It’s common knowledge that the upside to PPO involvement is that they help generate new patient flow by marketing your practice for you. By being on a Provider list supplied to potential patients, the insurance company is sending you new patients in exchange for the discount in services you provide for them. For those considering going out-of-network with a PPO plan, one big question isn’t just how to retain your current patient base, it’s also how to continue getting new patients when you are no longer on a PPO Provider list.
As our own office has gradually gone out-of-network with many companies, I’ve had one main goal in regards to new patient flow. I want to replace the new patient flow previously received from the insurance company with other marketing, but I want it to be either free or inexpensive. My thought is if we have to spend $5,000 a month in marketing to get the same new patients we were getting with a PPO, we might as well have just stayed in-network. I want to increase profits, not just shift expenses from write-offs to a marketing campaign.
One of the most inexpensive forms of marketing right now is social media, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If your first thought is “yuck” let me encourage you to stay open-minded. There is an entire free network out there that requires time instead of money to get involved in. For offices that already have a web site, social media is an easy way to drive traffic to your site as well as connect with potential patients who would never find you otherwise. It’s not a replacement for other types of marketing you may be doing but a free addition to complement what you already have in place. Even if you do no outside marketing at all, social media is a great way to connect with current patients who are most likely your best internal referral source. For those of you who would rather hang by your toenails than spend time on Facebook, consider asking the people working for you their thoughts on it. You may have a Facebook or Twitter whiz right under your nose who could easily spend 15 minutes of staff time creating a social media presence that can pay off quickly.
If you have no idea where to start, let me recommend Jason Lipscomb’s book Social Media For Dentists (visit our Links page). It’s a nuts and bolts book of how to get started. It’s reader-friendly, written for noobies, and even has pictures to show you what to look for as you sign up on each site. Social media isn’t going to disappear so consider hopping on the train sooner rather than later.