Email Marketing for Medical Practices: How to Reach Your Patients

We all know how valuable social media is as a great medium to reach and interact with current and future patients. Email—a large and constant part of everyone’s lives—is another strong vehicle that should be leveraged to engage these groups.  Just like social media, there are several rules that will help you reach your patients and achieve your email goals.

Get your patients to open the email:

  • Send the email from a known person or business name. For example: Dr. Smith or Dr. Smith’s Practice rather than Medical Associates Incorporated. Familiar names are more likely to catch and hold someone’s attention, which increases the likelihood that they will open the email.
  • Use a good subject line to ensure high open rates. A good subject line explains what is in the email and attracts the viewer to read further. It is important to tell the reader what’s in it for them.  Remember to keep the subject line short, no more than 50 characters.   For example: “FREE consultation when you sign up with Medical Associated Incorporated today. Limited time offer!!!” – This is an example of an ineffective subject line because it is too long and gimmicky. “Dr. Smith is moving” is an example of a more effective subject line because it is pertinent information that is short, simple, and informative.

Get your patients to read the email:

  • Keep your email design to no more than 500-650 pixels wide to avoid making readers scroll horizontally. This looks unprofessional and can be very off-putting to readers.
  • Make sure the content is short, direct, and keeps the reader interested. Many times businesses will write long emails containing every piece of information—this can be intimidating. Email content should be short with one call-to-action. This will keep readers on your website and more interested in your practice.

Get your patients interested:

  • Include a call-to-action. It’s important when using email marketing to reach potential patients as well as current ones.  An example of a call-to-action is “Click here to learn more.”

  • Keep that call-to-action “above the fold” to avoid readers from having to scroll. The majority of users will not see the call-to-action if they need to scroll down.
  • Stick to having one call-to-action and remove additional links. This will ensure your readers are being drawn to your message and aren’t being distracted.

Now that you have a few pointers you can grow your medical practice by going out and reaching current and potential patients. Remember to keep your target in mind and cater directly to them.


Imagine a World Without Computer Software

Computer software has had a defining impact on the world. As a software engineer, I feel great personal and professional satisfaction in producing tools that make the world a better place.

Imagine if every software program ceased to function. This would be the result:

  • Banks and hospitals would grind to a halt
  • Cars, trains, and planes would be inoperable
  • Telecommunications (aside from the basic transistor radio) would go silent
  • Household appliances like microwaves and water heaters would be useless
  • Desktop computers, laptops, tablets, TV, game consoles, smartphones wouldn’t operate

You get the picture—everything we take for granted depends on software or firmware coded onto electronic microcontrollers. These devices run software that make our lives easier, entertain us, inform us, and keep us connected. It’s because of software that a college student can easily harvest the world for information for a research paper. It’s also because of software—like an electronic health record (EHR)—that an unconscious patient’s health information can be sent instantaneously from his or her primary care physician to an emergency room.

While software does all of these great things today, its potential for the future is even more amazing. Artificial intelligence researchers are dreaming up and creating software capable of things that were at one time restricted to the realm of human thought—software that composes music, holds intelligent conversations, predicts sensitive fluctuations in big market data, drives robots on other planets, and makes medical diagnoses. Last year, a very bright student from Florida brought the healthcare and artificial intelligence fields together to create software that can predict malignant breast cancer with 99% accuracy using a machine-learning technique called Neural Networks.

Software has been and will continue to be one of the most profoundly, world changing advents of modern society. We simply cannot function without it.



The HIPAA Hike: “Conquering the HIPAA Compliance Mountain”

As a HIPAA expert, there is no other way to put it: HIPAA is a complex and oftentimes frustrating topic. I like to think of HIPAA as a mountain that physicians, nurses, practice administrators, and other members of the medical community need to conquer. The only way to do this successfully is to become a HIPAA Hiker!

Here are the 6 essential tools that every HIPAA Hiker should know:

  1. Know the mountain you are hiking: What is HIPAA? HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act. It’s a large piece of legislation that covers everything from patients’ rights and access to health care, to the standard code sets for how providers and insurance companies communicate health care transactions, to how providers and their business associates should protect the privacy and security patient information. HIPAA is important because it provides guidance to the healthcare community on how to ensure a patient’s private information is protected and it outlines how this protected information needs to be stored, received, maintained, and transmitted electronically by providers or one of their business associates.
  2. Shortcuts on the trail: Is there a way to make Title II of HIPAA easier? There is no good answer to this and truthfully, I don’t think there is a way to make it easier. The key here is simple: take the time to understand HIPAA and how to best implement it.
  3. Getting into shape for the hike: HIPAA staff training. Training is very important. In fact, it’s a requirement under HIPAA for everyone in your organization that comes in contact with protected health information to be trained. During your training, you want to give your employees an understanding of HIPAA, the safe guards that are required to be compliant, and discuss the policies and procedures you expect employees to implement in order to meet these safe guards. I recommend you also document any training you provide to your employees.
  4. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses when hiking: Why medical practices need to protect their hardware/software. In many cases, protected health information is stored on hardware, such as servers, desktops, and even mobile devices. It’s important to treat this hardware like a backpack that contains your valuables. Would you leave your backpack unattended or open? Hopefully not. Similarly, software in place needs to be protected with software-whole disk encryption, anti-virus, anti-malware, and maybe more. These types of programs help protect your private information from intruders.
  5. Bring a compass: Resources to stay up-to-date on HIPAA changes. HIPAA is always changing. It was enacted in 1996 and since then, the security rule and the privacy rules have been updated. Recently, the Omnibus final rule was issued and it directly impacts HIPAA, including how practices need to implement and change their own policies and procedures. So it’s always a good idea to stay updated. Some good resources are blogs, social networking groups, and various websites. I would recommend the Office of Civil Rights— if you subscribe, you get updates on regulation changes. A pretty interesting group on LinkedIn called “The HIPAA Survival Group” is another option.
  6. Stay Hydrated. Final suggestions as a HIPAA Hiker: Do not forget to conduct a security audit. Always make sure the measures you have in place are meeting HIPAA requirements, including your software/hardware requirements. If there are any questions about whether or not you are meeting compliance, consult an expert.




My Name is (Insert Name), Not “Intern”—5 Reasons Why Your Intern is Valuable:

Internship programs have become a two-way street for students and employers. Students value work force experience that builds up their resumes. Businesses value up-and-coming young talent who are eager to learn and willing to pitch in.

In fact, according to an article posted on Business Insider, roughly 75% of students get involved with at least one internship during their college career—a figure that’s doubled since the 1980s. Similarly, by hiring such a large number of interns, corporations potentially save up to $2 billion dollars annually with their internship program, and an additional $15,000 for each intern they choose to hire as a full time employee.

If these numbers didn’t impress you, here are 5 reasons why your intern is valuable:

  1. Perspective—interns bring a different skillset to the table than more seasoned colleagues. Leverage these new ideas and perspectives.
  2. Economics—the job market is tough, so intern supply is high. You should have your fair share of eager talent looking to come onboard at an affordable price.
  3. Flexibility— not looking for a full-time resource? Interns provide the right level of flexibility, whether you need someone 1 or 5 days a week.
  4. Positive Attitude—it’s all about “Winning!” Interns are eager to learn and eager to help. New projects will bulk up their resume so many are willing to pitch in— especially when it’s crunch time!
  5. Internal Talent—top talent can come from within if you invest in your employees. Instead of spending resources on new hire interviewing and training, develop your interns into successful FTEs.

So remember, the next time you have a special task or project, ask (Insert Name), not just “the intern.” It will pay off in the long run for both of you.




One Size Fits None

In my world of technical implementations, no two clients or projects are the same. Even within the same practice, each individual client is unique and values different things. In a perfect setting, this would translate into a tailored EHR implementation approach, which focuses on the needs of each provider rather than a single practice-wide workflow. But in reality, most EMRs take a “one size fits all” approach.

This conventional approach usually requires a regimented series of point-and-click options that generate a canned note completely devoid of the nuances of practicing medicine. It also turns the provider into nothing more than a very expensive data entry person. Why this approach has lasted this long is a mystery not only to me, but to the very physicians using these systems. That sentiment is evident in many surveys and blogs where physicians have openly expressed their discontent with current EHR technology and, by extension, the government’s Meaningful Use program.

For example, take a mid-sized orthopaedic practice. This practice may consist of a podiatrist, rheumatologist, spine specialist, PT/OT, as well as orthopaedic providers. Prior to having an EHR, their reporting methods may have included a combination of dictation, electronic templates, body diagrams or just plain pen and paper. However, the conventional approach—which forces the practice to follow one standard way of reporting—disrupts and frustrates everyone, and may reduce patient volumes in the long run.

The simple solution would be EHR technology that adapts to each provider’s workflow. Standardizing clinical support and back office functions can still allow for flexibility in each provider’s choice of encounter documentation. The podiatrist can use his specialized preprinted diagrams for his encounter and scan into the chart. The spine specialist can dictate as she always has. The tech savvy rheumatologist is able to drag on into an electronic document. The anti-change provider can hand write on a form that gets scanned into the EHR, and is automatically routed to the patient’s chart.

The truth is—I work for a company that provides this flexibility. My company recognizes that the “one size fits all” approach is as nonsensical as giving every patient two aspirins without finding out why the patient is ill. My advice to every physician looking for their first EHR, or looking to replace a failing EHR, is to ask the tough questions when it comes to workflow. Ask for an explanation of how you would do your daily work in the new system. Also, if you are making the decision for a group, check how their workflow will be affected. In the end, you may avoid a costly mistake.