Plastic surgeons and weight-loss specialists may be the front-runners when it comes to offering open-house patient education seminars. But other specialties — including orthopedists, dentists, fertility doctors, and ophthalmologists — are realizing that in-person seminars are one of the most effective ways to keep existing patients engaged with your practice, and to get new patients in the door. These events give doctors a chance to share their expertise and make personal connections with people from the community in a relaxed setting, which can directly impact patients’ care decisions.

Should your practice host a patient education seminar? Here are a few things to consider.

Take a page from the web.

What do social media, YouTube, and Google offer patients? Easy access to information on virtually any medical topic with the click of a button. What can you offer that the web can’t? High-quality, targeted patient education from a trained health professional. That said, you need to make your patient seminars enticing if you want to lure people away from their screens and into your office.

Video is rapidly becoming the preferred way for patients to learn and for doctors to educate and market to them. Showing cutting-edge animations and HD video on tablets or flat-screen TVs during patient education seminars sends the message that your practice embraces technology and is an innovator in your field. In a recent survey, 58 percent of patients said that technology positively impacts their overall experience with a doctor, especially when it’s “used collaboratively to educate or explain.”

Demystify “scary” procedures.

Many patients fear LASIK or cataract surgery simply because they don’t know what it entails. Medical videos they might turn up in a web search can scare them further. You can alleviate their worries by hosting a “LASIK Without Fear” seminar, or “New, Painless Options to Treat Cataracts.” Here’s where you may need help from your most marketing-savvy staff. A well-chosen seminar title and compelling copy to promote it can attract attendees. This practice targets specific patient populations with seminars titled “All About Contacts” and “The Aging Eye.”

Get the word out.

Word-of-mouth is often the easiest and best way to publicize an upcoming patient education seminar. Tell your staff and patients to spread the word to their friends, and of course post an announcement on your practice web page and social media accounts. Provide an email address so people can register that way and you can collect their email addresses for future communications. Depending on your budget, you could also print up flyers, take out an ad in a local paper, or do a direct mailing to publicize your seminar. Prepare and print sign-in sheets to have at the event so you can capture attendees’ names and contact information.

Showcase your offerings.

Does your practice offer cosmetic Botox? Many ophthalmologists do, but the general public may not know that eye doctors are often the most experienced administrators of Botox. Here’s one practice that wrote an article on its web site titled, Why go to an Ophthalmologist for Botox treatments? This could easily translate to a patient education seminar. You could provide a demonstration and offer a discount off future services, if you wish.

Give attendees something for free.

Everyone likes to get something for free. Some practices give seminar attendees “goody bags” with product samples, brochures, and other small items. Depending on the time of day, serve wine and cheese, coffee and muffins, or other light refreshments. This will give people a chance to relax and socialize, and the cost is nominal compared to the revenue you may bring in from new patients.

While it’s written for dental clinics, this PDF handbook for hosting patient education seminars will be helpful for any practice planning and hosting a seminar.

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