Running a private medical practice puts physicians in a unique position, walking a careful line between taking care of their business and taking care of their patients.

An editorial released this month (Jan 2019) in JAMA says it well:

…on one hand, health care revolves around a sacred compact between patients and clinicians and local institutions; on the other hand, health care is a business that operates on (regulated) market principles.”

This complex issue (and the impetus for the above-mentioned editorial) is the subject of a newly-released paper Medical Marketing in the United States by Schwartz and Woloshin. The authors report a more than $12 billion increase in spending on medical marketing from 1997 to 2016. Of that, they say, direct-to-consumer advertising was the fastest growing element. The lion’s share of this is done by the pharmaceutical industry (not surprising), but it also includes marketing by health service providers.

If you own your own practice, you probably already know that running a successful business requires that you put more money toward marketing than you ever had to in the past. Depending on your location and type of practice, a good marketing campaign may be essential to keeping your doors open, let alone seeing a profit.

This is why, increasingly, practices have a website, a Facebook page, and other social media accounts. It is not enough to just hang your shingle out on the sidewalk anymore. Now, as a certain Dr. Zizmor might claim, you have to plaster New York City subway cars with your ads.

Woman in office working on computer and phone

For many physicians, though, the thought of doing something like that is hard to swallow, and less overt forms of marketing are likely more palatable. One of these is content marketing.

Here on Neurology Insights, we have written a lot about content marketing because it can be such a good fit for physicians. This form of marketing is focused on the needs and wants of the customer, which in the case of patients is good health information. This can be conveyed via informational pamphlets, community lectures, Facebook Live events, blog articles, and social media engagement.

While its digital iteration is new, content marketing itself is not. According to the Content Marketing Institute, it has been around at least since the turn of the century when John Deere launched its customer magazine The Furrow (1895) and Michelin developed its guides (1900).

Watch their video below to learn more about what content marketing is and how it has evolved over time.

As you’ll see in the video, compared to traditional advertising, content marketing is less “in your face” and more service-oriented, especially when you think about it as simply continuing patient education efforts outside the office. This arguably jibes a bit better with the Hippocratic oath, helping you lean more toward the patient when walking that line between business and patient care. It’s something that is good for your patients first and foremost, and it happens to have the side benefit of showing the public what a generous and likeable expert you are. Just the sort of doctor they are looking for.