Should you offer coupons and discounts?

Should you offer coupons and discounts?

How many discount coupons, promo codes, sales or other special deals do you take advantage of in the average week? If you’re like most consumers, probably quite a few. Supermarkets have savings cards, department stores and large retail chains almost always have several coupons in circulation, online retailers tempt us with free shipping, and even small, locally owned shops offer frequent buyer programs. What about your practice? Should you jump on this bandwagon?

Medical doctors, in part because they deal with Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance companies for payment, tend not to offer coupons and discounts. Two exceptions are that many do offer a discount for payment at the time of service for patients who have no insurance, and practitioners who perform elective services (cosmetic procedures or Lasik eye surgery, for example) sometimes offer discounts and special deals. Dentists, chiropractors, optometrists and veterinarians are more likely to offer special deals, both to attract new patients and reward existing ones.

If you are new to a community or for some other reason need to fill up your appointment book quickly, one way to do that is to offer a free initial visit. Advertise in your local newspaper or do a direct-mail postcard offering a free teeth cleaning, eye exam, well-pet visit or spinal assessment. This gets patients in the door. Hopefully, they’ll keep coming back for future needs once they’ve seen that you provide high-quality care in an environment that is efficient and friendly.

Keep in mind that print advertising can get expensive, so don’t overlook the possibility of running your coupon ads in high school and college publications. Their rates are usually lower than other newspapers and readership can be quite high (think of all the parents who read their high-school age children’s papers). Some services that appeal to this age group include dentistry, orthodontia and skin care.

A no-cost way to advertise, assuming you have a practice Web site, is to post a coupon there. You can offer one type of coupon for potential new patients and another for current ones. If you send out an e-newsletter to patients, that’s another good way to get a coupon or discount offer in circulation.

You can show appreciation for existing patients by including a discount coupon for their next visit in the birthday card you send each year. This can be something as simple as $10 off their next visit or an add-on service at no cost.

Senior discounts are always popular. Depending on your specialty, you might offer a 10-15% discount for individuals over the age of 60 on an ongoing basis, one day each week (although this has the potential to make scheduling more challenging), or once a month during each year. Your older patients, especially those on a limited income, will surely appreciate this offer.

Before getting into the coupon and discount game, assess what your peers and competitors are doing and check with your state and/or local professional society to see what they have to say about the ethics of offering discounts. If you decide to go this route, check out www.doctorscoupons.com for more ideas and to consider using this online service.