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Social media has evolved into one of the most successful and least costly ways to gain new patients. Physicians are regularly searching for ways to market their practice or facility. A recent trend within the healthcare industry involves utilizing online sites such as Groupon and Living Social to get new patients in the door. Approximately 10% of Groupon deals nationwide are for healthcare services.

Both Groupon and Living Social allow buyers to take advantage of daily deals that produce a savings of at least 50% off the normal retail price. These deals are offered by email or Internet link for products and services within a specific geographic area. Many medical providers are utilizing these sites to attract patients who are interested in a medical or aesthetic service or product that they have been putting off due to cost. Some examples are teeth whitening, laser hair removal and LASIK.

The potential reach online group discounts have is significant and must be accounted for. A practice should consider whether or not they have the staff to handle the influx of calls and new appointments when the deal is live. That said, if a practice is hoping for a long-term relationship with the patient, they should look elsewhere. Most people who use coupon sites for healthcare services are not in it for the long haul.

Another consideration is whether or not the practice will benefit financially. Companies such as Groupon collect approximately 50% of the price of the deal as its fee. If the service or procedure is being offered for 50% off, most clients will end up with one-quarter of the normal price as its revenue. The practice must then consider their costs per procedure to calculate actual profit made from such deals. Does the practice have an opportunity to gain repeat patients? If so, the initial costs may prove worthwhile.

There are legal issues to be considered as well. According to healthcare attorney David Harlow, medical providers should be aware of their specific state and federal laws when considering offering such deals. Physicians must be careful not to violate anti kickback statutes for paid referrals as well as illegal fee-splitting between practice and a third party. It is important to consult an attorney before running an online group discount campaign.

Online group discount sites provide an excellent way to increase practice revenue and potentially add long term patients when done right. There are many considerations to be made prior jumping in.

Have you had an experience with medical deals offered through sites such as Groupon and Living Social? Tell us about it.