For this edition of Medical Marketing Monthly I would like to discuss how to capitalize on a system that many practices have been transitioning into, EMR and EHR.  More specifically, how these systems can help increase patient volume.
Also, for this edition the amazing team at Becker’s ASC, Orthopedic and Spine Magazine have chosen to simultaneously publish this on their website.  If you are not currently subscribed to Becker’s Healthcare based newsletters and magazine, I highly suggest doing so.  Becker’s is the most up to date source for news and information in regard to Hospitals, ASC’s as well as Spine, Pain and Orthopedics.
Below is the article that is also appearing with Becker’s Publications.

Leveraging EMR/EHR Into Marketing Analytics

By now, most physicians have at least begun the process of cleansing their offices of bulky patient charts and opted for the less cumbersome EHR / EMR systems. If you have not yet begun this process and are still utilizing paper charts, you may want to consider this transition.  Regardless of the system you are using, patient intake data and EMR data may hold a value that is far less obvious than just convenience. EMR contains a wealth of demographic information about patient base. This information can vastly improve marketing efforts when the structure and procedure of patient intake questionnaires and forms is well-organized.

The first step in being able to leverage data is to instill the proper skills with your schedulers and receptionists. When a new patient calls, it is imperative for your representative to ask specifics beyond the basics. Namely, “How did you hear about our practice?” While this question may seem trivial, it is actually one of the most important factors in tracking your results. Often, a patient will give you the name of the doctor by whom they were referred. For others, they may have seen an advertisement or marketing initiative being utilized. In many instances, patients may be vague and say, “I saw your ad in a newspaper.” Your staff needs to be able to politely coax the patient into being more specific and name the publication or marketing effort. If advertising or marketing efforts are appearing in more than one publication you will want to know which is yielding results and which is not.Next, take the time once per month to export or compile data for the new patients you have seen for that month. This data should include the patients’ age, location, insurer and how they found your practice. Digging into this data can reveal several things, as well as help you capture demographics you may be missing.For instance, if you are seeing a high volume of Medicare / Medicaid patients being generated from one advertising or marketing campaign, it will verify that the majority of readers of this publication are outside of the commercially insured bubble. If your practice is out of network, or more interested in commercially insured patients, it may be time to tweak or even discontinue that advertising program.Furthermore, if EMR data is showing an age gap in your patients (all of your patients are either 35 and under or 60 and over) it will let you know that your marketing efforts, or lack thereof, are missing a core demographic of potential patients. Cross referencing these age metrics with your referral sources will highlight where your marketing may be coming up short in reaching a more middle aged patient population.  Often, having a marketing company do in-depth research into what marketing strategies can be employed to reach a missing demographic will help a practice focus their resources on these new markets.

For many specialists and surgeons, reimbursements for procedures vary based upon insurer, Medicare and Medicaid being the lowest reimbursements. EMR data can also give you an insight into a Time vs. Revenue Model.  If a specialist has to perform four procedures for Medicare patients just to accumulate the revenue for one commercially insured procedure, it may be time to reevaluate your patient pool in order to maximize revenue and time spent for procedures. You may want to focus more heavily on marketing procedures toward a younger and better insured group.

Another way this data can be used is to see who your friends are. By this, I mean which doctors and specialists are sending consistent referrals and which ones are not. If you are a physician whose model relies heavily on referrals, expanding your referral sources is imperative. Every month, take the time to call or send an email to those practices that are consistently sending you referrals. Make sure that they know you value their loyalty and appreciate their faith in your practice. However, leave it at a “thank you”, any gifts or shows of appreciation with a monetary value put you in the Stark Law area. Then, take the time to try and arrange face to face meetings with those practices in your area that are not sending referrals and see how you can begin a mutually advantageous cross-referral relationship between both practices. Your goal should be to reach out to five new practices per month.

Do not, I repeat, do not employ the technique of sending a practice representative to their offices with lunch and brochures. This is ineffective and makes your practice look like you are pandering.  Instead, engage the referring physician on a peer to peer level. A physician wants to know and trust the physician they are referring their patient to.  As pretty and as knowledgeable as your practice representative may be, they are not the doctor.  Instead, invite him or her into the OR to observe a case, meet them to discuss a new procedure that may benefit their patients or call to congratulate them on a media piece you may have seen about them.

As outlined, there are numerous strategies to use EMR as analytic tools. The best part is that these tools are readily available, paid for and, in most cases, just simply not being taken full advantage off.

To discuss how to fully implement these strategies into your practice and increase patient volume contact me anytime.
Daniel Goldberg