Marketing Still Matters (perhaps even more)
These are certainly challenging times and it may seem like marketing isn’t that important right now. That just isn’t true. As many practices are looking to offer PT services via telehealth or planning to offer Medicare e-visits, now is the time to start communicating these new offerings to patients.
Keep Your Eye on The Basics
Placement on your website
Have a separate page for each offering
Second, you should really have separate pages for each offering. If you are offering telehealth only then have a telehealth page. If you will also be offering Medicare e-visits then have a separate page for that. This will provide solid clarity on what these new offerings are and give patients and other website visitors a direction on what they might like to try and use.
Cover really basic ground, do not make any assumptions
Do not assume that patients have any familiarity with telehealth or know what it means. Many PT practice websites feature things like “how to prepare for your first visit” or “how billing works”. These are time-honored pages. Many patients use these these and find comfort in them. Telehealth and e-visits are a new frontier in PT, not just for most practices but also for most patients. Patients will need guidance on the basics.
Here are the core list of questions that you should address:
Keep in mind what you're asking the patient to wrap their head around
You need to remember that you are also asking the patient to try a technology that they may not be used to. You might have some patients that spend all day on web-meetings in their professional life and will be at home using telehealth offerings. On the other hand, you might have patients who still have a flip phone and will struggle to use technology.
Enormous amounts of effort has been expended into the #ChoosePT effort working to show patients and healthcare colleagues the value of physical therapy. Change like this doesn’t happen overnight. The same is true for telehealth to a great degree.
Share what's the same and what's different
To give comfort, make sure what can be expected to be the same as an in-person visit. For patients who may be continuing a course of care, this can really help them feel good about continuing their course of care via telehealth. For new patients (if you are going to be trying PT telehealth evaluations), this can help them understand that the level of care they will receive.
It’s also important to cover what may be different. This may include some services that you cannot provide. It may also include equipment that the patient may need to have, if at all possible.
Medicare Physical Therapy E-Visits
At least as of this post, Medicare hasn’t opened the door to telehealth by physical therapists. But, they have least cracked the door open with this concept of e-visits. Despite the name, these really aren’t visits in the sense that they would replace a regular visit. Instead, they are really more of a periodic consultation or check-in with the patient over the course of 7 days. We have blogged about this in other posts.
One interesting aspect of e-visits is that they must be initiated by the patient. That means the patient must ask for the service. Medicare has made clear that a practice can inform and educate a patient about what e-visits are. Your website is a perfect vehicle for educating and informing patients about this offering to reinforce other efforts that you are making on the phone or through other communications with the patient.
Given that telehealth and e-visits aren’t the same thing, it makes sense to have separate pages (or at least separate sections for each).
Physical Therapy Telehealth
Full-on telehealth is a very new world for most PTs. It’s also a pretty new world for physical therapy patients. With that said, the best marketing strategy would be to focus on the overall benefits of physical therapy while highlighting the new delivery model. Think of the phrase “it’s the same but different”. By focusing on what’s the same, you can take advantage of the value that is been built around physical therapy and then just show the extension to telehealth. It’s a fine line but one you should think about as you build out your page on telehealth.
It’s important to also be upfront about what a patient should expect out of a telehealth visit or even out of a telehealth course of treatments. This is not only an ethical obligation, but also just common sense. Patients should always have sensible expectations as to what they can get out of a course of care. Patients with proper expectations will likely have a higher level of satisfaction, overall.
If You Don't Have a Website, Now is as Good a Time as Any
If you don’t have a website or your website hasn’t been updated in year and you’ve long forgotten how to update it, now is the time to get a new site or get back into it. Across virtually every sector of the economy, technology is being leveraged to communicate and fill gaps. Your PT practice should be doing the same. There is no excuse these days not to have a website. It’s very inexpensive and you can use an all-in-one system to have a website up within a matter of minutes (might take you a couple of hours to fill it with some content).
Leverage E-mail Marketing
At this time, you need to leverage everything that you have. The reality is that you have a huge asset in the form of the emails that you have (hopefully) been collected throughout the course of treating patients during the life of your practice. These emails are a direct way to communicate with patients past and present. Your EMR, like MWTherapy, should easily be able to deliver you these emails for your use.
The easiest thing you can do is use three lists – one for active patients, one for discharged patients, and one for referrers
For your active patients, your goals should be:
For inactive patients, your goals should be:
For inactive patients, your goals should be:
Extend to Other Mediums, Including Good Old Fashioned Phone Calls
Once you have your webpages up – leverage them. Post a link on your social media if you have it. Send it to your referral base.
Also don’t forget to take traditional steps such as calling your top referrers and letting them know how you’re responding. This can continue to strengthen your relationship and show professionalism, which can pay dividends in the future.
Ethical and Other Considerations
The APTA has many resources on integrity in practice, professionalism, ethical decision-making, etc. Telehealth can fill an important continuum, especially in times of emergency but it is isn’t precisely the same as the traditional in-person delivery model that has been used for decades. The principals can help guide you in how you communicate with patients.
Here is a link: https://www.apta.org/EthicsProfessionalism/
The Bottom Line
Now isn’t the time to abandon your marketing efforts. Even with short or no money, you can and should continue to market your PT practice.