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Online coupons bring new patients to healthcare practices

December 7, 2010

Much like the rest of the business community, medical practices are looking to the internet in order to reach out to both current and prospective patients.

Social media mainstays like Facebook and Twitter, as well as up-and-coming sites like Groupon and Foursquare, are joining healthcare software as a must-have technology for a physician’s office, as they give healthcare businesses the opportunity to spark interest in their practices and highlight some elective procedure offerings that might not be covered by insurance.

Groupon, which offers special deals via email for 50 percent to 90 percent off a service or product for up to 24 hours, boasts approximately 15 percent of its deals nationwide for healthcare services, according to the Baltimore Sun. Services offered include medical visits, eye exams, teeth-cleaning and whitening, electrolysis and chiropractic services.

Recently, a group of health professionals offered a Groupon deal for an exam and glasses for $50, and the organization’s CEO, Richard Edlow, told the Sun that the offer “greatly exceeded our expectation” and brought in more than 300 patients, many of whom they expect to return.

The Groupon deal began as a way to attract business, Edlow said, but ended up appealing to many people without insurance who jumped at the affordable program. Edlow then became inspired to team up with other providers to offer another Groupon in the future to help people who are uninsured.

In addition to being a bargain, social media can offer hospitals and medical offices an opportunity to raise funds and pass on health information. Cable channels like MTV and CNN have teamed up with Foursquare to offer “badges,” a staple of the application, for healthy living activities such as logging in to document cutting out bad food, shopping at a farmers’ market or getting screened for STDs.

Edgar Diaz, project specialist for a health system in Indiana, said in an interview with the South Bend Tribune Business Weekly that 850 of the 5,000 to 6,000 hospitals in the United States were using social media in August, up from 250 in May 2009.

“A lot of people said, ‘This is the next big thing,’” he explained.

What do you think? Are you using creative methods to introduce your practice to new patients? Is your practice using social media? We’re interested in hearing what suggestions you have for other practices.

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