Recently, Dr. Jonathan Kaplan posted a video on TikTok weighing in on whether a celebrity lost weight by diet, exercise and/or the use of the groundbreaking weight loss medication, semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic (approved for type 2 diabetes in 2017) and Wegovy (approved for obesity in 2021) . It was a topic that his office was familiar with after starting a weight management program the previous year.
As a plastic surgeon that performs Mommy Makeovers and tummy tucks, he noticed they were turning away more and more patients who had a high BMI, a factor associated with increased surgical risks. Rather than sending the patients on their way, the nurse practitioner and nurse realized this was an opportunity for compassion. Patients that were not surgical candidates yet could still benefit from a weight management program, including coaching sessions and medications for weight loss.
So by the time their TikTok went viral, racking up over 2.6 million views, they had a program in place to offer this breakthrough class of medication – GLP-1 receptor agonists – to appropriately screened patients. While we never know what marketing ad, video, post or campaign will strike a chord, we do want to be prepared for an increase in patient interest when it occurs. [Side note: the secret ingredients to a viral TikTok video is discussing a trending topic, while including a celebrity associated with said trending topic on “green screen” in the background!]
As the comments, direct messages, phone calls and emails started to stream in, Dr. Kaplan’s office was ready. When a similar opportunity knocks, will your front office staff be ready or overwhelmed? The solution to preparation in this case is automation. Automation will help handle the onslaught of inquiries but also separate the serious patients from the tire kickers.
Automating social media
With dozens, hundreds or thousands of comments and DM’s on social media, it will be necessary to utilize the tools that Instagram provides to respond quickly and often. Under messages, create “Saved Reply” and “Frequently asked questions.” Saved replies are limited to 500 characters so no novels!
Whenever you receive a message, Instagram allows you to pull up your list of saved replies and choose one or multiple replies. These replies should provide the user with a call to action to get them from your social media over to your website or other medium that allows you to quickly collect their contact information. If the lead remains on social media, you only have a handle. Getting them to a contact submission form, consult request or Price Estimator will capture their name, email address and phone number at a minimum.
Frequently asked questions tool on Instagram allows you to create a list of questions for the consumer to choose from with a stock answer. As the account holder, you’ll have the opportunity to create the questions and automated answers, again driving the potential patient to a call to action in order to capture their contact information.
This is a double edged sword if you make it too easy for a lead to book online. With a moderate amount of traffic, online booking is great. It saves the office staff time from manually scheduling the appointment over the phone. But if too many patients take advantage of online booking, then they could book up all of your available appointments.
That means your staff will waste precious time contacting each booking to confirm if they’re serious and to collect the consultation fee if you require one. And if they’re not serious, they’ve taken up real estate on your schedule until you can reach them and cancel.
Another way to weed out the serious patients from the looky loos is to place a link on your website that allows a prospective patient to pay for their consult online. Even if you don’t have online booking, you can still have a payment portal. And having a patient pay for their consult through your website will be a very clear signal they’re serious. You can even notify visitors on your site that paying for the consultation online will result in priority scheduling. Once you receive notification of payment, the office staff will call, collect the patient’s information and schedule their consult.
Automating pricing inquiries
The most common question every patient googles or asks is “how much does it cost?” If you’re fielding lots of calls after a successful marketing campaign or one-off video, there’s nothing to bring the front office to a screeching halt than call after call, asking how much something costs. Make it easier on the caller and your staff by allowing consumers to check pricing without having to call.
That does NOT mean posting all of your prices on your website as a static menu. A menu on your site is akin to giving the milk away for free. The only way for a consumer to get pricing for your practice is from your practice. Sure, they may be able to get inaccurate averages on some other website but the only way to get an accurate estimate on your prices is by the office providing that information. So use that knowledge gap to your benefit and require contact information in return for pricing. A price estimator on your website will allow consumers to check pricing but only after they enter the contact info you request.
“Think a Netflix subscription that allows you to lose weight.”
Automating recurring charges
Once patients were seen for their weight management consultation and approved for treatment, they were placed on a regimen of injectable semaglutide sourced from a compounding pharmacy. A compounding pharmacy was used since the name brand medications are very expensive, on backorder and often not covered by insurance. Because of the backorder, semaglutide is on the FDAs drug shortage list which allows a compounding pharmacy to duplicate a commercially available drug. After receiving the medication from the compounding pharmacy, prefilled syringes were prepared and shipped on ice to the patient. Injections are self-administered once per week after a virtual injection training session. The process of shipping four pre-filled syringes to the patient was repeated every four weeks.
Let’s assume you have patients receiving recurring treatments every month (weight loss medications or otherwise). That means your staff must keep a credit card on file and charge the patient each month. And if the credit card fails one month, then the staff must track the patient down for an updated card number. If you have five patients on recurring charges, that’s probably doable using a manual method. But what if it’s 10, 25, 50 or 100 patients with some type of recurring service and charge?!
That was the case for Dr. Kaplan. In a two-week period, they had 102 patients book a consult and pay the $100 consultation fee ($10,200). Of those, 89 signed up for the 6-month weight management program ($1099 x 89 = $97,811). And then those 89 patients needed medication every 4 weeks. That’s 89 patients with 89 medication shipments requiring 89 charges each month. Processing these credit card payments can not and should not be done manually. It’s time consuming and a security risk to keep that many credit cards on file. The solution? Again, automation.
Every patient that needed monthly injections had to purchase a subscription by creating an online account and securely enter their credit card information. Think a Netflix subscription that allows you to lose weight. From there, the automated system would charge the patient $420 every 4 weeks (89 patients x $420 = $37,380 in monthly recurring revenue). That would trigger an email to Dr. Kaplan’s staff that the payment was processed and it was time to send the next shipment of medication. Similarly, if the credit card payment failed, an automated email would be sent to the patient to update their payment method. Dr. Kaplan’s office was also made aware of any failed payments so medications weren’t sent.
By automating where you can while maintaining a personal customer service experience, you’ll be able to weather a flurry of patient inquiries. Even if the phones aren’t ringing all the time, prioritizing lead capture on your website is critical. Patients can’t resist a tantalizing call-to-action button like Get A Quote Now. This will help passively build a large email database for future email marketing.
And once leads go from a trickle to a torrent, you’ll need to automate as much as possible, including answers to DMs on social media, online booking, online payments and automated recurring charges for subscriptions. This will keep the front and back office staff running smoothly. In the end, the patient gets quick, consistent, seamless service, the practice grows and staff are able to focus on scheduling consults from price-aware, serious patients.
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