“I read on the internet…,” is a phrase you probably hear patients say a lot these days.

Whether you like it or not, your patients (both current and potential) are online, and they want their health information at the click of a button. To run a successful practice, you need to meet your patients where they are–right now, that is in a giant ocean of digital content. One of the best places to put your toe in these waters is with email because it’s free, easy and ubiquitous. To do this, you need to do one thing: build a patient email list.

You may already use email to send individual reminders or answer patient questions. A patient email list is a little different. It is a collection of emails that you can use to send out useful information to your patients as a group, like an e-newsletter. It is a way for you to be a great source of medical information for your patients, while promoting your practice.

This method of promotion is called content marketing, and not only is it more palatable, it works. According to a report by Roper Public Affairs, three quarters of consumers polled “prefer to get information about a company in a collection of articles rather than an ad.” It makes them feel good about the company, and they are more likely to buy the product or service.

In other words, don’t use your email list to bombard your patient list with spammy advertisements. Your emails should be of benefit to anyone who signs up. Here are just a few ideas of useful content you can communicate via your email list:

  • Practice news including new hires or new services available
  • Community health news and event reminders
  • Your take on current health issues that might affect your patient population
  • Sharing resources like your favorite medication reminder apps or local classes
  • Sharing content you already produce, like your blog

The best way to start one of these lists is to upload your emails to an email marketing service like Mailchimp, Constant Contact or AWeber, to name a few. Don’t let the term “marketing service” scare you, though. Many of them are free or charge a nominal fee depending on the number of subscribers and emails you want to send out each month.

Using a service like this is a good idea for a couple reasons. It will help save you time with built-in automation, and it will also help you keep in compliance with the law. The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that outlines the rules of email marketing for businesses, with steep penalties for violators. No matter how you end up sending your emails, you should know the law to make sure you are in compliance. The Federal Trade Commission offers an easy-to-follow summary of the law on their website.

Most email marketing services also allow you to embed an email signup form on your website, making it even easier to build your list. In this digital age, patients are more savvy and discerning than ever before.To get people to sign up, you need to be clear that they will be receiving something good in return, and that you will never give out their email address or use it for spammy purposes.

Patients are swimming in a sea of medical content. You can be a beacon in these choppy waters, but you’re going to have to put your suit on. Starting an email list is a good place to dive in.

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