covid strategy for surgeons

The 5-step private practice pandemic response

As a doctor in private practice, the last 24 months have been stressful and depending on where you live and work, a pandemic response plan can mean different things. Let’s go over some universal strategies and action steps to make your practice more resilient. For our leading premium customers, this has even resulted in up to +200% turnover increases.
covid strategy for surgeons

The 5-step private practice pandemic response

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

January 24, 2022

1. A template to make sure your communication is ready

covid response for surgeons

There seems to be more information floating around than ever before. The nervousness around pandemic response, the close connection between all covid-related topics and the work in your own niche, and on top that the 24-hour news and social media cycles.

What has helped many of our customers cope with the needs of these special times is a communication template. It is a setup that allows for almost instant communication with your community, and it is the subject of a service agreement with the medical marketing agency (in this case, Digital Practice):

  • News/Blogs: The meaning of the word ‘news’ has radically changed in the last 12 months. We now have a wide range of additional areas that we need to inform patients about, or that patients may have questions about: exposure sites, applicable restrictions, QR codes, the impact of vaccination on a treatment pathway, cancellations of elective surgery, and so on. Having a news section on your own medical practice website is essential and having a smooth workflow in place between yourself and your team of content writers and medical journalists is also critical.
  • Popup screens: Sometimes the best way to cut through the noise is to use a simple popup screen on your practice website with the latest updates. Again, you want to make sure that the information is clear and up to date. The support agreement you have in place with your medical marketing agency is pivotal.
  • Google Business: Google Business (formerly ‘Google My Business) is your profile with Google that feeds into Google Maps and shows up on the right-hand side of search results when someone directly googles the name of your clinic. You want to make sure that the changes to opening hours are always kept current here, and patients expect your section about the latest applicable covid related restrictions to be clear and accurate as well.
  • Video: Video has always been an effective communication format and in the context of an effective covid strategy for surgeons and specialists, it is gold. What it allows you to do is add a personal touch to the latest update. You can show compassion, give advice and maintain high levels of rapport with your patients, even if there is a delay in their treatment or planned surgery.

Your online presence is not a static item, but a living channel. The current situation of the healthcare sector makes it a smart move to keep your communication channels open so your patients feel your presence and care when they need information.

Action step: Check that you have a structure in place with your agency to produce updates within 24 hours. Make use of the tools above and put in place clear protocols so your practice manager knows who to contact, how things work and what is needed to optimise your website.

2. A plan to be ahead of the game and get leadership status

communication tips for doctors

Once you have thoroughly checked your systems (your website, your Google Business profile and perhaps your YouTube channel), it’s a matter of positioning yourself.

The current debates, polarisation and emotions around the virus and the vaccines have also impacted your work as a specialist or surgeon, even if your area of expertise has zero overlaps with the field of virology. One thing is certain: there is a need for expertise.

Patients have more questions than ever. The FAQs you may have added to your website 3 years ago seem innocent, simplistic and beamed in from another era now. The new FAQs tap into the uncertainty, the ever-changing global, national and local situation and the terabytes of health-related information that are produced every day…by non-doctors.

So what do you do? Plan ahead and focus on the content that helps your patient cohort understand what they can. Create a clear editorial roadmap with your medical marketing team to update the FAQs around your specialty, in relation to the pandemic response, the restrictions, vaccination and the potential delays in your local hospital.

Medical journalists are trained to ask the right questions and to research the questions people ask. Did you know that patient search behaviour analysis allows us to look at the number of times a specific question is typed into Google?

What that does is give us a clear indication of what we want to cover on a medical website. When we see a surge in demand for content around a specific topic, the logical next step is to build content that becomes a magnet for Google traffic to your website.

That is why leadership status in this field is about killing multiple birds with one stone – pardon the expression:

  • Giving reliable information to the patients in your community
  • Saving time because you have answered FAQs on your website
  • Increasing your visibility in Google search

Action step: Book your strategy session about the content that you need to turn FAQs from your patients into content that helps you grow.

Talking about Google visibility: it really deserves its own paragraph here and in a moment you will understand why.

3. A secret weapon against painful fluctuations in elective surgery

strategies for doctors

Visibility, in the context of medical marketing, is your ability to show up in Google search for a range of searches by patients, relevant to your practice as a business. This is the field of content marketing and it is a proven method to enhance your online lead generation as a doctor. 

Why is this more relevant now? The dramatic shock effect the pandemic has on our health system results in surgery delays and cancellations, and beyond the individual dramas for the patient, there is an impact on your practice as well. It is crucial, to make sure that any patient who is expressing a need for your services by using Google, can find you.

Being ready for these cancellations, as well as the chaotic restart of elective surgeries when there is a high demand and perhaps a level of urgency for many, is all about visibility.

I call it ‘what-if’ scenarios. What if a patient hears their chosen surgeon is out because of illness in the team? That patient goes online and starts searching for another doctor. If you are visible, your content shows up and your website generates enquiries. If you are not ready, and your visibility is poor, you are at risk of feeling these fluctuations yourself, but without the safety net of a reliable lead generation system.

Action step: Book a free assessment of your website to find out if you are missing out on patient leads. 

covid strategy for surgeons

4. A strategy to avoid the pitfall of short-term thinking

business strategy for surgeons

There are many areas where you naturally switch into long-term thinking. You keep up with the latest hip replacement techniques, you read up on the benefits of new tubal patiency testing foams, you co-author the latest research in the field of burns reconstruction surgery. Whatever your niche, you keep going.

The 24-hr news cycle pushes many of us into reactive thinking, but as you put your business hat on as a doctor in private practice, the benefits of long-term thinking are clear and it is essential to give yourself the space to look at your own 2-3-5 year plans.

Long-term goals that we work on with our customers – just to inspire you – would be:

  • Rebranding plans: detaching your practice from your personal name and turning it into a brand, creates lasting value. You can take on other surgeons or specialists, and bring allied health professionals under your business umbrella. Check out this multi-disciplinary brand we created for the Woom. This is the foundation to think even further ahead, about an exit strategy.
  • Expansion: achieving leadership status in a specific sub-specialty may allow you to expand your brick-and-mortar premises, invest in real estate, take on more staff and work less, or only do the specialised work that you love.
  • Legacy: dedicating more time to research or lifelong learning also requires long-term planning, whether it’s making your practice more successful or future-proof.

Action step: Get a tasting platter of the typical Digital Practice strategy work with an obligation-free strategy session. We use our combined skillsets in medical journalism, marketing and brand positioning to listen to your goals and offer a fresh, outside-the-square perspective.

5. A unique and proven 9-month plan to create results

success strategies for doctors

How long does it take to create a new life for your private practice? Funnily enough, we keep ending up at the magical 9-month duration. 

Months 1-3:

  • Goalsetting: defining the main income-earning services for your practice, the exact surgery types that are the foundation of your work in private practice.
  • Keyword research: mapping local market research based on patient search behaviour data: what do patients search for in relation to your services, when they are in the process of choosing a specialist?
  • Content: producing content based on this market research.
  • Design and development: building a fast-loading, responsive, professional and Google-optimised website with compliant content.
  • Launch: switching your new website live, ticking all the checkboxes for performance, security and backups, and starting the 24/7 monitoring process to analyse how visible you are compared to your competitors, for each of the researched and chosen keywords.

Months 4-9:

  • SEO: the Search Engine Optimisation that was done when your content was written, now starts to pay off. Google indexes the content and gradually starts ranking some of your content pages higher because they are to the point and use all the best practices.
  • Compounding effect: the more your pages become visible, the more patients start spending time on your pages. Google detects how long patients stay on these pages and when your content is accurate and produced to the highest standards, patients will stay for longer. Google then takes this into account and that is how you rank even better the longer your pages have been online.
  • Optimisation: you can now look into performance data, gain insights about the content that is most popular on your medical website. Even though everything was built in line with keyword research, now is the time to learn and add more content (blogs or pages) so your website keeps growing. After about 9 months, you achieve higher visibility for the chosen keywords, and this translates into more patient requests, referrals and practice growth.

We have been applying this model to the premium strategies that we have created for our customers, and as a result, some customers report turnover increases of up to 3x (+200% if you prefer) based on the visibility increases we created, on average a 10x improvement compared to 9 months earlier.

And just as a reminder: because we are medical journalists here at Digital Practice creating and monitoring medical content every single day, you can rest assured that your 9-month plan is in good hands when you come on board with us.

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resilient business strategies for doctors

Now more than ever, making your private practice resilient and more prepared for market fluctuations and policy changes, is an act of responsible business management. Book an obligation-free strategy session to discuss the content marketing plan that meets your needs and business goals.

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