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10 Cost-Effective Marketing Strategies To Limit Managed Care's Impact

One factor accelerating the growth of managed care is doctors’ lack of effective marketing. Many doctors think they are spending little, if any, on marketing their practice. Yet, they are heavily involved in managed care plans, with adjustments (write-offs) often totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. What they don’t understand is that these write-offs actually represent a huge, but ineffective, marketing expenditure.

Worse yet, managed care fees are rarely increased to keep pace with inflation; rather, they are often frozen and, in some cases, cut substantially in order to fatten the insurance companies’ bottom line. As a result, the managed care “marketing plan” produces increasingly worse results as the years go by.

It’s more important than ever for doctors to “break the cycle” by implementing the following 10 cost-effective marketing strategies to grow their practice. Once a doctor’s practice collections increase substantially, she can afford to reduce, or even eliminate, managed care plan participation and dramatically improve profitability.

1. Purchase a competing practice and merge it into your own in order to generate incremental profits of 60-70% on the additional volume purchased, before practice purchase debt service. If that option isn’t available, consider purchasing an out-of-market satellite practice to increase busyness to 100% of optimal capacity.

2. Improve your practice website through adding video testimonials and original photographs of actual cases, and deleting clinical terminology and graphic photos. Moreover, increase favorable patient reviews on Google and Yelp, and take other steps to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so that your practice appears on the first page of Google search results.

3. Invest in new personalized signage for your practice to improve visibility and attract more new patients to your practice. An estimated 85% of potential patients either work or reside within 10 miles of your practice and pass your location numerous times each month. Educate yourself about local sign laws and regulations, and maximize your signage while staying in compliance.

If necessary, consider shrinkwrapping your business automobile and using it as a practice “billboard” by parking it in the most visible location at your practice. Remember, signage is the “silent salesperson,” providing a 24/7, 365 days-a-year image touting your practice. While other forms of advertising require annual cash outlays, investment in signage is a “one and done” expenditure, making it one of the top three cost-effective means of practice external marketing.

4. Begin recording incoming new patient calls and review them regularly to learn how they are being handled. Invest in front desk training and consider implementing a “call center” approach to increase the number of calls that are converted into actual new patients.

5. Utilize an in-office practice management consultant to boost doctor and hygiene productivity, improve scheduling, and case presentation skills to boost acceptance rates.

6. Increase case acceptance rates by offering more flexible payment arrangements with lower down payments and affordable (no more than $150-$200) monthly payments for patients, as long as they agree to pay by automatic bank draft and/or credit card charge.

7. Consider moving the practice to a new location with better demographics, visibility, and growth potential.

8. Upgrade or remodel the existing practice facility in order to boost patient referrals and increase case acceptance.

9. Expand the practice’s procedure mix to increase production from your existing patient base.

10. Increase communication with your patient base. Some doctors don’t need more new patients; rather, they simply need their existing patients to accept treatment that has been previously recommended and agreed upon. Doctors should communicate with their patient base (via email or regular mail) every six months to inform them of new procedures, unused insurance benefits (discussed in our article "Time To Inform Your Patients Of Their Unused Dental Insurance Benefits"), and more flexible payment options. Many practices are spending thousands of dollars annually trying to attract new patients, while they ignore a “gold mine” of existing patients who already know and love them.

Beginning or increasing managed care participation should be doctors’ “last resort,” rather than their first. Doctors should not even consider taking such action until they have implemented the 10 cost-effective strategies described above and determined their impact on practice profitability.

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