Why do patient numbers not grow in your GP clinic?
General Practice is an ever-changing industry. 10 – 15 years, we have not even imagined that we will discuss the subject of medical marketing. The whole marketing campaign then was a sign – ‘Bulk billing medical clinic’ mounted on the building. In a few days, the clinic was full of patients. Those days are gone. Today, new clinics have to make a serious effort in order to get the patients through the door.
This is not business advice. A well-detailed marketing plan is at least a hundred pages longer than this article. This article is to point you in the right direction.
Getting patients to the practice will take all the parameters below addressed:
Demand for GP clinic services is, normally, easy to establish. It is wise to check it before you establish the clinic in the area.
a. No new clinics established recently in the area. Let’s say, within 2 years. Existing clinics did not expand recently, e.g. built additional premises etc.
b. The area in question is experiencing the development of multi-dwellings. Units, townhouses, apartments are being built instead of single houses OR,
c. Area of new developments in outer suburbs aka big field being built up with lots of houses.
d. Check availability of appointments at nearby clinics. You can see appointments available by searching for online appointment systems. Nearby clinics having lots of appointments available on a day is, generally, bad news.
Availability refers to having doctors working at your new clinic. Yes, some clinics open with very limited availability of appointments, e.g. doctor is available only a couple of days a week or for only part of the day. The owners want to save on paying too much retainer to a doctor and limit the availability. e.g. your new doctor asked for a $140/hour retainer. It is tempting to limit the hours to 4 a day and pay only $520 of a guarantee. However, the maths will prove later that paying a retainer for 8 hours, covering 9 – 17, is more productive.
What is even more productive is to cover after school hours 4 pm – 6 p.m. and after work hours 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. as early as possible.
A first doctor being a female GP will certainly, give you some advantage.
This section refers to letting people know you are there. This is a massive operation. I will not go into technical details on how to do that. You will need: a website, a Facebook page with a special system of posting, an online appointment system, paid and free ads designed in a certain way, leaflet distribution in the area, local newspaper ads (less effective), walk around the area introducing your clinic to pharmacists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, chiropractors etc.
Quality is paramount. Long appointments, plenty of time spent with the patient, equipment, well-trained staff – all forms the first impression that is very important.
Affordability refers to the payment required by the patients. Bulk billing is the best option at the beginning. However, I could give a 45-minute lecture on the advantages of bulk billing over private billing. I could definitively show how to have better revenue with bulk billing compared to private billing.
Accessibility refers to how the clinic is accessed – parking, public transport. Another aspect of accessibility is convenience, e.g. pathology services on site.
Return visits policies
When I talk about return visits, I, by no means, refer to some clever trickery of ‘creating’ any unnecessary services. An example of that is giving unnecessary pathology referrals that generate return visits.
There is an abundance of clinical guidelines that prescribe the necessary tests and preventive activities that help patients. Not only that, those activities are evidence-based and proven to benefit public health and generate savings for the health budget on a global scale.
The main source of information for such policies is the RACGP Red Book. This document outlines the appropriate activities for health promotion. The policies can be created based on that.
I wish your clinic becomes a benchmark of quality and a profitable enterprise—best of luck.