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Direct to Patient Marketing: Marketing Messaging Basics for PTs

Learn more about direct to patient marketing which focuses on reaching the end user responsible for making decisions about their clinic, provider, and treatment plan.

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What Is Direct to Patient (DTP) Marketing?

Direct to patient marketing focuses on reaching the end user responsible for making decisions about their clinic, provider, and treatment plan. This healthcare marketing strategy allows physical therapy practices to engage directly with their target market without leaning on physicians and advanced practice clinicians for referrals.

To stay relevant and competitive in today's market, physical therapists must transform their marketing strategies to include direct to patient marketing. While traditional healthcare marketing approaches are designed to court the referring clinic, recent shifts require physical therapy practices to reach the person who will ultimately receive the care:

  • More and more major payers (including Medicare) allow direct access to physical therapy without referrals from healthcare providers.
  • Fifty states now allow direct access to physical therapy when specific criteria are met.
  • Younger millennials are embracing alternative medicine, conservative approaches to healthcare, and natural treatments, making informed decisions based on their own research.
  • Both Millennials and Gen Z patients are internet users more likely to find a provider online - using voice search technology on their phones.
  • 80% of Americans are worried about the cost of healthcare, making it more challenging to reach providers who require a referral. Additional doctoring leads to additional costs.

Many patients are unaware of the benefits of physical therapy, specifically the myriad of conditions that can be improved through physical therapist intervention.

Furthermore, patients may not know they can schedule an appointment for physical therapy without a referral from their healthcare provider. They might avoid primary care because of worries about cost, invasive treatments, or the use of prescription drugs to address their chief complaint.

Direct marketing allows healthcare professionals to reach the patient directly, sharing invaluable information about the benefits of physical therapy as it relates to their chief complaint and urging patients to seek natural, non-invasive treatment for improved mobility and reduced pain.

Four Marketing Messaging Basics for Patient Marketing Campaigns

1. Build Personas

Personas are archetypes that represent your ideal prospective customers or patients. They are formed through research and analyzing data. When building your new patient personas, consider the following:

  • What kind of information do they need?
  • What kind of issues are they encountering?
  • What influences them to convert?
  • What different communication channels do they use?
  • What are their content preferences?

For example, one persona might look something like this:

Bob is a 60-year-old semi-retired grandfather looking for more information on managing arthritis pain without surgery. He enjoys restoring cars and playing with his grandchildren in his free time, but the stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion have made it more difficult for him to enjoy his hobbies lately.

Bob is interested in a treatment that won't require surgery, hospitalization, or a long recovery. He checks the mail and reads the paper daily. He reads his emails often, too, but he doesn't have a social media account. He typically uses an online search to find new products and services. He's interested in topics that help him manage his pain.

When determining who your audience is, you might think about the different age groups you serve or the different demographics (athletes, patients recovering from surgery, and patients recovering from injury, for example).

2. Understand the Decision-Making Process

It's essential to understand the typical patient journey to finding your PT practice and their decision-making process. For most patients, their journey begins with an online search. From there, consider every stage of the patient's decision-making process and what kind of patient education they would benefit from during each touchpoint. Use your patient personas to determine the communication channel they are most likely to utilize. Effective direct to patient marketing will use a mix of traditional marketing methods (direct mail, patient referral programs, community events, etc.) and digital marketing methods (blog content, social media content, email content, etc.)

As you're working to understand better how your patient makes medical decisions, it's important to consider the patient's needs, challenges, and fears during each stage. Are they looking for more information on specific medical conditions and treatment options or searching for more practical information like the address and phone number of your physical therapy practice?

Identify the main challenges and fears that will stop a patient from taking the desired action at each stage. Once you understand what prevents a patient from converting, you can speak to that through the right message or personal stories on your marketing channels.

3. Speak the Patient's Language

Being well-versed in the language and wording your target audience uses is crucial. Whether crafting your direct mail marketing materials or writing a search engine-optimized blog post, consider any slang or alternative phrasing your target patient uses to describe their condition and seek to understand their feelings.

Putting in the effort to use wording and messaging familiar to your ideal patient shows them that you understand their pain and honestly care about improving it. It also bridges communication gaps, ensuring your marketing efforts drive patient engagement.

4. Exercise Empathy

Understanding how prospective patients might feel about their condition is essential to direct to patient marketing. For more sensitive needs like physical therapy associated with obesity or advanced age, it's crucial to practice empathy and consider the patient's comfort level for discussing their condition.

As you market your healthcare services, you can speak to that discomfort and provide encouragement and reassurance. It's important to reinforce that patients can expect confidential, effective, and empathetic care regardless of their medical condition. Emphasizing this point allows you to improve the patient experience and infuse empathy into your healthcare brand, ensure patients receive care for even the most sensitive medical needs and convert more patients overall.

Bottom Line: Enhance Your Direct to Patient Marketing with MWTherapy

Your physical therapy practice can strengthen its marketing outcomes by shifting future campaigns to include patients as a target audience. Direct to patient marketing allows physical therapy practices to reach new patients, sharing their services directly with those who need them. Understanding your patient's needs, where they look for information, and exercising empathy for their condition is the key to successful direct to patient marketing.

MWTherapy offers physical therapy patient engagement and marketing software to support your marketing efforts; request a free demo to learn more about how a partnership with us can drive patient engagement.

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