When it comes to the challenges of running a medical practice, most physicians will agree that price shoppers are among the most frustrating. With these types of consumers, it is as though training and expertise account for nothing. Like all that really matters is, “how much is this going to cost me?!” However, physicians also need to realize that just because someone asks about price, it doesn’t necessarily make them a “price shopper.”
Two types of price shoppers
When people ask about price, there are those who simply call each office trying to find the cheapest treatment with no regard to quality or certification – these are the patients we say we don’t want.
The other type is the person who has a genuine curiosity about price. Just like most of us wouldn’t go to an open house without knowing the cost of the home or wouldn’t go to the dealership without knowing the cost of a car, these patients don’t want to waste their time on a consult if they cannot afford it. This of course, is very reasonable.
But sometimes doctors send mixed messages.
On one hand, physicians say they don’t want price shoppers for the reasons stated above. This is also the reason they don’t list pricing on their website; they feel it looks like they are trying to compete on price, or indulge the patient by seemingly saying, “here’s the cost, that’s all that matters!”
Nonetheless, these same physicians that claim they don’t like or want price shoppers, also routinely run specials and other discounted promotions (i.e. $10 per unit BOO-tox for Halloween; Labor Day specials, etc.).
Who do we think is showing up for those discounted treatments? In other words, if we don’t like price shoppers, why are we encouraging their behavior?! If your goal is to weed out price shoppers from your practice, then why weed them in with specials?
The answer: doctors need patients. And during traditionally slow parts of the year, we need to find ways to maintain patient volume in the practice, so many of us run specials. And yes, this will result in attracting some price shoppers. So, while we can’t completely eliminate price shoppers from our practice, we can do a better job of differentiating between the consumer that is doing their research versus the price shopper that is purely seeking the best deal.
Automation is key
With so many calls and inquiries about pricing, physicians and their front office staff need to be more efficient in distinguishing the two types of price shoppers. In this situation, automation is synonymous with efficiency.
When a consumer checks pricing through my website, they will find that I have a Price Estimator tool. But my Price Estimator is unique in that the consumer cannot see pricing until they choose procedures of interest and enter their contact information.
Once they take these very simple steps, automation is initiated. They automatically receive an estimate for the procedure they are interested in, and my front office staff automatically receives the consumer’s contact information.
Through this automated process we have combined price transparency with lead generation. When we follow up with these leads, the patient can do one of two things – book a consult or not. If they are serious and come in for the consult, these price-aware patients are 41% more likely to book a procedure according to a study that I co-authored in a peer reviewed journal1.
By using pricing as the incentive to bring consumers into your sales funnel, the practice can build a huge database for future remarketing via email campaigns. And even if the patient doesn’t come in immediately, they may eventually come in after enough touch points.
On the whole, discussing pricing on your website should not be regarded as a strategy that involves competing on price, but rather as an aspect of customer service. By being one of the few practices that offers pricing information in an otherwise price-opaque environment you are giving patients what they want. So, ultimately you are competing on customer service, not price.
1. Kaplan, JL, Mills, PH. Price transparency in the online age. Annals of Plastic Surgery: 2016 May; 76: S246-S248.
About the Author:
Jonathan Kaplan, M.D.
Dr. Kaplan is a board certified plastic surgeon based in San Francisco, Calif. He is also the founder and CEO of BuildMyBod Health, an online marketplace for healthcare services, allowing consumers to determine cost on out-of-pocket procedures and purchase non-surgical services. In exchange, the healthcare providers receive consumer contact info / lead generation for follow up.