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Top Strategies for How to Grow a Medical Practice: Expanding Your Patient Base Successfully

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Many healthcare professionals are wondering how to grow a medical practice in today’s ever-evolving healthcare landscape.

45.9% of US physicians owned their practices in 2018, according to a survey by the AMA Policy Research Perspective series, indicating significant interest in business development and growth in this area. Privately owned practices need to continuously attract new patients to support the lifespan and growth of their medical practice. Plus, they need to retain existing patients for sustainable success.

How can medical practices effectively attract and retain patients? Read on to learn how diversifying services, implementing robust business management strategies, and focusing on hiring and retaining skilled healthcare professionals can be the stepping stones to growth.

Medical Practice Trends

Standards of care and patient expectations are changing with the growing use of telehealth. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an unprecedented boom in telehealth services, with usage soaring to 38 times the pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by McKinsey. By April 2020, telehealth had become the go-to method for office visits and outpatient care, with usage skyrocketing to 78 times the levels seen before the pandemic, according to the same report.

The number of people in the United States who do not have a primary care physician is significant. More than 100 million Americans don't have routine access to a primary care physician, which has nearly doubled since 2014, according to the most recent research on the subject. Telehealth is one solution that can potentially help close this gap, by reducing the physical barriers to healthcare access and connecting a greater number of people with primary care physicians virtually.

Another factor that represents an opportunity for telemedicine is clinic wait times. The average wait time in 2022 to schedule a new patient-physician appointment is often unacceptably long long—approximately 26 days, according to a new study by the Washington State Hospital Association. With telehealth, patients can potentially reduce their amount of time spent traveling to appointments, and clinics can streamline administration by conducting particular actions (like having patients fill out forms) remotely between or before virtual visits.

Virtual care, or telemedicine, presents a wealth of opportunities for a medical practice, enabling practitioners to:

  • Extend their services to remote and inaccessible communities
  • Offer greater flexibility for consultation times
  • Improve clinic accessibility and patient satisfaction
  • Increase capacity to see a greater volume of patients
  • Reduce patient costs
  • Increase revenue through seeing higher patient volume or reimbursement
  • Improve operational efficiency
  • Improve patient care

As technology continues to evolve, the significance of virtual care and telemedicine in the healthcare industry is poised to grow even further.

How to Grow Your Healthcare Practice

To grow a medical practice, providing excellent medical care to patients is a requirement. But that’s not all that goes into it. An all-encompassing approach that considers the business of running a practice is critical.

Some key areas to focus on include:

  • Business management
  • Hiring
  • Marketing
  • Patient care

All of these factors play pivotal roles in the practice’s overall growth. Implementing a patient-centric approach—prioritizing delivering an optimal patient experience—minimizes turnover and enhances retention rates.

Business Management and Workflows

In any healthcare practice, efficient business management is the backbone of success. The business of healthcare requires thought and action in the following areas:

  • Strategic planning: Set goals for the practice, perform competitive analysis to differentiate your services, determine a growth strategy.
  • Financial management: Effectively budget and forecast finances, manage salary and other expenses.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance: Ensure the practice is compliant with federal and state level regulations.
  • Operations management: Streamline workflows, automate scheduling and communications, and manage inventory of medical supplies.
  • Technology implementation: Use technology that helps automate tasks, ease administrative burden, allow for the most up to date medical procedures, and enable telemedicine, as needed.
  • Community and stakeholder relationships: Build relationships with patients, community organizations, and other healthcare professionals to establish a reputation and manage referrals.

Other elements include encouraging patient engagement, collecting patient feedback, providing a high-quality patient experience, and efficiently handling finances, human resources, patient care coordination, and administrative functions.

Thanks to software and tools such as electronic health records (EHRs) for digital patient information management, the business management of healthcare services has been greatly simplified. Automation tools can streamline processes such as:

  • Accounting
  • Medical billing
  • Claims processing
  • Outpatient management
  • Inventory management
  • Bed management

Determine the right medical hardware and software for your practice. Read more: Telemedicine Equipment: 30 Essential Telehealth Tools.

Hiring and Retention

The right staff, including medical professionals and support staff, are crucial for any medical practice. With a global healthcare worker shortage—estimated by The World Health Organization to reach almost 14 million by 2030—hiring and retention are critical to consider when growing a medical practice.

What are some of the skills to seek out? In addition to the hard skills of relevant medical experience, staff should possess exceptional people skills and specialized training, particularly in phone etiquette, to professionally engage with patients. Capable, amiable, and empathetic staff members contribute to patient satisfaction and also aid in retaining current patients.

Human resources management in a healthcare practice involves:

  • Staff recruitment, hiring, and onboarding
  • Training and development
  • Performance reviews
  • Employee regulatory compliance
  • Retention

Several factors contribute to a practice’s ability to retain staff. Stress and burnout, compensation, adequate staffing, and a sense of autonomy, purpose, and growth—these can all shape a worker’s career. One study summarized the key factors that contribute to healthcare employee retention as:

  • Personal characteristics
  • Job demands
  • Employment services
  • Working conditions
  • Work relationships
  • Organizational culture

Marketing and Communications

Marketing is crucial for attracting potential patients and building trust. Marketing and communications involve many moving parts, such as:

  • Branding and positioning: Differentiating the practice, identifying a target audience, communicating what patients can expect from their experience, outlining services.
  • Marketing strategy and outreach: Deciding what channels to use in order to reach the right audience (e.g., social media, email) and what content to share.
  • Patient engagement: Communicating with existing patients about appointment times, clinic news and announcements, testing results, scheduling follow ups.
  • Partnerships: Community engagement through events, fundraising, referral processes.

As one review found, 12.5% of healthcare organizations successfully attracted new patients through social media. Examples for how to use social media can include:

  • Presenting the practice’s work in visually engaging ways
  • Encouraging the development of user-generated content, perceived as genuine and credible, as social evidence for prospective patients
  • Promoting community events

With a robust referral network and distinctive strengths, medical practices can effectively promote their brand and distinguish themselves from competitors.

Services and Patient Care

Offering various services can help a medical practice stand out from the competition. Consider offering new services or improving existing ones, such as implementing research-backed technologies or preventive care. These options can bring in new patients, ensure patient loyalty, and drive revenue growth.

By improving your patients' experiences by greeting them upon arrival, minimizing wait times, conducting follow-ups after appointments, and updating communication methods, a medical practice can distinguish itself from its competitors and foster patient confidence.

For example, by creating exceptional patient experiences, Yukon Neurology was able to:

  • Reduce time to administer neuropsychological testing down to 2 hours
  • Achieve a 99 percent testing completion rate
  • Gain patient referrals for extended services for ADHD, depression, and anxiety testing

Learn how by reading Quicker Comprehensive Neuropsych Testing: Creyos and Yukon Neurology

6 Ways to Grow Your Medical Practice:

There are numerous creative ways to connect with more clients and grow your medical practice, but these are some time-tested strategies backed by research. Consider some of the following:

  1. Extend your reach with telehealth
  2. Expand your services
  3. Encourage online reviews
  4. Automate follow-ups and scheduling
  5. Invest in staff professional development
  6. Engage the local community

Employ these strategies strategically and in consideration of your particular practice and patient base to identify the most likely method to foster successful growth.

1. Extend Your Reach With Telehealth

With the advent of telehealth, medical practices can now reach more patients, especially when in-person visits are limited or challenging. Telehealth enhances continuity of care by extending access beyond regular clinic hours and mitigates the effects of physician shortages in underserved populations and rural areas.

Telemedicine provides compelling benefits, including quickly available and accessible treatment plans, which can reassure patients of the quality of their care. Particularly in mental health treatment, telemedicine proves highly beneficial by eliminating barriers to accessing essential care, according to research on trends in telemedicine.

One study projected that the telehealth market will grow to $250 billion, presenting a significant economic opportunity for providers.

2. Expand Your Services

Adding new services can attract a wider patient base by catering to diverse healthcare needs. It not only fosters patient loyalty but also opens up new revenue streams, contributing to the practice's overall growth.

Computerized Cognitive Assessments

Cognitive assessments, whether facilitated through telehealth or in-clinic, encompass a variety of tests designed to evaluate crucial brain functions such as memory, attention, language skills, and problem-solving abilities. These assessments are instrumental for clinicians in diagnosing conditions like dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and a range of other neurological disorders.

Nearly one in three individuals over the age of 70 live with either mild cognitive impairment or dementia, according to a recent study. Computerized cognitive assessments can be administered remotely and conducted from the comfort of one’s home, allowing for a more comprehensive assessment.

Creyos Health provides a suite of tasks assessing cognition that help clinicians who need to measure cognitive decline, as well as those treating mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, which may have cognitive symptoms that require careful monitoring.

Adding services such as computerized cognitive assessments can lead to improved clinical outcomes and patient retention by providing timely and personalized care.

Questionnaires

Consider administering surveys to acquire patient feedback on the ease of use and accessibility of telehealth technology. Such questionnaires are a vital tool to measure and obtain input, which can lead to enhanced patient satisfaction and growth. Patients are generally more gratified when they receive comprehensive care that caters to their diverse neurological health needs. Therefore, patient satisfaction surveys are crucial.

Psychological and mental health questionnaires are another way to expand services. They offer a structured and simplified way to capture information on a patient’s mental wellbeing and track significant changes over time. They can be an invaluable resource to signal when referrals are needed, such as for more in-depth psychotherapy, or to measure how effective medicinal or therapeutic interventions have been on mental health.

3. Encourage Online Reviews

A lesser-known marketing strategy is to encourage satisfied patients to share their positive experiences and reviews online.Online reviews can be critical for patients when choosing a healthcare provider, making it essential to encourage satisfied patients to share their experiences. A positive online reputation can help attract new patients and improve a medical practice’s reputation.

However, managing negative reviews is equally important. Handle negative reviews by acknowledging negative feedback and providing solutions.

4. Automate Follow-Ups and Scheduling

Streamlining processes such as follow-ups and scheduling can significantly improve patient satisfaction and contribute to the medical practice's growth. Automating tasks can enhance healthcare staff productivity, optimize the scheduling process, reduce administrative duties, and enable staff to concentrate on more crucial, patient-centered responsibilities. This contributes to an overall improvement in the patient care experience by:

  • Ensuring a more efficient care delivery
  • Facilitating timely communication
  • Encouraging adherence to treatment plans through regular automated follow-ups

5. Invest in Staff Professional Development

Investing in your staff can elevate the quality of patient care and increase patient satisfaction. Ensuring every team member is trained with the latest knowledge and skills can significantly enhance the quality of care. The General Medical Council recommends that providers regularly update and continue their professional development.

Research suggests that clinicians can benefit from gaining knowledge in professional development as a strategy to improve healthcare quality. Furthermore, a satisfied team who feels valued and invested in the practice’s growth is more likely to deliver exceptional patient care, increasing patient satisfaction and retention. This, in turn, can positively impact the reputation and growth of your medical practice.

6. Engage the Local Community

Participating in community events or sponsoring local activities can help your medical practice become a familiar name in your area. This not only fosters trust but also brings in new patients. According to research in Health Affairs, engaging with patients and residents as authentic stakeholders can build trust and create more success for a medical practice.

Furthermore, being known in your local community can also lead to a greater understanding of the specific healthcare needs and concerns of the population you serve. This knowledge can then be used to tailor your services more effectively, ensuring you're providing the most relevant and beneficial care to your patients. Therefore, community engagement boosts your practice's visibility and enhances the quality and relevance of the care you provide.

Final Thoughts

Effective growth of a medical practice involves expanding services, implementing a patient-centric approach, efficient business management, skilled staff recruitment, and robust marketing strategies.

Another strategy is adopting telehealth and automation technologies, such as electronic health records (EHRs) and scheduling tools, which extend healthcare access and increase patient satisfaction. Consider promoting your practice through social media and by encouraging online reviews, as well as proven methods for attracting new patients and improving patient retention.

Implementing the strategies outlined can help medical practices broaden their patient base and effectively enhance patient satisfaction.

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