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Marketing Shared Medical Appointments…..Push or Pull?

Q: Should you do a push or pull marketing campaign for shared medical appointments?

One of the essential keys to success for your SMA is effective marketing.  For marketing to be successful it must effectively promote the program to patients through a saturation of materials detailing the program, highlighting the benefits, and making patients feel as if they are part of a special group.  Some facilities focus on primarily pulling patients in by offering SMAs as an option for return appointments, while others prefer to push information and knowledge out to patients thereby creating a service demand.

Internally, marketing begins in the clinic with colorful and professional looking posters optimally using your own SMA physicians and staff.  Patient brochures specific to the SMA being advertised should also be available in the clinic and handed out to patients at the time of patient discharge.  Even more effective is to show videos of SMA advertising segments on television screens in patient reception areas.  All clinic staff - from the front-desk, to back office, to physician - should be knowledgeable about the program specifics and deliver consistent messages to the patients.  This can be achieved by making SMAs a standing topic of conversation during routine staff meetings, thereby encouraging staff engagement and exposing all areas of clinic staff to the SMA encounter.

Externally it is beneficial for the physician to send personalized letters to patients.  The letters should describe the SMA, the benefits to the patient, and personally invite them to participate in the next scheduled SMA.  Letters of invitation aid in making each patient feel as if they have been hand-selected to participate in a special and very important group.

UCSD utilizes a mixture of internal and external marketing techniques to capture the highest patient volumes to maintain targeted census volumes for our sessions.  If you experience a declining trend in patient census volumes, it is recommended to review your marketing efforts. Chances are, you have either hired new staff or existing staff could use some motivational sessions to re-energize the group and get back on track.

Catherine DeHaan

Cathy DeHaan is the Director of Clinical Operations at the UCSD Department of Medicine.  Her many credentials include being a CCS-P, CPC, and certified ICD-10 CM/PCS and PMCC coding instructor.  Cathy has been working in medicine for over 26 years, with 18 of those years dedicated to UCSD.