Not that long ago medical academics cautioned that the only form of advertising Doctors needed for their practices was word of mouth. The theory was that if you provided excellence in patient care then they, the patients, would stay and new patients, hearing of the excellent service, would come.
Advertising has changed
That may have been the case decades ago when finding a Doctor and getting an appointment was a chore. In those days many GPs could easily fill their days with appointments and many had to knock new patients back. For most people those days have gone.Given the current state of the health system, the freeze on patient Medicare rebates and the demands on GPs should you advertise or not? (Many people attending MediGrow events ask that question) The answer is yes.
Is it marketing or advertising?
Advertising is widely seen as a function of marketing and every practice I have ever encountered performs marketing functions even if they are not aware of it. Marketing can be as simple as word of mouth, as described above, but that only works if you deliver great patient care, or at least patient care worthy of telling others about. That should always be the primary focus.
Marketing can include brochures, a business card, a poster and even an email but they can all be classified as forms of advertising, therefore they must conform with Section 133 of The National Law.
Section 133 provides the rules that every regulated health service must follow when advertising any regulated health service, regardless of the format or platform used. One example of Section 133 is the ban on the use of testimonials. Many have fallen foul of this – particularly on Facebook. Another is the ban on offering a discount, gift or inducement in advertising – that too is not allowed.
Advertising – is it all too hard?
Some Doctors dismiss it as ‘all too hard’ and restrict their advertising to a basic website, sometimes a Facebook listing and maybe signage on their windows. That’s a shame because with more and more competition from the corporates and a transient patient population the pressure is on to raise profiles to attract new patients.
So what should you do? The first thing you should do is familiarise yourself with Section 133 and look at what your competitors are doing. Then determine what it is YOU need to say about your practice. MediGrow holds courses across Australia where you can learn all about marketing, advertising and Facebook as well as a range of other topics. Visit Medigrow.com.au for more information.