This week’s episode is the first in a 3-part “reboot marketing series” for medical practices. In this episode, Michael, Scott, and Jared discuss how to keep an eye on marketing ROI in the midst of a lot of changes. A lot of practices are waking back up and starting to actively grow their patient volumes again. But as we all know by now, it isn’t as simple as returning to the way things were done before the pandemic.
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Announcer: It’s time to think differently about healthcare, but how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology, it can be easy to forget that healthcare is still all about humans, and many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell.
Here, we leave the policy debates to the other guys and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of healthcare together and hear some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your paradigm shift.
Michael: Welcome to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare,” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts here today with my co-host Scott Zeitzer and Jared Johnson. Today’s episode is the first in our next three-part series. We’re doing one about rebooting and practice marketing, and this is kind of building on one of our recent three-part series that we had.
We had a marketing refresher series where we walked through parts of your digital marketing that tend to get neglected or forgotten, but they’re vitally important to your online presence. So, you know, if you want to go back and check that out, this was back on episode 73 through 75, depending on which service you’re listening through. But guys, thank you for getting together for yet another three-part series.
Scott: Woo. I’m excited. I’m excited.
Michael: So today’s focus, we’re specifically talking around practices, so medical practices. Our space is definitely around orthopedic practices and spine and neuro and a lot of other different specialties that we end up kind of working with on occasion. But we’ve been through all of this pandemic stuff. We’re nowhere near really done with it, but there are signs of hope, or like we’re starting to think like just before we started this podcast, we talked about the fact that Scott and I got together for coffee for the first time in a year even though we’re in the same metropolitan area.
So these kinds of opportunities are starting to happen, patients are getting back out there, practices are waking up. We were really trying to push and say like, hey, like don’t go into hiding right now as patients are trying to figure this out. So now here we are, practices are really getting it, they’re really like seeing this light at the end of the tunnel and they’re really opening back up, but it’s not just the process of going back and saying like, okay, whatever it was we were doing before pandemic times, let’s just turn that back on and we’ll be fine.
So patients are completely different, there still are a lot of different types of restrictions out there in terms of, you know, all the different safety protocols that are in place. So that’s the stage, guys. How does that impact practice marketing? How are things right now with practice marketing?
Scott: Yeah. You know, it’s funny, I’ve been on the phone quite a bit in the past month, and to Michael’s point, everybody’s waking up. Imagine, I got my vaccine, and after I was fully vaccinated, I started checking off things I needed to do, you know, just proactive, preventative health care.
And, you know, there are a lot of procedures and tests that people have just plain put off, or pain they’ve kind of…you know, we deal with orthopods, like you mentioned, Michael, we deal with a lot of people who, “You know what? I really need to get my knee replaced, or I think I do. And, you know, I’m just afraid to do it now.” And then all of a sudden, you know, I think this avalanche of cases is definitely coming in, and I’ve talked to some surgeons about that.
And so from an ROI perspective, that’s great. You’ve got this initial surge of patients coming in. And, you know, Michael, you and I talk about this all the time. We’re always about value versus volume, and you really want to make sure that you’re focusing on the patients that you want to see. Larger practices can dole it out accordingly but if you’re a small practice, you know, it’s almost like a triage in a way about what kind of patients you want to see, what kind of procedures you want to work on, etc.
And you’re right, Michael, you can’t just turn it back on. It’s going to take a little bit more than that. It’s a little bit more nuanced than that, and it’s a good time to start to take a step back, you know, and to take a look at what’s working, what’s not working. And my biggest red flag for everybody is like, especially surgeons who are listening to this, don’t overwhelm your office staff. Don’t think that your office manager who’s running around with their heads chopped off, trying to keep up with scheduling everybody is really going to manage your online marketing to the level you need it. It’s not happening. They’re overwhelmed. Right, Michael?
Michael: Yeah. Oh, for sure. And it’s interesting because like, you know, some of our notes here, as we were thinking about like how to approach this topic is like, what are some of the things that are still the same about practice marketing?
Some people will think like, hey, well, there are a lot of similarities between now and a year ago. Maybe I can just kind of jump back in, but that is one of the warning signs we’ve talked about for years. Yes, that practice manager has a full-time job already, trying to sprinkle in some marketing on the top is going to be pretty difficult, and trying to keep up with all of these different moving components gets really complicated very quickly.
Jared: Right. One of those things, Michael, is that the…and when you’re asking what has stayed the same about practice marketing, I’d say one of those things is the general demand still. It’s not like you changed the type of specialists you need to see to have your wrist repaired, you know, have a certain surgery. So you’re still ultimately looking for the same types of services, I guess. So there’s still going to be some baseline demand that’s always going to be there. And yes, there were some crazy blips during last summer during different surges and peaks during the pandemic, and affected things short term.
Well, what I don’t see really changing in the long term even with virtual visits, you know, with new options, you’re still primarily needing the same type of service especially when we’re talking about specialty care from the same people. And so that part doesn’t go away. It’s just, do we need to package it differently? Do we need to improve the experience about it? I think the questions change a little bit, but the overall demand of what somebody is needing to have done still stays the same.
Scott: Yeah. I wonder guys, how much research has gone on, you know, for a patient that has basically said, you know, I’m ready for procedure X. I’m thinking again of, I’m in a lot of pain and I know I need to go see somebody about it. And that can be everything from my shoulder hurts to I’ve been told, you know, I got to get my knee replaced. How much research has gone online, because a lot of patients were not willing to go to see the specialist? They basically were going to kind of suck it up and deal with it. And we’ve talked quite a bit about the downside of that for patients, but I think that’s the warning. People have researched a lot, people are making phone calls and your staff needs to be prepared for that.
Michael: Yeah, that really does come back to some of these things that have stayed the same. This process of people doing more research or people trying to take more of that sort of empowerment in their own care. That was definitely kind of heading this way. And then here we are, the pandemic hits, and then you’re starting to think through all these things that we’ve talked about before in terms of like, how do we even get in to see a doctor? What does a doctor do in these kinds of circumstances? So like the type of research has changed a lot.
And then thinking about things that are different, you know, like you mentioned that putting off care, I’d be interested to see because there was definitely like this huge surge in like home fitness, you know, all that kind of stuff where suddenly I know I didn’t go to the gym anymore even when it did open back up. There was no way I was going inside that building. And as I’m going around the neighborhood on my bike or taking the kids for a walk or whatever, you know, you still see a ton of people out and a ton of people still using that sort of modality. When you’re in those kinds of scenarios, what are the weird aches and pains that we’re all noticing, you know, from doing a different kind of workout from maybe doing something that’s a little more unstructured?
So there is so much around, you know, the patient’s behavior that’s different, the patient’s needs that are different. In terms of like where some opportunities are around that, you know, speaking to that experience, are people getting out there and talking about the fact that like this patient may have different needs? You know, and even kind of even talking to them earlier in the process, like you may have twisted your ankle playing backyard football again after not doing it for many, many years.
So it’s just interesting to see like we’re in this very different climate, there are a lot of changes, there are a lot of things that have stayed the same, but there’s just this interesting time as people are waking back up. There’s a lot of opportunity, and that’s very exciting I think for practices that did go through some financial challenges last year. Hey, here’s this new kind of playing level that you can kind of like work with here, and here we go.
Scott: It’s a big change. And there’s a real opportunity here for people who want to take advantage of it. And this has nothing to do with technology but, again, to all the practices out there, I can’t tell you how many patients, fellow, my people, you know, who are on the other side, who are going to go see the doctor, who come back complaining, say, “I’m not going back there. Nobody has a mask on. There didn’t seem to be any real procedures. If I see one more nose poking out from the top of the mask,” that kind of stuff.
Look, I get it. Everybody has their own opinion about what to do and what not to do, but I’m telling you, you definitely need to be aware that some people are still very nervous about coming in and you’ve got to continue to reassure them. It is getting better, thank goodness, but make sure that you’re following proper protocols, make sure you’re highlighting that on your website. And for those of you who want to get caught up, get back ahead of everybody else. We’ve been dealing with some practices and some of them have been very, very aggressive about turning “It” back on, you know, the marketing and reaching out to people. And I think now is the time if you’re going to go do it.
Jared: Yeah. Scott, one of those initial pieces of the puzzle has always been, how many patients is your practice prepared to handle? Operationally, how many can you handle? And I don’t know how often that is one of the main factors in deciding whether or not to turn on the marketing or, in the past, you know, whether to turn it up and scale it up. But we’ve got to think about that even more than ever and make sure that we’re not trying to squeeze so many through now to make up for lost ground, that we make the experience so terrible that no one wants to come back.
I mean, there’s still a patient lifetime relationship there for those who make the experience worth being your provider of choice, if that makes any sense.
Scott: It does.
Jared: That part hasn’t changed either.
Scott: You’re right. Along those lines, having staff in place to vet patients and get them where they need to go. I always joke, you know, total hip surgeons want to see patients in need of a total hip. By the way, so do the patients. But if you’ve got sciatica, you don’t need to go to see the hip surgeon, you need to see the neurologist, and there’s a lot of good ways to vet that out.
Most of it has nothing to do with technology, it’s having the right people on the phone to ask the right questions. But Jared, to your point, I’ve never met a surgeon, and I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years now, who turns away patients in need. No doubt. Don’t worry about it. Any patient listening to this, don’t worry about that, they’re going to take good care of you. But getting the right surgeon to talk to you at the right time, that’s critical.
Jared, you made a question about like, well, what if we’re just overwhelmed with how many people are coming in? Well, you’ve got to triage. You’ve got to figure out who needs to come in, who needs the service? What kind of patients you want to go see? It’s where I go back to that volume versus value equation. It’s very, very critical that those questions are being asked so that you can set up your patients accordingly and see the right patients.
Michael: Everybody, l always appreciate that you tune in, that you’re listening to the show here. I wanted to let you know that we have set up a new newsletter that you can get to at paradigmshift.health. That’s paradigmshift.health. You can go there. And the reason that we’ve got this newsletter is that we’d like to send out a few extra pieces of information with the show. We also have a full transcript for every single episode that we do, and we can let you know that through email. We can let you know also if we have like a good quote card to be able to show for every episode. So check that out if you’d like, paradigmshift.health. Thanks so much.
Jared: I was just listening to an episode from the “No Normal Podcast,” which is by Chris Bevolo and Chase Cleckner.
Scott: Good guys.
Jared: Yeah. And just this last, I think it was just this last week or two, it was like their 100th episode that they’ve done since the pandemic. I mean like, you know, celebrations right there for how much content they’ve been able to put out there. But they were mentioning, you know, one thing of looking forward as far as strategy goes, is, like, just remember, just because you need to have your volumes increase again, to make up for lost revenue, that doesn’t mean that patients are any more anxious to be in a waiting room.
The idea of a waiting room is kind of where they went for a little bit of this episode. And I remember that they’re like, remember there’s no one except maybe a doctor who thinks the waiting room is a good idea. So like that part of the patient expectation hasn’t changed either. In fact, yeah, those expectations are even more, even harder to reach. So we have to understand the type of consumer at the end of the day who’s trying to seek care and that has to be part of the puzzle.
Scott: No doubt. No doubt about it. And, you know, Jared, you make a good point about expectations. What is that going to look like? The new normal with what is considered acceptable in care. And I don’t mean like the healthcare itself, but I mean, in terms of processing patients, how many people are in the waiting room, how you interact with them remotely, it’s going to change. I’ll be very curious to see where everything lands.
Jared: Yeah, so true. And when you think about how all that has to do with, ultimately you’re going to have to update or change or revise the basics of your practice operations from day to day. It can be easy to get lost in all of that. I’m thinking even back to the question of, how do practices plan for a variable patient volume moving forward because that’s certainly part of the uncertainty and something that’s going to paralyze some practices when they’re like, we don’t know what numbers to feed into our formula of how many patients, what length of time to make the slots for appointments and so forth. How does that change?
Those are like the X’s and O’s, like those are the basics of how do you decide how much to turn your marketing on? How do you know if, when you’re prepared operationally for a certain number of them. And that question in my mind can be answered really simply, nobody actually knows, there is no model for this. This is one of the gazillion scenarios for any type of predictive modeling of what we can expect, and no one knows which one’s going to be right.
So why not spend the time right now instead of trying to either do nothing or try to guess which of those models is correct, instead of doing that, why don’t we put our time towards shoring up the parts in our patient experience that we know we need to improve? Why not just work on that right now? So to me, that’s just one way to work through the operational questions that are going on right now.
I don’t know Scott, like there’s a lot that’s going on. I’m sure it could feel easy to get caught up in what happens day to day right now.
Scott: No doubt, no doubt about that. And, you know, they’re all interconnected. Michael and I talk quite a bit about connecting the dots between the practice, it’s online marketing and it’s processing of patients. It’s something that we as a company focus on a lot, you know, and we think about when you really think about return on investment.
I remember many, many years ago, Michael, you and I talking about like, it’s not enough to simply say we got this many page views. That moved to, you know, how many times did people fill out a form to request an appointment? And now we’re up to, you know, connecting the dots to say, well, all right, we got this many page views and this many people filled out the form, and what happened next? Who reached back out? How knowledgeable was that person, etc.? So it’s going to be very interesting, Michael.
Michael: One of the things that we mentioned a little earlier was this concept of how much to turn on or turn off your marketing. People are waking back up and people are jumping back into it. And it puts marketing in an interesting light. Yes, with certain forms of advertising, you can just start putting the money out there and the right patients will come in, but you can start looking at it’s going along with this level of sophistication, you know, in terms of tracking who’s coming through and protecting privacy and all those kinds of things, you’re not being creepy.
But as you’re getting the right patients in figuring out what it is that’s making that happen, how can you get those right patients, and what’s the right tool? If you’re getting the right hip replacement or you’re getting the right whatever procedure, are there ways to do that without having to turn on the faucet or turn off? Because Facebook, and Google, and all of those businesses will happily accept your money anytime you want to throw your advertising dollars at them, but where you can look for things like content, where are you going to do those kinds of things like good reviews on your, you know, all the different services, all that kind of stuff?
Those things are so much more ongoing, so much more evergreen, and provide so many more opportunities where you can then go back and track and say, okay, like we invested in this thing, we invested in this content, this review promotion, like whatever it is. But getting a chance to kind of step back from that and say, okay, if we have this steady investment or if we have this regular focus on content, how does that compare to what can be very expensive advertising campaigns? And, you know, is there an advantage of one over the other?
I always like whenever it’s possible, to own more of that process, you know, for the practice to own more of their own content, more of their own patient experience, more of their own user experience kind of overall. How can they pull as much of that in so that they’re not so beholden to extra platforms that are out there?
So, sorry, I’m going a lot of different directions on that, but that was something that really kind of stuck with me from what Jared was talking about just a little bit ago.
Scott: I agree wholeheartedly. I think everybody if you’re listening on the practice side, my takeaways are these, don’t overwhelm your office manager. Think about what…really get back to basics. What kind of patients do you want to see? What kind of pathologies do you want to treat? What kind of procedures do you want to do? And focus on attacking that and making sure that you do well by those particular patients, I think still works. And I’ll repeat over and over, don’t walk around with a mask with your nose sticking out above, it’s going to scare some people. It just is. There’s just no doubt about it.
Jared: That’s a really good point. And we’ve all seen it. It’s just the latest example of understanding how we have to plan and prepare for things. And when we look at where we’re getting tripped up right now, where we’re getting lost, it’d feel like the things you’ve just been sharing, Scott, you know, having to do with practice operations as very much a place where we have been getting lost, like where there just isn’t that much certainty of what to do next.
And another place it feels like it’s easy to get lost right now is in all the new marketing trends that keep popping up every day, and it’s everything from new social media channels. I’m hearing so much about like Clubhouse, and I’m hearing about other new channels, and we’re like, great, now that’s another thing. I mean, it could be an opportunity, but it’s, at the end of the day, something else we need to spend time investigating, or do we? There are all sorts of other trends that it’s always been a little bit of a challenge to keep up with everything, and now it just seems even more so as everyone’s trying to either make up for time lost or ramp things up.
So for me, the question would be, how do practices stick to their strategy when it comes to marketing while they still leave some space to explore these new trends, you know, emerging trends, emerging channels? And for me, I guess I would say that’s just something you might literally have to pencil in the schedule. And the good thing is it doesn’t take that much time to explore a new marketing trend to see if it’s something worth including in your strategy. It doesn’t take as much time as people think.
There’s just a fear of trying something new and feeling like you’ve wasted your time. And I’m here to tell you, it is never wasted time to explore and spend time learning the new thing because one way or the other, you’re going to have to find out whether it’s meant to be part of your strategy if it makes sense to include it. And if it does, then I’d rather figure that out early on even when we don’t know everything that’s happening.
For instance, if it is a new social media channel, or maybe a better example is, you know, heaven forbid, Google changes their algorithm. I mean, it happens several times a day. So, how do you keep up with all that? Well, you don’t have to learn every single one of the hundreds of little tweaks that Google makes to its algorithm every day. I mean, that doesn’t make sense. It’s not going to be worth that. But there could be some time where you find a blog, a podcast, a conference, a thought leader to follow where they’re just sharing enough for you to know whether it makes sense for you.
So that’d be my thought is like don’t let the fear of feeling like it’s wasted time stop you from exploring because you’ve got to do it one way or the other.
Michael: There’s so much about marketing and so much about this process that are all about iterations. We’re talking about like, hey, if we can start getting some sort of sense of like what your ROI looks like, ideally you’re always improving upon it. I don’t think there’s really any form of marketing that you can set and forget at this point with as quickly as technology is changing. So there is inherent testing built into this, this kind of process of mixing and matching to always get to a better result.
Definitely, there are platforms that lend themselves to results more quickly and more trackable results than others. Because you think about something like, just to jump on the idea of Clubhouse real quick, how do you connect that to a patient coming in the door? That’s tough, but if you can kind of start like factoring that in, there are ways to get to that sort of concept, but it may not always prove as direct as you’d like.
Guys, this is part one of a three-part series. We’re already like starting to lean into overtime here so we’re going to call it quits here for this first episode. Lots to talk about here, so much to keep going with. So thanks everybody for listening, and we’ll be back soon.
Announcer: Thanks again for tuning in to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare.” This program is brought to you by Health Connective, custom marketing solutions for medtech and pharma. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.