dosing medication

Jun
12

The Myth of the Rich Doctor

lab coat on hookby Vicki Rackner MD

Are you in a financial position to do what you want to do when you want to do it?  Could you afford to retire, care for ailing parents or reinvent your medical practice?

Wealth buys the freedom to decide how you spend your days. My investments gave me the safety net to leave my conventional surgical practice and launch into a career as an author and speaker and consultant promoting better medical outcomes.

Here’s the dirty little secret.  Most physicians are economic slaves to their practices.  Our high incomes do not reliably translate to high net worth and the freedom wealth buys.

Income vs Wealth

Practicing physicians earn top dollars. The U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics culled data from tax records to conclude that nine of the top ten earners in the U.S. call themselves “doctor.”

Indirect evidence supports the assertion that physicians fail to build wealth. In a recent survey, half of physicians are behind where they would like to be in retirement planning. Professional medical associations are exploring how to assess competency in older physicians who continue to practice because they cannot afford to retire.

The Reasons Physicians Fail to Build Wealth 

What keeps physicians from building wealth? Here are the reasons usually cited:

  • Medical school debt
  • Late start on earning and savings
  • Failure to protect assets against know and overlooked risks
  • Poor tax planning
  • Getting investment advice from the wrong people
  • Fraud and theft

This is like saying patients become obese because they eat too many donuts. It may be true, but it fails to tell the whole story.

Further it fails to lead to sustained solutions that deliver different outcomes. Budgets work about as well as diets.

The Real Causes of Unrealized Wealth

I believe that physicians’ failure to build wealth is a symptom of a deeper financial ill: their dysfunctional relationship with money.

Physicians as a group are intelligent people who:

  • Tend to overestimate their ability to manage money, and underestimate the level of difficulty of the challenge.
  • Lack insight about what they do and do not know.
  • Turn to money to solve non-financial problems, like alleviating their guilt about spending so little time with their families.

The real barrier to financial freedom comes down to a conspiracy of silence around money. For physicians, money is the ultimate taboo topic. You cannot fix problems that you cannot talk about.

Here are three reasons physicians avoid conversations about money:

  • The culture of medicine Just as the government calls for the separation of church and state, medical ethics calls for a separation between the care a patient gets and a patient’s ability to pay. We physicians learn to avoid conversations about money to uphold this ethic. As a practicing physician I often thought that delivering medical services was like ordering a meal off of a restaurant menu without any prices. Small wonder health care costs spiraled out of control!
  • Lack of formal education Physicians get no courses in business or financial management in medical school or in residency.
  • Awareness of their vulnerability Physicians experience themselves as financial prey. They turn to people they trust–their colleagues–for financial advice. I include myself in the group of physicians who have fallen for “DDD’s”–dumb doctor deals.

The Path to Wealth

Physicians have the ability to build wealth.

As Einstein says, problems are not solved on the level at which they are created. The solution begins with physicians’ willingness to tolerate the discomfort when discussing money.

Here are three steps to help physicians achieve financial freedom:

1. Coach physicians to proactively engage in conversations with patients about the costs of medical care.

2. Explore –with compassion–the forces that drive spending. Here are some things that struggling physicians say to themselves.

  • “I deserve nice things.” You know the sacrifices you and your family made to answer this call to medical service.  When physicians finally start earning their 6-figure incomes, they feel that it’s time to splurge.
  • “I can save lives and I’m smart; that means I can manage my own money.”  You cannot see into your blind spot.
  • “There will always be more than enough money.” This physician fails to plan, trusting that there will be a bright financial future. Without a plan, money tends to wander off.
  • “You invested in a marijuana farm with a 200% return? Count me in!” Physicians can follow trusted colleagues into marginal investments.
  • “Look at me!” This physician wants to maintain the appearance of success at the cost of building true wealth.
  • “Sure, I trust you.” Physicians’ trusting nature makes them easy targets for embezzlement, fraud and ploys.
  • “I’m embarrassed.” Many physicians wonder how smart people like themselves could make such ill-informed choices. Disclosing mistakes can be painful.
  • “Mother Teresa took a vow to poverty; I should, too.” This physician does not feel worthy of wealth.
  • “Show me where to sign.” Physicians are often unaware of their power to negotiate contracts, or lack the skill and experience to execute.

3. Replace wealth-eroding beliefs and habits with new wealth-building tools and skills.  Just as we have mentors to guide us through the art and science of caring for patients, mentors and coaches helped me change my beliefs and behaviors around money.  I offer my son– headed for medical school–basic financial literacy lessons I never got.  I hope he aligns his spending habits with Einstein’s insight, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t pays it.”

Wealth-building is not a do-it-yourself job for most physicians.  If you or a family member had a rare medical condition, you would not treat it yourself; you would seek the help of the expert.   Manage your wealth with the same strategies you use when you manage your health.

Financial advisors know about the complexities of  “referred financial pain” the same way you know about the association of right shoulder pain and an inflamed gallbladder.  Could you acquire this knowledge?  Absolutely.  The real question is whether you want to invest the time and effort.

Physicians can achieve financial freedom. With the economic stresses posed by the Affordable Care Act, now is the time for physicians to take control of their financial destiny.
© 2015. Vicki Rackner MD. All rights reserved. You may reproduce this blog post with the following by-line:
Vicki Rackner MD, President of Medical Bridges, works with physicians who want to thrive. This surgeon, author, speaker and consultant offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business.

Would you like to bring a speaker sure to spark conversation to your next meeting?  Invite Dr. Rackner to deliver her talk The Myth of the Rich Doctor.  Contact (425) 451-3777 to inquire about her availability. 

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/the-myth-of-the-rich-doctor-2/

May
11

What Not to Do When You Launch Medical Initiatives

Shark_Tank_LogoFor many hospitals, clinics and medical practices, this is a time of reinvention.

This week’s episode of Shark Tank offers insights about what NOT to do as you launch new medical initiatives.

A doctor entrepreneur entered the Shark Tank to secure funding to grow his medical device company.  He painted the picture of an ideal investment opportunity, complete with an innovative product, a huge proven market and $10 million in sales.

As I listened, I thought, “He could get a five-Shark deal!”

Things quickly fell apart during Q&A. Here are snippets from the exchange sparked by the Sharks’ inquiries about his sales:

Doctor: “We could be making quite a bit of money if I wanted to.  I’m not all that interested in the money.  It’s a tool I use to hire people.”

Kevin O’Leary: “What about profits?  Do you care about this?”

Doctor: “I will at some point.”

Kevin: “Not encouraging words to an investor.”

By the end of the pitch, four Sharks were out.  One Shark decided to invest.


This entrepreneur’s inability to speak the Sharks’ language and see the world through their eyes cost him the buy-in of four Sharks.   That’s what NOT to do.

Here are the Shark Tank lessons to help you successfully launch new medical initiatives.

White Coats are wired differently than Suits.  The painful exchange in the Shark Tank highlights the fundamentally different priorities of business-minded people (let’s call them Suits) and clinicians (let’s call them White Coats).  For a Suit, profits drive and measure success.  A White Coat measures clinical outcomes.

Medicine is a team sport. Successful medical organizations must deliver quality medical care and generate a profit.  Neither Suits nor White Coats accomplish this in isolation; each must cross the cultural divide and meet on collaborative ground.

Identify who is persuading whom. You are most likely to get buy-in when you speak the language of the buyer.  This is much like World Series in which the use of the designated hitter is determined by the rules of the home team.

Persuade respectfully. The entrepreneur’s dismissive comments about profits—the thing Sharks value most— struck me as disrespectful. Persuade respectfully. Respect in Latin means “to see someone’s actions and hold them in esteem.”  To enhance your powers of persuasion, see the world through the eyes of the person you are trying to influence.

The key to success.  Collaboration is the key to success.  Understand the perspective of the people you want to persuade. These are the keys to help medical organizations make a bigger profit and a bigger impact.

© 2015. Vicki Rackner MD. All rights reserved.

Vicki Rackner MD is an author, speaker and consultant who offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. She helps businesses acquire physician clients, and she helps physicians run more successful practices. Contact her at (425) 451-3777.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/what-not-to-do-when-you-launch-medical-initiatives/

May
02

Rethink Selling

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 2.00.46 PMDoes your aversion to selling get in the way of your success?

It did for me!  Here are some “heal thyself” lessons that might help you attract more patients, get better clinical outcomes and generate more revenue.

My old beliefs about selling

When I entered medical school thirty years ago, I believed, “Doctors shouldn’t sell; it’s unprofessional.”

Further, I believed that I didn’t have to sell.  If I just took good care of patients, my practice would grow.

It was a different story when I traded my scalpel for a pen and a microphone and launched a career writing and speaking and consulting. I had to sell.

And almost every day as an entrepreneur I said to myself, “I hate selling!”

My new beliefs about selling

Here’s how I made peace with selling.

I reframed marketing as the process of engaging someone in a conversation; I reframed selling as the process of inspiring someone to take action.

Selling is the process of inspiring someone to take action.

You sell every day.  You sell when you persuade your kids to practice the piano, help a colleague see things your way or get the raise you want and deserve. 

You sell when you persuade patients to take medication as prescribed, change lifestyle habits or follow up with a specialist.

Two ways to inspire people to make purchasing choices

To generate revenue, a patient takes a very specific action step: exchange hard-earned dollars for your value.  You generate more revenue when more patients say yes to your services.

Imagine Billy Mays doing an infomercial for a surgeon who wanted to remove more gallbladders. “Are you tired of getting pain every time you eat a French fry? Do you dread another gallbladder attack that’s worse than the pain of childbirth? Leave your gallbladder worries behind you! Come on in and have your gallbladder removed. Take advantage of our special promotional offer. Bring your mother and we’ll remove two gallbladders for the price of one. But, wait; there’s more.  Schedule your procedure this week and we’ll throw in a free appendectomy.”

As silly as this sounds, you may have a picture like this in your head when you think about selling.

That’s not how I helped patients say yes to a surgical procedure.  Think of the process of informed consent as “facilitated buying.” You  establish relationships with patients, and:

  • Gather information
  • Make a diagnosis
  • Make treatment recommendations.

Then out of respect for patients’ autonomy, patients are asked to decide. Many patients chose to delegate the decision to the doctor.

Could you reproduce this informed consent process as you reach out to people who can send you patients, your staff or your colleagues?  Could you engage in a conversation, build a relationship, understand where it hurts, render a diagnosis and offer a treatment plan?

My selling lessons

Here are the lessons I learned:

  • Think of your sales funnel as a series of small “yeses” that guide prospects to the facilitated buying conversation.
  • The first yes is the hardest.  Make it easy.  Ask your prospects to accept a free sample of the result you deliver.  Invite them to sign up to get something they want.  Then think about how you can engage more prospects in conversations, and inspire more of them to take that first step.
  • The first sale is the hardest.  Can you go back to your existing clients with a second, third or fourth purchasing option?
  • Respect your buyers’ autonomy.  Don’t push; offer your prospects the opportunity to buy.  If you have correctly identified and clearly explained your value, the right clients will say yes.  If they don’t say yes, consider changing your value proposition to align with something the buyer really wants, or tweaking the way you frame your offer.
  • You can enhance your power to persuade.  This is a skill that can be developed.  You will see a significant ROI whether you want to generate more revenue, inspire more patients to take medication as prescribed or get more of what you want in your relationships.

Changing my mindset about selling was transformative. I recognized that the doctor-patient relationship could be a model guiding my interactions with prospects, colleagues and clients.  All I had to do as an entrepreneur was conduct myself like a doctor.  I was selling all along, even in my surgical practice!

What if you treated your prospects and clients the same way you wanted to be treated as a patient?

Prospecting is much easier–and much more fun–when you see yourself like the doctor reaching out to the clients who value the result you help them get. That translates to better business outcomes.

Rethinking selling worked for me and for my clients.  It can work for you, too.

What do you think?

© 2015. Vicki Rackner MD. All rights reserved. 

Vicki Rackner MD is an author, speaker and consultant who offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. She helps businesses acquire physician clients, and she helps physicians run more successful practices. Contact her at (425) 451-3777.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/rethink-selling/

Feb
04

9 Ways Doctors Can Generate More Revenue—Starting Today

financialadvisorsfordoctorsAs a medical professional, how will you respond to falling fees, rising costs and higher taxes?

Here are 9 ways you can continue to enjoy the personal, professional and financial rewards that attracted you to a career in medicine.

 

Stop losing money. 

A penny saved is a penny earned.

1. Address your billing practices. A medical billing expert remembers the day his new client showed him his “Porsche drawer” filled with rejected insurance claims.  This physician knew that if he contested the rejections, he could fund his dream car; he just never found time.

Are you doing everything you can to get paid for the services you render?  Most doctors see significant increases in cash flow when they turn their billing into the hands of the outsourced billing experts.

2. Look for found money.  A practice management expert tells me that virtually every medical organization leaks money, and he knows where to look.  He guarantees his results—putting more money in doctors’ pockets by patching the leaks.

3. Protect yourself against fraud.  Do you have checks and balances in place to help keep your honest employees honest?  A colleague told me that she should have listened to her intuition about her “trusted office manager.”  She discovered that over the years, this person embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Get paid more.

You can increase your practice revenue through ethical, professional approaches.

4. Identify profitable activities. Mine your billing data to get a handle on the revenue generated by each of your daily activities.  In a fee-for-service practice model, you exchange your time for money.  Calculate your “hourly wage” for each procedure you perform or kind of patient you see.

Then consider the level of personal and professional rewards you get with each activity.

From that you can gain clarity about what your ideal day looks like.  You may decide to narrow your scope of services. You may find a “sweet spot” like the dentist who discovered he likes working with phobic patients. There are any number of ways you can attract more of those best-fit patients.

5. Add services.  If you run a busy practice, it might make sense to set up an in-house formulary that could increase your patients’ medication compliance as well as generate more revenue. 

Maybe you consider adding a cosmetic service for which patients pay out-of-pocket.

Maybe you decide to hire physician assistants or nurse practitioners so that you can spend more of your time  engaged in sweet-spot activities.

6. Sell products.  Consider offering products that help patients achieve the desired medical outcomes. A veterinarian could sell pet food, toys and educational materials.  A dermatologist could sell skin care products.  I met a pulmonologist who created an effective smoking cessation program, which he sells nationally through his practice.

Earn outside of your clinical practice. 

Your value transcends your ability to diagnose and treat individual patients.  You can help many people in many different ways, and get paid for it.

7. Moonlight.  You could serve as an expert in medical malpractice lawsuits.  The benefits include your ability to review cases on your own schedule, generate a high hourly wage and gain insights that made me a better doctor.

You could take locums positions, serve as a director in medically-supervised weight loss programs, or get on staff at assisted living facilities.

8. Shift to a non-clinical career. You could offer leadership to medical organizations, launch a business venture or work in companies that sell medical products and services.

You might consider generating revenue through speaking or writing or coaching.

9. Make investments.  You can make your money work for you.  Be sure to vet any business opportunity with an expert who can evaluate the level of risk and impact on your bigger financial picture.

You can help people across the globe, educate people whom you never personally met and deliver value in unique ways.  This offers unprecedented opportunities for you.

I do not believe the golden age of medicine is over; I think it’s just beginning.

© 2015. Vicki Rackner MD.  All rights reserved.

You may reproduce this blog post with the following :

Vicki Rackner MD, President of www.MedicalBridges.com, helps doctors enjoy the personal, professional and financial rewards that attracted them to a career in medicine.  She leverages her experiences as a surgeon, clinical faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine and entrepreneur to help physicians and dentists thrive in the era of ObamaCare. 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/9-ways-doctors-can-generate-more-revenue-starting-today/

Feb
02

How Doctors Can Thrive


 
Here is a video with:

  • 3 trends shaping healthcare delivery
  • 5 questions to ask yourself to position yourself for success in this rapidly changing world
  • 7 sources of revenue.

This is a time of reinvention.  You can still achieve the personal, professional and financial rewards that attracted you to a career in medicine.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/how-doctors-can-thrive-under-obamacare/

Dec
16

Say No to the Wrong Patients –and Say Yes to the Right Ones

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 7.06.47 PMWould you like to set the stage for a more profitable 2015?

Work with patients with whom you are a good fit.

Develop a profile of your ideal patient.  Help yourself further by gaining clarity about the patient you will not accept into your practice.

When you meet with a patient, say, “I want you to work with the doctor who’s right for you. Let’s meet and test the water.“

Here are some red flags that alert you to patients to avoid.

You observe:

  1. This person lives in a black-and-white world populated by heroes and villains.
  2. This person describes grandiose plans, and may refer to himself in the third person.
  3. This person usually tells a sad story about how someone “done them wrong.”
  4. This person tells you how wonderful you are and showers you with compliments.
  5. You discover the current villain used to be the recipient of the compliments.
  6. This person is in conflict with someone close.

Your response to this person also offers valuable information.  Beware of prospects with these qualities:

  1. You leave a meeting with this person feeling drained.
  2. You observe the prospect treating someone disrespectfully.
  3. You have the sense of walking on eggshells.

Listen to your intuition.  If you sense something is not right, pay attention.  You assume risk with each new patient you take on.

If you decide to say no to a patient, communicate clearly with client-centered language free of judgment.  “Thank you for meeting with me.  I genuinely want the best for you, and my gut tells me you would be a better fit with a different doctor.  You can go to this web site to find the names of other doctors to interview.”

Saying no to the wrong patient helps you say yes to the right one.

© 2014. Vicki Rackner MD. All rights reserved.

You may reproduce this post with the following by-line:

Vicki Rackner MD is an author, speaker and consultant who offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. She helps physicians run more successful practices. Contact her at (425) 451-3777.

Are you a physicians interested in more information about proven innovative retirement solutions used by sophisticated investors?  Go to www.FINANCEDPHYSICIANRETIREMENT.COM to sign up for a free educational video.

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/say-no-to-the-wrong-patients-and-say-yes-to-the-right-ones/

Dec
15

Doc, Worried about Retirement? What NOT to Do

600px-Stop_sign(standard).svgPhysicians in their 50’s and 60’s worried about retirement know that time is not on their side.

I see smart doctors take desperate financial steps that make matters worse rather than better.

Here are three strategies to avoid:

  • Denial. Yes, it’s difficult to face an unpleasant truth. However, ignoring financial problems works about as well as ignoring a progressive medical illness.
  • High-Risk Speculation.  Physicians interested in catching up with retirement planning may be tempted by high risk investments.  Safety must come first.
  • Asking the Wrong Person.  Many physicians turn to physicians whom they trust for financial advice.  Ask a cardiothoracic surgeon for advice about mitral valves, not mutual funds.

This is the time for worried physicians to make considered financial choices.

The problem is that few physicians know about proven investment strategies and financial products used every day by sophisticated investors like Warren Buffett.  Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • What would you think about a product that protects against market losses, allows you to borrow from your investment and generates tax-free retirement income?
  • Would you prefer to pay taxes on your income now, or later?  As you consider this question, please remember that we only have one way to pay down our huge national debt.  Taxes will go up.
  •  Did you know that banks will issue physicians loans to invest in specific financial products, just like they issue mortgages?  The loan is secured with the investment.

I am not a financial advisor, and I do not sell any financial products.  I’m a physician, committed to the alleviation of pain and suffering.  I see many physicians in acute financial pain, and I know there are innovative financial remedies.  I use them myself.

A patient with a dire diagnosis once said to me, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.’” The same is true with financial health and retirement plans.

Please encourage physicians worried about their financial security to learn about all of their retirement options.

© 2015. Vicki Rackner MD. All rights reserved.

You may reproduce this post with the following by-line:

Vicki Rackner MD is an author, speaker and consultant who offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. She helps physicians run more successful practices. Contact her at (425) 451-3777.

Are you a physicians interested in more information about proven innovative retirement solutions used by sophisticated investors?  Go to www.FINANCEDPHYSICIANRETIREMENT.COM to sign up for a free educational video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doctor, are you engaging in financial interventions that promote your optimal  financial health?

 

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/doc-worried-about-retirement-what-not-to-do/

Dec
10

Are You a Boomer Physician Worried about Retirement?

Are you a physician in your 50’s or 60’s worried about your retirement plan?

 

You are not alone.  About half of physicians are behind where they would like to be in retirement planing.  Still, you may feel the urgency of time running out.  Further, financial demands could shape your career plans  for your final working years.

I understand the stress of urgency.  Here’s a video with my story about trying to conceive a child at age 40.  I was able to  do it with a targeted therapeutic intervention–IVF.

The great news is that there are targeted financial interventions to help you get back on track for the retirement you want.

 

Would you like to learn more about how you can get back on track for retirement?  Complete the form below and we’ll send you a complimentary video.

Get Your Retirement on Track

 

 *

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/are-you-a-boomer-physician-worried-about-retirement/

Nov
26

3 Great Conversation-Starters

Screen shot 2014-11-26 at 9.26.04 AMWant to deepen your connection with patients, colleagues and friends?

Here are three questions certain to start a lively conversation. Actor Anna Deavere Smith asked these questions in her efforts to put her finger on the pulse of America.

1. Do you know the circumstances of your birth?

2. Have you ever faced death?

3. Have you ever been falsely accused?

Try these conversation-starters at your Thanksgiving dinner table, with your clients or in your social communities. Be prepared for a real treat!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season! I’m grateful for you, the contributions you make and your interest in the thoughts I share.

© 2014. Vicki Rackner MD. All rights reserved.

You may reproduce this post with the following by-line:

Vicki Rackner MD is an author, speaker and consultant who offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. She helps physicians run more successful practices. Contact her at (425) 451-3777.

Permanent link to this article: http://medicalbridges.com/3-great-conversation-starters-2/

Nov
24

7 Tips to Help Physicians Get More Patients

Screen shot 2014-11-23 at 3.01.53 PM

How do you maintain a steady stream of new patients who can benefit from your services?

This is particularly important if you are:

  • Beginning a practice
  • Developing a focus in your current practice
  • Seeing shifting referral patterns as your current sources of referrals retire or sell their practices.

Here are 7 tips to help you accelerate your practice growth by generating more patient referrals.

1. Position Yourself for Success

Create a compelling, memorable and repeatable answer to the question, “What do you do?”  A great positioning statement helps your conversation partner visualize specific patients whom they can refer to you.

You may currently position yourself by medical specialty.  This can be risky.  A young girl once asked me, “What do you do?”  I said, “I’m a general surgeon.”  Her eyes got big as saucers as she said, “Oh, you’re the person who puts the warning labels on the cigarette packs.”

Your best positioning states the problem your best-fit clients face, and a patient-centered description of the outcomes you help them achieve. Here are a few:

  • “I help people with knee pain return to the sports they love.” 
  • “We help people with diabetes live full and complete lives.”
  • “Have you ever met anyone who always mentions how tired they are?  We help people get a good night’s sleep so they perform better at work and at home and at play.”

Great positioning statements are deceptively simple.  You know you have one when a patient calls your office and says it word-for-word.  Once you have it, make sure that all staff members know and repeat it. Include it in your web site, your email signature file and social media profiles.

2. Narrow Your Focus 

Some physicians fear that a focus will slow referrals.  While counterintuitive, experience demonstrates that focus accelerates practice growth.   Here are few reasons why:

  • You will be seen as the expert.  Most patients would prefer to see a physician who works with people just like them every day.
  • You will get better medical outcomes.  Study after study demonstrates this.
  • You will pick up tips, tools and resources that improve patients’ quality of life, accelerate recovery and deliver patient-centered care.

Focus may require that you cast your net over a wider territory; however, if you offer an extraordinary result or an extraordinary patient experience, patients will travel to see you.

3. Create Your Referral Map 

Identify the paths by which your patients find their way to you.  Consider three sources:

  1. Medical professionals, whether referring physicians, through the ER or via other health care providers.
  2. Family, friends and fans who know you, like you and trust you.  This might include your patients, their family members and your social networks. This might also include your college buddies, your cleaning lady or the parents at your kids’ soccer games.
  3. Information-seekers who go online, read publications or attend courses to find  solutions to pressing medical problems.

Each doctor has a unique mix of referral sources based on their practice setting,  medical specialty and temperament.

Here’s what I learned when I informally surveyed physicians at a surgical meeting:

  • Academic surgeons tend to get most of their new patients from referring physicians.  They rely heavily on their institution’s brand strength to generate referrals.
  • Community surgeons performing bread-and-butter cases leverage their personal and professional relationships.
  • Several surgeons with focussed practices (breast surgery, bariatric procedures and plastic surgeons) generate almost 100% of their patient referrals by connecting directly with them.

Campaigns to generate referrals from the three sources will be different.

4. Market Courageously

When I left my clinical practice and launched my career as an entrepreneur, I had complete trust in my ability to improve my clients’ condition.  I also had complete terror at the thought of “marketing” or “selling.”   Visions of snake oil salesmen flashed before me.

I had to build courage and find a way to reach out in a way that worked for me.  You can, too.

Think of marketing as a series of conversations that deliver value, build curiosity and lead to the next level of engagement. The most effective marketing conversation speaks to the interests, wants and needs of your specific conversation partner.

5. Educate

The word doctor comes form the Latin root for teacher. Marketing campaigns that deliver educational content align with your core mission.

How do you create the content?  Maybe you interpret breaking medical studies, offer practical tips and tools or answer frequently asked questions.

Simply listen to questions that patients and referring physicians ask.  Pay attention when  someone says, “I never thought of that  before!”  You have just delivered a pearl of wisdom others may want to learn, too.

Consider blogging, conducting seminars or creating videos. Publishing a book positions you as the expert.  Remember to gear the content to your audience:

Generate more referrals from physicians and nurses by offer practical patient care tips.  If you’re a pain specialist for example, offer ideas about how to manage chronic pain conditions in the primary care setting.

Create videos that answer patients’ frequently asked questions.

Create educational materials for the friends and relatives of your patients.   Imagine an oncologist creating a video with this script:

“How do you make a positive difference when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer? Hi, I’m Dr. Welby.  For the past 20 years I’ve helped my patients put their colon cancer diagnosis in the rear view mirror.  We physicians offer the therapeutic interventions that eliminate cancer cells; however, your love and support promotes healing. It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they have cancer.  Here are 5 quick tips.”

6. Think Like a Patient

Understand the patient’s experience living with the medical problem you treat.

Explore patients’ trigger for action.  Gain insight into what propels patients to pick up the phone and call your office. Then think creatively about how you can put yourself in front of these patients.

If you are trying to grow a breast imaging center, for example, you know that often the diagnosis of breast cancer in a friend, or the illness of a family member inspires patients to schedule the overdue mammogram.

A breast center could launch a campaign to encourage their patients to spread the word about the importance of screening mammograms. Maybe you distribute buttons that say, “Friends don’t let friends skip mammograms.” Maybe you print up postcards your patients can give to their friends inviting their friends to get mammograms.  Maybe you offer a 5% discount for friends of your patients.

Tap into patients’ network.  Let’s say you have a special interest in preventing head injuries in children.  You could reach out to coaches, pediatricians and stores that sell helmets. You could participate in social media conversations about head injuries in kids.

Stay in touch. Build lists and assure that you have a way to stay in regular contact with the people who send you referrals.  Consider repackaging the same content for referring physicians, patients and family caregivers.

7. Remember that Practice-Building is Relationship-Building 

Invest in relationships with the people who send you patients.  Educate them.  Offer them value.  Make it easy for them to identify patients you treat and the circumstances that would trigger a referral.

To generate more referrals and build your practice, serve the people who send you patients.

© 2014. Vicki Rackner MD. All rights reserved.

You may reproduce this post with the following by-line:

Vicki Rackner MD, President of Medical Bridges,  works with physicians who want to thrive in the era of Obamacare. This author, speaker and consultant offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. Contact her at (425) 451-3777. Click here to get a tips about how to achieve the personal, professional and financial rewards of a career in medicine.

 

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