say yes to treatments that will benefit their eye health; and this takes a lot of doctor time. Here are the details on the patient-specific, passive educational marketing approach I started six months ago that has significantly benefited both our patients and practice without requiring additional education time from the doctor.
Target Messaging in Your Office to Each Patient
In each of my four exam rooms, I have marketing materials on the walls designed to target specific services I offer. I previously had random marketing posters (mostly for myopia control, dry eye and scleral lenses) hanging anyplace there was room for them. My keratoconus patients kept asking me if they were candidates for orthokeratology. After constantly having to tell them “Unfortunately, no,” I decided I needed an alternate system. I developed a specific passive internal marketing strategy for patients with known conditions and needs.
Specific Rooms Based on Previously Diagnosed Conditions
The way it works is my receptionists direct each patient into the corresponding exam room for their previously diagnosed conditions that have educational material that I want them to see. I have one room specific for each of the following:
Room 1: Keratoconus and specialty contact-lens room: Education on free-form scleral lenses and higher order aberration correction.
Room 2: Dry-eye room: Explains intense pulsed light (IPL)/heat treatments and meibomian gland imaging.
Room 3: Myopia control/orthokeratology room: This is the room all kids and parents of kids have their routine exam in along with “myopia control consults.”
Room 4: Routine care/new patient: Dry eye and myopia control is the final “overflow room.”
Room 4 is intended for new patients or individuals whom my receptionists aren’t sure about. There is a high probability that individuals between the age of 25-60 years old either have dry eye or a child/grandchild who could benefit from myopia control. So, passively educating them on specific treatments while they are sitting in the exam room waiting for me is what I call “high-level patient-specific internal marketing.”
Create Posters for Each Room
I used Adobe Photoshop to create my own posters with material from manufacturers (with their permission) for specific high-revenue services I provide. It took me about 20 minutes to create each of these posters. I printed them and then hanged them in the exam rooms. Rarely do I allow marketing material directly from manufacturers to be used.
I paid $120 per year for a Photoshop subscription, and the one-time cost to print out and frame the posters was around $50 per poster.
I broke even on this modest expenditure on day one. Selling a single IPL treatment or myopia control package put me back in the black.
The Secret Sauce: Train Staff
I needed to educate my front-desk team on patient room selection and how to look ahead in the schedule in order to not fill a room that might be needed in the next 30 minutes for a specifically diagnosed patient.
Your staff has to be able to identify previously diagnosed patients for whatever service you want to market. It is easier to do this if your staff, like mine, can look back at previous diagnoses within your EHR. However, someone still has to be the decision-maker on which patient gets exposed to which passive marketing campaign.
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Helping Patients While Increasing Practice Profitability
I am capturing more patients for treatment, especially when patients say, “Tell me more about this IPL poster” or “Why haven’t I heard about myopia control for my child before?” In these scenarios I get to educate patients without the perception of being “the salesperson.” The patient is much more receptive to a specific treatment if they are the ones driving the conversation.
Occasionally, I unintentionally breeze over a dry-eye sign or complaint by the time I’m ready to educate the patient on the exam findings. When the patient sees that we offer higher-level dry eye procedures, they often bring it back up to me and allow me to capture this treatment whereas, in the absence of this marketing strategy, the patient would walk out the door with unresolved symptoms.
Results: I didn’t track my conversion rate for myopia control or dry eye candidates before implementing my internal marketing strategy, but I can look back and track the number of treatments that we do per year. Soft-lens myopia control and orthokeratology has gone from 12.0 and 12.6 patients per month in 2021 and 2022 respectively to 14.0 patients per month in 2023.
I implemented this marketing strategy three months after purchasing an IPL, so my pre-strategy data is low in sample size. But we increased our treatments from eight treatments per month in 2022 to 14 treatments (75 percent increase) per month in the last two quarters of 2023.
At my core, I am not a very good salesman, but I love to teach both students and patients. This strategy allows my patients to be continually surrounded by newer optometric treatment information without the need for valuable doctor time. It also takes the edge off of the patient when I discuss these treatments if they have already had time to digest the information prior to me coming into the exam room. We all know patient retention of what we tell them is extremely low. So, even if the patient doesn’t agree to pursue treatment at this time, a combination of visual and verbal education will maximize patient education retention for the next visit.