Years ago, when drastic cuts in reimbursements were not an issue, certain medical practices offered everything from pick up and drop off services to fully equipped medical offices on wheels that would travel the community and provide free medical evaluations.
Today, when it seems as if money is dwindling more and more each year, and cuts in reimbursement have reached an all time high, physicians spend most of their time trying to make up for lost revenue by increasing the number of patients they see each day. In this vein, many doctors now feel that community services are no longer a viable option.
Providing a link between your office and your community doesn't have to be cost prohibitive and is still a good way to attract new patients to your practice.
For very little money, you can become familiar with the labor organizations, women's groups, PTA, fire and police departments in your area. Most of these groups have monthly meetings and welcome speakers from the medical community. Labor organizations with their own health coverage often have the opportunity to contract exclusively with specialty physicians for office and testing services. Police and the volunteer fire departments in your area require annual fitness testing for their employees and special needs groups are often looking for practices to accommodate their members. Small businesses in your community may need a physician for their sick employees or to provide treatment for minor on the job injuries.
Your office can also become a community service center at little to no cost to the practice. Patients love free testing. Blood pressure or cholesterol screenings, cataract and glaucoma testing, or testing for diabetes can be offered in your office using a separate appointment scheduler. These free screenings often translate into the discovery of untreated problems that will provide new patients for your practice. You might want to consider dedicating four hours on a Saturday morning to these services which can familiarize the community with your practice as well as providing a valuable service.
You can also consider advertising a series of in office lectures for your established patients and the community at large. These programs can work well for a large number of specialties. For example, you may want to promote a lecture series for diabetic patients that would include something like: "Diabetes - An Introduction to Nutritional Choices." Inviting physicians in your area to speak or attend these lectures is a good way to develop long lasting relationships with other medical professionals.
Your billing staff may want to chair an informational meeting on Medicare changes or the benefits and drawbacks to various HMO and PPO plans that serve your specialty.
Local community papers are the most cost effective way to advertise these meetings. A quarter page advertisement in the weekly community mailer usually fits into the most stringent practice budget. Flyers can be produced in house and distributed to local businesses. Don't forget that you can also use your local supermarkets. Often they have a bulletin board dedicated to community affairs. It is a good idea to have an R.S.V.P. in place for any in house lectures. This will guarantee that you have enough available seating or help you plan ahead if you want to serve refreshments.
Put on your thinking cap and you and you and your staff will come up with a number of brilliant ideas.
Tomorrow : Expanding Services : Take what you have and run with it !!!!