Neil H. Baum, MD, is a urologist in private practice in New Orleans. He is the author of "Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically."
Dr. Dowling is president of Dowling Medical Director Services, a private health care consulting firm specializing in quality improvement, clinical informatics, and health care policy affecting specialty care. He is the former medical director of a large,
However you decide to market and promote your practice, you will want to measure the impact and results of your efforts.
The evaluation process provides checks and balances to the marketing initiative and helps to ensure that deadlines are met, budgets are kept, and that the project stays on track. The process also provides feedback and allows you to fine-tune future marketing initiatives and decide what marketing efforts work best for you.
The evaluation plan should do the following: lay out the process for evaluation, determine what is being evaluated, identify the appropriate methods for evaluation, specify the types of data that will be required and how they will be obtained, and set the timelines for the completion of the various types of evaluation.
Evaluation techniques focus on two types of analyses: process analysis and outcome analysis. Process evaluation assesses systems, procedures, communication processes, and other factors that contribute to the efficient operation of a program. This analysis is more often used by large organizations and hospitals.
Outcome evaluation measures, among other factors, changes in knowledge, attitudes, preferences, and behaviors. Knowledge may be measured in terms of top-of-mind awareness of the practice. For example, if you have an interest in infertility and a couple needs an evaluation of the male partner, does your name and the name of your practice come to the mind of the patient, the wife, or the referring doctor?
Outcome analysis is particularly applicable to medical practices that want to assess the effectiveness of a marketing campaign in meeting its stated goals. The outcome evaluation plan is developed during the planning phase as a basis for identifying changes that did or did not occur as a result of the program.
Although the standard criteria for success, such as the number of widgets sold, number of additional passengers, or number of new installations of a product might not apply to health care marketing, the evaluation of a health care marketing campaign may have indirect benefits, such as revealing the number of prostate cancer cases detected by a PSA screening program or how many testis cancers were detected through an educational program on testicle self-examination aimed at high school or college students.
The benefits of outcome analyses
Outcome analyses are probably the easiest to conduct and yield the best information with which physicians can determine the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. One easy way to determine an outcome involves subtracting the cost of the marketing effort from the income achieved. For example, one of us (Dr. Baum) conducted a successful "March Madness" marketing campaign to attract vasectomy patients on the two weekends before the NCAA basketball championships. (The campaign encourages men to time their vasectomy so that they can recuperate while watching the college tournament on TV.) I subtracted the cost of the marketing campaign from the income received from the vasectomies I performed, and I was able to calculate the return on the investment.
A marketing evaluation seldom requires a paid consultant, according to Dr. Thomas. Most measurement techniques can be easily learned and can be conducted in-house. However, evaluation is not something that should be done as an afterthought and, if you cannot dedicate the necessary time and effort, consider hiring a consultant.