All businesses fall prey to seasonality and audiology is no different. Some months are great and patients seem to pour through the door and it's hard to keep up. Others are dry, with only a few appointments, repairs or follow-ups. It only takes one dry spell watching your bank balance whittled away on running costs to know the panic that sets in.
“Why is my phone not ringing?”, “How am I going to make ends meet?”
This natural seasonality is a major concern many healthcare providers grapple with, the good news is that there are ways to extend your reach and get more patients that can turn these bad months into good.
Spending more on marketing is one of them. Coupled with your marketing efforts is creatively about how you actually offer your services. Are there more markets you can target? New ways that work for the patients that are not already knocking on your door?
Conventional walk-ins or call-in patients are great, but, they are only the tip of the iceberg of what is possible and don't exactly leave you in control.
Instead of waiting for patients to come to you, why not pack up your kit and venture out into the world to find patients where they are? I am sure that you already know that if patients are not sitting in your office, they must be somewhere else. You need only find them.
5 areas that could allow you to reach more patients by offering mobile services.
Visit retirement homes to offer education, testing, hearing aid fitting and follow up services.
Trust and convenience are the two main factors in this market segment.
To build trust, spend time with your patients. Listen to their stories about their children or grandchildren. Elderly patients are often lonely and it only takes a couple of minutes a sympathetic ear to make their day.
Elderly patients, while many enjoy a trip out to town, are often unable to handle the rigours of even a short trip. Offering onsite testing provides a level of convenience and improved service delivery that is very seldom offered and, with a little sympathy and patience sprinkled on top, very difficult to match.
They, like all patients, have the potential to become repeat customers and one of the most powerful referral sources available.
What could be more important than education? WHO reports that 34 million children worldwide have disabling hearing loss and 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes.
School hearing screening is a very useful tool in combating hearing loss. Early detection and treatment of hearing loss will also have a positive effect on the child's education in the long term. So, contact high schools, primary schools or universities to offer testing, this could be in the form of a free (depending on local legislation) or low-cost screening but could also expand to include full diagnostic testing too.
Offer information to teachers and reading material for children to share with parents. The more they understand the importance of hearing testing and the impact it can have on education, the more interest you will garner. Suggesting annual hearing testing is a great way of ensuring high volume repeat business.
This can range from industrial screening, industrial full diagnostic audiometry, hearing conservation program development, and offering services and products for noise protection. Noise-induced hearing loss is common in heavy industry and any work environment that is constantly loud. Occupational health screening is a vital part of hearing conservation.
Team up with an occupational health services company to assist with onsite testing or approach the company directly to be available when needed rather than waiting for annual testing to determine a need. Early intervention is the key here and being available onsite will enable better outcomes for the worker and the company.
Don't forget the little guys, your local carpentry company or mechanic may be small but they need just as much protection and intervention as a large scale factory. Seek them out, offer onsite care to keep them productive and most importantly safe.
Many companies have wellness programs and embrace corporate wellness days and tests. Offer to join in on these days. This is a great opportunity to educate on the effects of hearing loss. You may do a few tests on the day too. Stay clear of anything that could be construed as canvassing.
Approach the HR departments of businesses in your area and educate them on the effects of hearing loss on productivity, safety and communication. This will not only bring about much-needed awareness of hearing loss related issues but will also keep you top of mind should there be any need for testing.
Remember, hearing loss is prevalent in all industries, not just the ones that are exposed to noise. The corporate environment is just as likely to suffer the effects of hearing loss as heavy industry. Their motivation for hearing care may be slightly different and your ability to go to them rather than staff taking time off will make you an instant first choice.
In-home services, in a nutshell, offers the patient a convenient option of a house call. Many potential patients avoid visits to a healthcare professional because of the inconvenience of having to interrupt their day to fit the appointment in. And this often leads to them postponing the visit until it’s too late. Many would prefer to not travel at all and opt for a home visit instead. When people allow you into their home, they display a certain level of trust. And that is the kind of patient who will refer you to all their friends and family without thinking twice.
Pro tip - Tapping Into Referrals
Referrals are the biggest way you can increase your patient flow. You need to familiarise yourself with the possible referral sources in your area. Set up meetings with them, take business cards and referral pads with so they can get hold of you easily if they want to refer.
No matter which of these markets you choose to tap into, the clinical benefits of interacting with patients in their own domain can provide valuable information and help to inform the best treatment plan for your patients. This will not only provide insight into possible underlying causes but will also help to build rapport with patients and provide much-needed care to patients who would otherwise not be able to come to you or who would not otherwise seek it care in the first place due to lack of awareness.
If you are wondering about how to offer the same quality of testing as you would with your sound booth, have a look at our booth free solutions. KUDUwave Audiometers offer a truly portable and booth free experience that allows you to provide quality audiological care on-the-go without ever compromising on quality.
Don’t confine yourself to the four walls of your practice when there is so much more outside your doors. Expand your reach by taking your services to your patients and you will look back on your dry months as distant memories.