Cover Story : Doctor, Heal Thyself
PracticePlus prescribes physician-to-physician direct mail to drive referralsApril 2012 By Heather Fletcher
Every year, nearly half of all 309 million Americans visit a new doctor. About 40 percent of those patients find physicians on their own, whereas the other 60 percent trust their current doctors to provide good referrals.
That's where PracticePlus LLC comes in, according to Hughes Bakewell, president of that new subsidiary of Woodbridge, N.J.-based 1-800- DOCTORS: "Very few physician practices—whether they're a part of a hospital or whether they're in independent practice—promote their capabilities to the people that give them the majority of their business, each and every day: referring physicians."
That's why two years ago, Meridian Health—a healthcare organization in New Jersey that was trying to solve this problem—came to 1-800- DOCTORS with the idea of enhancing physician-to-physician marketing. The health system had tested an idea and thought 1-800-DOCTORS could commercialize it.
Enter Bakewell, 1-800-DOCTORS' general manager of consumer services, who now also runs PracticePlus. PracticePlus teamed up with Balihoo—a Boise, Idaho-based local marketing automation product and service provider—and performed more tests with Meridian. With the second opinion firmly in hand, PracticePlus took the plunge last year with a soft-launch of a branded version of Balihoo's platform called "WordOut." The hard launch came in the second quarter of 2011.
As of presstime, PracticePlus has 10 hospitals signed up, a dozen in the pipeline, and expects 25 to 75 to contract with it by the end of the year. That count doesn't include hospital-owned or hospital- affiliated practices—which PracticePlus expects to be hundreds in the next couple years.
"As these health systems are buying practices, one of the things they struggle with is [when] the practice says, 'Well, how are you going to help me grow my practice?'" Bakewell says. "'Now that you own me, what are you going to do to help me get new patients in the door?'
"And most health systems and hospitals have very, very time-pressed staffs," he continues. "They've got way more to do than they have time to do, and this additional marketing requirement is making them all say, 'How the heck am I going to do this?'"