On July 1, speech-language pathologists in private practice who have enrolled as Medicare providers will be able to bill Medicare directly for services provided to eligible beneficiaries. This change offers an opportunity to build your practice by serving this population. You can attract new clients with targeted outreach to potential referral sources as well as to Medicare beneficiaries themselves.
A Medicare marketing campaign should include three target groups: physicians, SLPs working in inpatient settings, and Medicare-eligible consumers.
Start your marketing efforts with those physicians who already refer to you. These physicians know the value of your services, but may not know about the change in Medicare billing. Contact them by phone, e-mail, or letter to explain that your treatment is now Medicare-reimbursable and that you look forward to serving their older patients.
To build your referral base, contact other local physicians. Send them information (a brochure if you have one) and a letter explaining the new Medicare billing system. Follow up with a phone call—ask to schedule a meeting with the physician and his or her staff to explain your available services and how insurance (not just Medicare) covers them.
SLPs who work in inpatient settings (hospitals and skilled nursing facilities) are a valuable referral source, as many inpatients will need follow-up treatment after they are discharged. Contact these colleagues to introduce yourself. And, if you are not already involved in local and state professional groups, now is the time to make your name known as someone who is active in the profession.
When you receive a referral from these colleagues, follow up with them to get clinically relevant information about the patient, and take advantage of opportunities to let them know about your patients' positive outcomes. (Be sure that your clients sign a release form allowing you to communicate with their previous SLP.)
You can also reach out to individuals age 65 and older to promote the benefits of your services. Take advantage of the fact that more than 80% of seniors read a newspaper: place an ad in your local paper promoting your practice and your ability to provide services to Medicare beneficiaries. You can also contact the health reporter at your local paper to explain the Medicare system change and suggest an article about the benefits of speech-language pathology services for senior adults. (ASHA's Public Relations Handbook—A Guide to Reaching the Media [PDF] offers information about contacting reporters.)
More than 25% of all seniors use the Internet to research health care information. Update your Web site to reflect that you serve Medicare patients and the unique benefits your services can provide to seniors.
Learn about resources in your community that provide services to seniors. These settings (such as the local senior center) may allow you to post your business card or brochure. Introduce yourself to administrators of agencies that coordinate health care services. Your location or your ability to travel to their location may be of great interest to seniors with limited access to transportation. You can also participate in health fairs and speak at AARP meetings, assisted living facilities, and civic organizations. Your talks should not promote your individual practice; instead, offer non-technical information about speech-language pathology services and how they benefit people with communication and swallowing disorders.
ASHA will continue to provide tips and resources to help private-practice SLPs promote their services in this new Medicare marketplace. For additional resources now, visit the Private Practice and Reimbursement sections of ASHA's Web site.