In her debut blog, Julie Gough-Nelson, offers tips on maximizing a practice's subspecialty reach.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this debut blog by Julie Gough-Nelson, marketing director at Shepherd Eye Center in Las Vegas, NV. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Advanstar.
Let’s face it: ophthalmology is a diverse segment of a vast health care system. With such a myriad of subspecialties, it’s often that you’ll find practices focusing on just one, creating for themselves a niche in the community.
That’s not to say that a diverse approach to ophthalmology within the practice is impossible, but in order for those lesser-known service lines to be visible to patients, the practice communications specialist must find new and different ways to reach those potential patients.
Summer here in Vegas seems to be health fair season, and our practice is always in the thick of it. On any given day, you may find me at a hotel and casino letting employees know that their insurance is accepted at our clinics for routine or full medical exams. On a Friday in July, I found myself at a local attraction sharing information with pediatricians at the local chapter meeting of the American Academy of Pediatricians.
This was not happenstance. Referrals are a large part of any ophthalmology practice, and this particular day was important for reaching the local pediatricians and pediatric residents in the area. Some had interacted with our practice in the past, and others were hearing for that first time that there was a fellowship-trained pediatric ophthalmologist available for referrals.
AAP guidelines dictate that pediatricians routinely screen children’s eyes during their first year of life at their milestone well child checkups. Furthermore, upon entering school, it is recommended that children receive a comprehensive eye exam. The reality is that the sooner conditions can be found, the greater potential for successful treatments.
You may be in an area where that subspecialty makes you the only one offering that expertise. At other times, you may find the practice in competition with another practice offering the same expertise.
Especially in the competitive market, it is highly important than to get your name out there to make sure you solidify your piece of the pie related to that specialty and show why your practice is the better choice.
Perhaps you tout the doctor’s longevity in ophthalmology or the credentials of advanced training that sets him/her apart from the competition. Maybe it’s the ancillary staff that make the patient feel comfortable or the environment that puts them at ease (in this case, a fun, pediatrics-devoted waiting room and full optical shop for youth sizes).
That office environment is a factor that you in the practice can control. Having other health care professionals tour the facility may provide them with the information they need to feel confident in referring patients to your practice.
However, a visit to the pediatricians office may serve as a safe zone for their staff to be able to ask questions that will ultimately determine their decision making process for referring a patient to one facility or another.
But practice-to-practice outreach isn’t the only way to reach a sub-segment of patients (in this case, pediatric patients). A monetary donation to a carefully selected local agency may create a mutually beneficial partnership for both groups.
Another great way to make individuals aware of services that exist for them is it use the power of social media(self-publish) and traditional media (paid buy) as platforms for delivering consciously designed campaigns centered on days, weeks, or even months of health observations devoted to this care area.
August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. There is no better time to promote a special service line like this one as school gets underway.
Eye health is just as important as routine “physicals” as school comes back in session. So make sure that you are getting your message about your subspecialties or subspecialist in front of the right eyes.