Thinking of holding an open house to introduce your new practice, welcome a new physician or tell the community about a new service or treatment you’re offering? You may be on the right track.
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Physician open houses are an excellent marketing tool to garner new patients, keep your name top of mind in the community and share new treatments and services. But you need a reason to hold an open house.
“You don’t just do an open house and give everybody canapes and a glass of wine,” says Maria Todd, strategist, consulting expert, and CEO of Mercury Healthcare International. “That’s expensive and it doesn’t give any return on investment.”
It’s the same way having a website doesn’t mean you’ll get new patients. The website is just a door, Todd explains.
Similarly, an open house is one type of marketing vehicle that may usher in new patients.
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“But there is a buying cycle and a path through the tunnel, which physicians may not see initially,” says Todd. An open house may lead to new patients, referrals from other physicians and potential long-term income—down the road.
Tell a story
When holding a physician open house, it should tell a story—the why factor. Who are you and why are you holding the event? It seems people might not care what your business is, but they always care about why you do it. That story should be front and center at your open house and it must resonate with guests so that their next step is a call to action.
That might be next week or next year, but without the story, you may never get the call to action you’re looking for. “We tried doing one for no reason once, and it didn’t really draw anybody,” says Floyd Russak, MD, an internist and medical director of East-West Health Centers in Greenwood Village, Colorado.
Russak’s seven physician internal medicine practice typically only holds open houses now to announce a new physician or new treatment, and have found them very effective in getting new patients.
Pick a venue
The office may be your best bet, but open houses can also be held at a patient’s home, your own home, a restaurant or hotel. Madhavi Patt, MD, of Patt Internal Medicine in Lone Tree, Colorado, held an open house at a long-term patient’s home who offered to host when she opened her practice. It was very successful. “I think it’s because the invitations went out, and like six degrees of separation, people trusted who the information is coming from,” Says Patt. It’s like having the ultimate patient recommendation.
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Russak has held open houses at the office and hotels and says, “We have a patient who is a classical guitarist and he comes and plays, and then we cater it with some inexpensive hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks.”
“It doesn’t matter where it’s held just that people are encouraged and recommended to attend,” says Patt.
Make a presentation
During your brief (five- to seven-minute maximum) presentation, engage with the audience you invited and talk about why you’re holding the open house and what you have to offer. “Keeping it short is good because lots of questions arise from it,” says Patt. Afterward, be prepared to mix and mingle with guests one-on-one. Removing the “white coat factor” and engaging with potential patients is the point of your open house.
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Create an event you’d attend
Hold it on a Wednesday or Thursday evening not to interfere with weekend plans and think creatively if they’ll be a theme or special food. Use caution whether to serve alcohol. Russak served it at one but said he thought it made the wrong impression and wouldn’t do so again. Plus, people can over-imbibe. Keep the whole thing to an hour and a half or two hours.
Get help if you need it.
Todd says many physicians hire marketing consultants that help plan and implement open houses; others do it themselves. If you’re comfortable going solo, take care not to make some of the typical open house mistakes she’s seen in the past, such as a too long or too technical presentation, being boring or pushy, or reciting your resume. Rather, provide cards or a brochure if you think patients need to know your training, credentials and past experience.
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Open houses can offer a competitive advantage over physician colleagues who don’t hold them, and they have the potential to bring in new patients and alert your community to your practice. Your goal is to be top of mind, get referrals from other physicians and make your practice known in the community so patients already know you—or something about you—when they need to find a new physician.
Tips for holding an open house
1. Keep it to the point. Skip long recitations of your credentials, or too much technical information about new treatments or services.
2. If you use PowerPoint, keep it brie, 7-10 minutes or 10 slidesf.
3. Don’t come off as pushy by asking people to sign up or enroll for anything on the spot.
4. Don’t overdo any freebie gifts or gadgets. It can come off too kitschy or unprofessional.
5. Do advertise widely. Invite everyone in the building, other specialty physician offices, current patients and their families and friends. Post notifications around the community, in the neighborhood and on social media, your blog or website. If you require an RSVP, which can help you plan refreshments better, make it simple like signing in online or responding to an email.
6. Follow up. Office staff can follow up with patients who seemed interested in the new treatment, service or physician a week after the event to gauge their interest and answer any questions.