Looking For New Ways To Increase New Patients?
In the US, every state now allows patients to skip the doctor referral and seek physical therapy via direct access in some way. This is great news both for you and for your patients. Unfortunately, many clinics still aren’t marketing direct access as a way to increase new patients.
Marketing directly to patients is the only way private clinics can control their monthly patient volume and not depend on other businesses. And in 2021 that’s more important than ever!
After all, our industry has changed drastically in the last 5 years. First, the growth of Hospital-Owned or Physician-Owned Physical Therapy Services (or HOPTS & POPTS) shrunk the referral market that got many PT Owners where they are today. Then, since the Coronavirus pandemic referrals took an even more massive hit.
The fact is this: Referrals can no longer the only growth tool for a successful private practice.
But don’t be discouraged! With challenge comes opportunity.
You now have the chance to take control of your own patient growth. Of course, it’s good to do so without hurting your existing referral relationships.
Marketing direct access doesn’t mean ditching your doctors, it means diversifying to become independent of their success.
Below are several tips & best practices for direct-access marketing.
Direct Access = Controlling Your Own Practice Growth
There are 2 questions PT Owners often need clarity on regarding direct access:
1) “Can I market directly to patients?”
No matter what your state laws are regarding direct access, marketing directly to patients is the only way to control your own growth. In the strictest states, send the patient to a physician after an evaluation with your recommendations. Your physician relationships are likely to improve as you send referrals to them!
2) “How Much of My Marketing Should Be Direct Access?”
There are a couple variables as far as your budgeting goes, but the best way to measure this is to look at your current patient load. Where are they coming from now? We recommend the following percentages for patient acquisition:
- 60% Repeat Patients or Patient Referrals (using newsletters, referral programs, email, etc),
- 30% New Patients (from your website and local marketing), and
- 10% Physician Referrals.
If you are currently weak in one of those 3 areas you probably want to begin to weight more of your budget there and make tweaks based on what’s working month-to-month.
5 Easy Ways To Market Direct Access to PT
1. Be A Teacher, Not A Salesmen
Take the point of view that you want to educate your patients about the opportunities available to them directly through physical therapy. You’ve heard of branding your practice, part of this is always communicating as a topical expert. Talk less about you and your solutions, and instead focus on the pain people experience, how it hurts their quality of life, & how easily they can overcome their challenge.
In addition to therapy, people expect you to know more about insurance coverage than they do. This is an opportunity to win their trust and comfort with your practice. Speak to their concerns before they ask by answering common questions wherever you mention insurance options.
- Use headlines that support education versus salesmanship.
- Encourage patients to contact you with questions and/or to verify their ability to be seen without a referral.
- Update the list of the accepted insurance to include “direct access available” or “no referral needed” to let patients know about their healthcare options. Then provide a specific phone number for insurance questions.
- Consider advertising a “3-Step Plan to Living Pain-Free” that tells them how to become a patient.
2. Discharge Conditions, NOT Patients
Now that patients can come directly to you, it’s time to think of them as life-long customers. Most practices see their patients’ cycles as starting at intake and ending at discharge. While this might be the time that someone is actively in your care, their patient cycle should never end. Once someone is treated by your practice, they should be your patient for life!
So how do you keep someone in your cycle while they aren’t active? Check out this video we put together for some great tips on this topic.
3. Balance Print and Digital Marketing
Direct access marketing means you have to think about who you’re talking to and how to reach them. Consistency in message and timing plus a balance of print and digital will get you a long way towards financial dependence.
Here are 2 facts you probably already know:
Could you imagine your practice either without any paper whatsoever or with no computers? The key to marketing to patients is balance. Here’s an example:
Direct Access Case Study | BioSport Physical Therapy Doubles New Patients:
Leo has owned a practice in California for 15 years, built primarily on referrals. Over the last 5 years, he began to realize the very real struggles that come with dwindling doctor referrals and Hospital-owned groups. He knew he needed to change, but had no patient marketing experience.
In January, Leo started using Practice Promotions for his physical therapy newsletters as well as a new practice website. By March – just 3 months into the newsletter system – Leo’s new patients per month doubled from 30 to 64!
Soon after, his website booked over 120 new consultations in its first 4 months.
Check out the full system Leo used here and request a free info kit.
4. Invest in Professional Tools & Training
We recently wrote an article on PT Clinic Investments, and this is right up there with the most important ones. Every business owner – or practice owner – needs to learn enough about marketing to make confident leadership decisions. Even if you’re not the one carrying out every task, it’s vital that you understand what is needed to grow your practice.
We highly recommend Breakthrough Physical Therapy Marketing for in-depth, PT-specific training. Many of their customers use our products to carry out their training!
5. Be Strategic When Discussing Direct Access
This goes back to not endangering your existing referral relationships. You DO want to speak to people in their everyday language such as “no referral needed.” But not every marketing or branded collateral needs to make doctors sound useless. Consider the intended audience of your marketing—is this a resource for both patients and doctors or just patients?
If newsletters go to both patients and doctors, add a small callout box with short headline or sentence that direct access is now available and to call in for more information.
On the other hand, most doctors’ offices do not heavily utilize social media or website marketing. Use these outlets to promote direct access to patients.
What About Covid-19 Restrictions?
The #1 most important thing for you to know as a business owner right now is your service is ESSENTIAL. Not only can you operate, it’s in the best interest of public health that you stay open and keep treating as many people as possible.
That said… you have to work extra hard these days to tell people about what you’re doing to stay open safely. Website pop-ups, newsletters & direct mail, social media videos… all of these things will help make sure your patients realize they can come see you.
For a more in-depth look at marketing through Covid, check out our PT Survival Guide here.
The Bottom Line:
Want to build a secure, valuable practice you can be confident in? Market direct access. Take it seriously, invest in professionalism, and be consistent month-to-month. In addition, you’re a PT expert not likely a marketing expert – that’s ok! Be a good business owner and manage someone who is an expert. You can overcome Hospital & Physician-Owned PT and increase your own patients!