According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, as much as 40 percent of adult Americans are turning to forms of medicine outside of mainstream approaches to treating chronic ailments. With demand for alternative healing on the rise, it’s no wonder many institutions and ambulatory practitioners are looking to accommodate the need for total wellness, rather than symptoms-centered solutions.

The continuous uptick of those suffering from conditions such as diabetes and heart disease is driving the general population to explore new forms of care not offered through conventional methods. While this is a great time for healthcare professionals in Integrative Medicine, it presents a unique challenge: How do I acquire these patients for my practice without spending a load of money?  The answer depends on how much time and energy you are willing to invest. As is the case with many IM providers, funds are limited, eliminating many instant gratification strategies such as advertising.

Here are some tactics that may prove to be beneficial, while keeping dollars in your pocket.

Develop a social media presence
It’s no secret that social media is infiltrating the healthcare industry.  In 2011, more than 60 percent of providers reported using social media to reach patients and encourage conversation about healthcare with the general public. While this seems simple enough, where many fall flat with social media is directly related to the content of their posting. Knowing what to post to capture the attention of your audience is paramount. Avoid focusing so much on yourself and instead look to serve as an information source. Share content such as your blog, other blogs you find useful and tips to improve health and wellness.  Forget the need for business.  Establish your expertise on a defined subject and paying clients will follow.

Encourage word of mouth
WOM is often overlooked in the digital age but turning a blind eye to the value it brings could have you missing out on prime opportunity to acquire new patients. A Physicians Practice article discussing ways to attract new patients urged providers to lean on their current clients to drive new business.  Ask your patients to refer friends and post online reviews, perhaps even offering a small incentive to those who do so.  It can pay off big in the long run.

Build your network
Ever heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child”? The same can be said for a growing practice. Patients looking for the integrative medicine approach to treatment are likely taking part in ancillary services such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation, etc.  Find facilities that offer these services and build a relationship with them to foster referrals.  Be sure to track where your patients are getting their referrals and adjust your efforts accordingly.

Determine what potential patients care about most
Spending a great deal of time understanding and catering to those most likely to visit your practice is vital to the success of your business.  Integrative medicine practitioners often burdened with the task of finding cash-paying patients. Knowing who to target and what services they care about can dramatically cut time and costs when it comes to gaining new clients. Find out what ailments are prominent in various areas around you and set up shop according to where the research leads you.  It should be noted that this task should be completed before determining the location of your practice.

The healthcare industry is on the brink of some big changes.  Developing a blueprint on how to position yourself to be a leader takes time and invested effort.  Not everything has to cost a ton of money … some tactics just take a little creativity.