Over the last couple of years there has been a significant shift in the way consumers approach healthcare. Rather than viewing it as something to consider when they are sick or injured, more and more they are taking control of their own healthcare choices and focusing on wellness as well. Smartphone apps and watches (or watch-like devices) continue to grow in popularity, raising consumer awareness about their health in general. Changes in insurance are also driving healthcare consumers to look at healthcare differently. A majority (74%) of U.S. workers now face a waiting period before employer provided health insurance coverage is available. Waiting periods are a specified length of time —usually two months—after beginning employment before employees are eligible to enroll in health benefits. Higher co-pays and deductibles also have consumers looking for less expensive alternatives.
These factors have led to the explosive growth of retail healthcare over the past few years. This phenomenon has manifested itself in many forms, including chiropractic clinics, urgent care centers, walk-in medical clinics, as well as facilities that specialize in dialysis, infusions, mammograms, MRIs, neurofeedback and other consumer-focused services.
The consumerization of healthcare means more and more providers are marketing and selling their services directly to consumers. Many choose to bypass insurance companies and accept only cash payments to keep costs down as well as make it easier for the public to do business with them. But without the name of a big hospital or health system behind you, how do you build credibility with your target audience?
Here are 5 tips:
- Comply with FTC Rules and Regulations
You may truly believe that your product or service can fix a whole host of maladies, but the FTC has strict guidelines on truth in advertising and marketing. Don’t claim a cure-all. For instance, if you are a chiropractor, refrain from stating that spinal adjustments can cure obesity or infertility. It’s safer to say that a healthy spine protects the central nervous system which then enables the body to heal itself. Comply with FTC rules for health and fitness marketing; never, ever make product claims without competent and reliable evidence to back them up.
- Use Plain Language Not Medical Jargon
Few consumers know what “subluxation” means, but most will understand what you mean if you simply say “misalignment of the spine.” Instead of MTBI which stands for mild traumatic brain injury, say “post concussion symptoms.” Do your homework: a quick SEO search may reveal that consumers search online for chiropractors using the key words “back pain” and not “spinal alignments.”
- Be Specific
If you run a cash-only healthcare business, be sure your web site states that you take cash, credit and FSA debit cards. Consumers tend to take things at face value so if you only mention cash, they will mistakenly assume you don’t take credit or debit cards. Make it easy to find your business hours, and include a map that shows your location. If your office is near a well-known local landmark include that in the description as well. If you only offer a certain subset of normal services associated with your area of healthcare, be sure that is spelled out as well so consumers aren’t disappointed when they can’t get what they need.
- Designate a Clinical Spokesperson
In cases where the healthcare business owner is not a licensed medical professional, it’s best to reserve him/her for media interviews about the business. For consumer media it’s better to have a licensed professional as your spokesperson. Consumers care more about who will be providing their care than who is operating the clinic. This is especially important in “PC States” or Professional Corporation states and SMO (Service Management Organization) states where the corporate practice of medicine is banned and only licensed healthcare professionals are allowed to own a clinic.
- Think Hyper-Local
Everyone wants to be in the Wall Street Journal but articles placed in the local and hyperlocal press tend to be more effective for patient recruitment. After all, consumers prefer to get healthcare within a 5 mile radius of where they live or work.
Announce clinic openings in the local community by reaching out not just to business and healthcare journalists, but also lifestyle, wellness and even real estate reporters. Create a campaign where you give back to the community. For example, The Joint Chiropractic invites firefighters and police to walk in for a free adjustment during First Responders Week around September 11 each year. Virgin Pulse organizes National Employee Wellbeing Month in June to raise awareness of the importance of workplace health and wellness. Amendola Communications’ retail/consumer healthcare experience includes managing PR programs for The Joint Chiropractic, Dermacare and Scottsdale Weight Loss Center, to name a few. To request a meeting or a capabilities overview, please complete this brief form.