Unusual Medical Marketing

May 6, 2020

One of the DarkCyber team alerted me to a blog post titled “Top 19 Ways to Attract More Patients to Your Medical Practice.” In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the evening news, online news reports, and podcasts are buzzing about Covid19. The idea that medical professionals need to escalate their marketing efforts is an interesting one.

What are the recommendations? Here’s a selection of seven ideas. Please, consult the original essay to learn the other 12. Our comments about the item appear in italics following the information from the expert in medical marketing.

  1. Create contests. The idea is unusual. Based on my experience with doctors, nurses, and intermediaries like “doc in the box” operations in Kroger, the free time available to think about a contest may be limited. What will the winner receive? A co-pay waiver? An appliance for a broken ankle? A coupon good for $20 percent off a lab test.
  2. Get active in Social Media. Most of the health care professionals with whom I have knowledge are not eager to post content on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media sources. The likelihood of the information being used in the event of an insurance fraud, Medicare integrity issue, or malpractice exists. Perhaps some health care professionals post. There are images of nurses and physicians in coronavirus treatment facilities. These may be legal time bombs. Our suggestion is to ask an attorney first.
  3. Email your patients once in a while. In the city in which the DarkCyber team members live, communications from physicians are intermediated through a combine of health care providers or from a corporate entity. Emails move through specific channels in order to minimize issues with HIPPA, legal issues, and security. Again: Check with an attorney before spamming, using a proxy, or putting into the Internet’s memory a comment which may be problematic for regulatory authorities.
  4. Be Adaptable. The idea of adaptation is important. However, in a regulated sector, protocols must be followed. The physician or nurse who wanders off the reservation and is discovered as a protocol violator can face penalties. These range from losing a license to a fine or worse. Adaptation in quite specific frames of reference is important. Losing track of a particular frame of reference can be problematic.
  5. Get plenty of online reviews. What does “plenty” mean? Many physicians — particularly independent physicians providing plastic surgery type services to wealthy clients — may find patient reviews a double edged sword. A good review is, by definition, better than a damning review. A bad review may be evidence in another patient’s malpractice case. Corporate health care providers face internal and other restrictions on their posting about procedures. We are repeating, but checking with an attorney may be prudent.

The other 19 tips to get up to 30 new patients a week presents a problem on three fronts:

First, in today’s medical climate, generating business for a health problem may be perceived as unprofessional. In some cases, the virus is providing sufficient demand. There is no data in the write up to draw a direct link between search engine optimization and social media and new patients. Without data, the implication and overt statements are difficult to believe.

Second, health care professionals face numerous challenges. These range from regulation to burn out, from excessive paperwork to the challenge of keeping pace with medical information germane to their work. In today’s climate, convincing medical professionals to embrace marketing may be a difficult sale. The attention bandwidth of many medical professionals goes offline when computer centric double talk is the meat of the conversation.

Finally, the implication that the 19 recommendations will deliver new patients is a checklist easily applied to other business sectors. The ideas are not customized, not tuned to the regulatory climate, and not in touch with the new normal for medical treatment.

Net net: The ideas may create more problems, increase costs, and present a larger attack surface for patients pursuing malpractice claims against the advertising health care professional. The blog post may be a hustle, not a help.

Stephen E Arnold, May 6, 2020

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