While the last nine months have been a trying time for everybody on some level, it is reassuring to see, read and hear that demand for elective medical procedures is stronger than ever. As the President of a company serving this community of plastic surgeons, dermatologists, medspa owners and other medical professionals, this is excellent news and I am cheering for sustainable demand. However, I’m also raising my hand in the front row hoping to get everyone’s attention.
I know what you’re thinking - “don’t be a downer Tim, we are on a roll.” Yet, that is exactly why I’m raising my hand. When things are good, it is easy to forget recent history and the lessons learned. The mandatory shutdowns caused real financial and emotional damage to a lot of hard working, intelligent people.
Through my podcast, “True To Form”, I heard just how difficult it was to manage through a pandemic directly from practice managers and owners across the U.S. In addition to hearing their individual stories, in each episode we explored how to use the downtime to “future-proof” practices.
It might seem counterintuitive, and I speak for myself when I say, it is a challenge to develop and implement strategic initiatives when you are worried about your business, your employees and your finances. The notion that prolonged periods of pressure will somehow translate into creative genius seems somewhat intellectually dishonest. Simply put, it is tough to innovate when you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. So, while we all went from webinar to webinar seeking those beautiful pearls of wisdom, I worry that some important lessons might have been lost in all the noise. The industry at large is flourishing and we are all FIRED UP, as we should be. Positive energy creates enthusiasm and enthusiasm should lead to creative thinking.
Business is booming – I get it. But business was also pretty good prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The point is, let’s take a moment to reflect on some critical practice process observations, and harness the energy now, to make sure we keep the party going in the long run.
Observation 1: Patient communication was the key to retention and re-bookings during the heart of the crisis. Consider the following case study.
Additionally, looking at seven different elective medical practices in seven major U.S. cities, on average they were up in lead generation, treatments booked and revenue in May 2020 to June 2020.
What made this possible was a tremendous amount of attention to patient database management. When you consider the limited number of levers you can pull to stay in contact with your entire patient population, you quickly realize the importance of having the right processes to capture important patient contact information. The first datapoint to review in your practice would be your email and mobile number penetration rate. Meaning, what percentage of your database has both primary valid email addresses along with up-to-date mobile numbers? Missing information means you are limiting your ability to automate communication.
Now, could you imagine a scenario where your business was forced to shutdown and you were put in a position where you had to re-book every appointment for some unknown future date? What a nightmare, right?
Observation 2: Database management combined with the right technology made a difference.
This was relevant on a couple fronts. The first is related to observation one. Updated patient information is important, but only if you have the right technology to leverage it. Does your current technology stack offer the ability to automate unlimited two-way HIPAA compliant text and email communications to stay connected with your patients? This is mission critical. You must have the ability to create powerful and timely messages and mass distribute at the click of a button. This will save you a massive amount of time while keeping patients engaged – both in good times and bad.
Automated communication tools are no longer “nice to have.” Secondly, another glaring technology weakness exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic was the ability to capture and store all phone call and online form records during the shutdown. There was certainly some significant confusion while “nobody was home.” Your technology stack should include the ability to automatically sync prospect contact information with your existing database.
In the real world, web inquiries and missed phone calls cost money. In most practice’s there are no processes in place for capturing prospect data when no appointment is booked. The “capture” typically happens once the prospect schedules an appointment and becomes a patient. My question is what happened to the 50% to 60% of inquiries that did not immediately book an appointment? They are most likely sitting in a Gmail inbox somewhere, gathering digital dust.
This is a huge profit opportunity, yet also represents a huge profit leak for practices. Just because a potential patient didn’t book a consultation or appointment on the first ring, doesn’t mean that at some point in the future this consumer couldn’t become one of your most profitable patients. The key is your ability to automate on-going marketing messages to create TOMA – top of mind awareness. So, when circumstances eventually allow, and the timing is right, you have them.
Let’s all take a minute to celebrate the current explosion in demand. I think we could agree that this is just what the elective medical community needed. That said, let’s make sure we are doing everything in our power to keep the party popping.
Wishing all elective medical practice owners nothing but success in 2021.
About the Author
Mr. Sawyer is the president and co-founder of the Inc. 500/Inc.5000 company Crystal Clear Digital Marketing. He is a highly regarded motivational speaker, author and practice management consultant within the modern medical/aesthetic industry. Currently, Mr. Sawyer leads over 40 lectures a year, is a member of The Aesthetic Guide’s Scientific Advisory Board and is faculty for 28+ medical associations.