EVENTS | “15 Tips to Make the Most out of Medical Conference Season”

Past interviews with DPC Physicians about their conference experiences as a whole say … ‘A napkin is not a business plan …’, ‘Know Where Your Information Deficiencies Are …’ and ‘Have fun but use your time wisely, afterall, this is a business expense and you want something to show for it other than a Twitter friend or new Facebook follower.’

By Editor, The DPC Journal

SUMMER 2018 – It is medical conference and CME event season and it is also summer vacation for the kids. So, like many, you might be planning which medical educational events you are planning to attend in 2018.

DPC Journal Physician readers for example that we’ve encountered recently noted that they understand that there is a diverse group of just a few organizers which do have similar agendas, overlapping speakers and are circling the DPC niche pretty intensively this year.

In 2018, the published agendas are designed for both the curious Physician who is looking and wondering if DPC is right for them as well for those looking for more support for their current practice. Even more critical for a few is the operations, financial, policy and business-side of the DPC discussion and the content offered from event organizers must address these needs in critical areas right now.

Below, we have assembled a list of fifteen tips you might want to consider in order to help ensure that your medical conference at-large expenditures and attendance at any healthcare event is beneficial and fruitful.

“Good understanding brings forth favor …” ~Proverbs 13:15 NIV

Atlanta, GA | Oct. 26-27, 2018

Ways to make the most of the conference attendance hours:

  1. Identify your “fave five” – Choose at least five must-see exhibitors.
  2. Find some quiet time to plan for your future and challenge yourself – Make it your mission to discover some new products and/or service line offerings that can add revenue to your DPC practice bottom-line. Find some quiet time in a lobby or hotel or area coffee shop away from the smiles and sales pitches. Use this time to plan your practice on paper, on purpose. Use this time to reflect on where you want your practice to be next year at this same time. How can you make your practice more cost effective, easier, more fun or simply better for you and your Patients?
  3. Win new [and old] friends – Set a goal to meet five new people you haven’t met in the past year.
  4. Determine your course of education/planning and study – Use the Agenda but think realistically. Don’t be guided by the masses on which track or portion to attend. At the end of the day, you are there because you have made an investment in your practice and it needs to pay off. Smiles and sales pitches, rhetoric and handshakes won’t pay your bills. Pinpoint in advance your seminar, speaker and vendor destinations.
  5. Turn the tables – Track down prospective vendors who are eager to pursuit partnering with you. Get your calendar out right then and set up a call so it is on their calendar and yours when you return home.
  6. Stay focused. Know Where Your Information Deficiencies Are. Remain intent on Answering the questions you MUST have addressed before you leave – Let’s learn from some DPC history. Did you know that technology has entered DPC in a big way since 2013? However, in late 2015, much of the technology solutions targeting the DPC patient and physician audience subsequently, left. The vendors we saw back then are not always the vendors we see today. A few yes, but not all saw the potential as you do. So, why did so many technology providers see opportunity in DPC come and go so quickly? Well, one reason is that the technology developers over the past three years saw DPC as an emerging marketplace ripe to acquire market-share and become a really innovative disruptor in the national primary care space. It did not occur as quickly as some investors and business developers had hoped. Today, many of those same technology solution developers operate in other healthcare areas and have left the DPC space with the hopes that soon, DPC will reach a market maturity worthy of more capital expansion.

“That’s not to say it won’t grow,” says one investment firm in an interview with The DPC Journal. “It is just not as large as we’d like and our shareholders and investors in technology are not willing to risk the long-term play at this point in time.”

Still, some of the technology and solution providers currently operating in DPC have really done a great job of targeting their products and services to meet the specific needs of this unique niche in primary care.

2018 DPC Journal Annual Report and Market Trends Summary — While interest levels by Patients into subscription-based and direct pay care may remain steady, growth in the DPC space still remains gradual. Widespread adoption by young female Physicians is increasing, but many outsiders looking in on the space believe a few thousand more Physicians must show interest in DPC to meet growing consumer interest, according to The DPC Journal Patient Search, May 2018 reports.

7. Are they talking about what really is on your mind? Or, are the agendas only speaking in philosophical and theoretical terms? Where Content Matters, are they showing data? As an attendee, you should keenly understand where the conversation in the room is traveling at all times. Are the speakers negatively addressing others, positively addressing the challenges, discussing the opportunities, obstacles and failures enough to gain an accurate picture for you … and, are you comfortable with their answers?

In 2018 alone, nearly 58% of DPC Physicians said debt for their startup in DPC was an average of $92,083.33 per practice. ~DPC Journal, Jan-May 2018 Physician Poll. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the average medical school debt balance for graduating physicians in 2015 was $183,000, and is no doubt higher today. Add that burden to their average undergraduate balance of $24,000 and the total average student loan balance for a doctor is $207,000.

One of the most fascinating data points about DPC right now (and we saw back in 2016) is when we see that one of the top reasons cited by former DPC physician readers that “tried and failed” to make the leap into DPC since 2013 to present is they mentioned “lack of business acumen …” was a crucial determinate in why they did not succeed in DPC. When The DPC Journal from 2013- 2015 asked more than 50 former DPC doctors and their staff “Why did your DPC Practice Fail?” … the answers were not terribly surprising. Important conclusions came about however. Interestingly enough, nearly 60% of those former DPC Doctors interviewed and surveyed noted that “lack of interested patients” was much to difficult to overcome AND, second “my rural demographics couldn’t support it.” Followed in third place was “lack of business acumen”.

In conclusion, they all concurred that there is more to success in DPC than just having patients sign-up, exchange cell phone numbers, run a few tests, say you are going to provide same-day appointments, auto-pay and subscribe. There are critical business lessons that should be learned outside of DPC and inside today’s subscription business model culture that you should really investigate further. 

One of the riskiest times for any business especially those in the direct-pay, private medical marketplace is when it first opens. In the first two years, three of every ten start ups go out of business according to the US SBA. In the past few years of polling our DPC Physician readers we also found that over 10% of doctors starting a cash-based practice go out of business in the first two years also. And while the US SBA also claims that by five years, half those start ups are history, the direct primary care (DPC) industry is still so new, we still cannot confirm that this statistic applies with much certainty.

It is certainly easy to get feelings hurt at this point in the story and walk away. I can understand that. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“I finally brought my idea to life. The smiles on the patients’ faces say it all. It’s why all the hours and stress of innovation are worth it …” ~E.C.T., MD, MPH

So here’s what the polling and trend lines tells us, nothing is FOR EVERYONE. If you’ve discovered that secret, you wouldn’t be reading this because you would have retired early and started writing a book about it.

Did you know that a Physician, regardless of whether or not they are in Direct Primary Care or not, will usually attract a patient-base of clientele between 10 plus and minus years of their own age? Yes, it’s true. If you were to pull the dates of birth from your active patient panel from the past 12-18 months, it is likely that 70%-85% of your patients are within the same age as you. That’s called segmenting your audience. It’s a marketing expression. When we are asked by Physicians who are curious about this space, it’s opportunities and challenges, we know from the stories of the past that patient acquisition is a huge boulder to push up the so-called DPC mountain to ultimate sustainability.

(C) 2018 | The DPC Journal

There obviously is a lot of topics to consider at any event or medical conference. It is important to remember that some of the best content and education at events will come from some of the more unlikely sources.

For example, did you know that nearly 40% of DPC doctors polled by The DPC Journal in 2015 said they “plan to partner” with employers but said they have “no strategy” to do so? Fast forward (e.g. 2018), the same question asked today yielded relatively the same results but with more Doctors in DPC saying they have no strategy or have decide to focus entirely on the individuals in their community to accomplish a rise in revenue in their DPC practice.

The DPC2B topic we’ve been talking about for the past year is a really important component to the scalability of DPC. Larger DPC facilities have already made the shift and have more than a half-dozen locations throughout a particular metropolitan area. They are looking at proformas, analyzing employer needs realizing they must focus less and less on individual consumer, walk-in and one-time referral memberships. Think of it this way: connecting employees, their kids and teenagers to a consistent doctor who believes in prevention and also believes in saving employer healthcare costs is something the DPC community can do that nothing else in our current healthcare culture does.

The DocPreneur | Business Podcast — SUMMERY 2018 | DPC2B | How Doctors Partner With Employers in the DPC Space


8. Who will you learn from and who currently understands and operates in these areas is critical to your individual success?

For example, are you thinking about:

  • the transition;
  • your realestate footprint;
  • funding sources;
  • the consultants you need to work with;
  • legal underwriting work;
  • the individual patients impacted;
  • the Health Insurance Marketplace;
  • Medicaid;
  • Medicare participation;
  • tiered payment model for employers, depending on the needs of employees; and not to mention, many larger DPC offices are making the exit from individual memberships to meet the needs of local companies with questions about how to tie together new health care innovations that are cropping up in hospitals and primary care settings.

(Story continued below …)

9. Be Intentional With Your Questions.

A Patient will expect more and more from their Physician in the months to come. Recently, several patients in a hospital telemedicine program rated videoconferencing more personal than an actual bedside visit by a physician. Why? Because the physicians being beamed in to the room were focused, undistracted by phone calls or pagers, and not in a hurry to complete their rounds.

“Wise physicians will take heed,” says one consultant we interviewed for this story and is currently helping Physicians examine their options inside the free market healthcare delivery space. “With rising consumerism and transparency in healthcare, competition is rising, too. The most engaged and engaging physicians will be the winners.”

10. Know When You Are In The Minority, Even When You Know Your Are Right.

“The best way to find out whether you are on  the right path? Stop looking at the path.”  ~Marcus Buckingham

Regardless of your stance on this that and the other, political persuasion or even provider rankings and online patient reviews, one thing is certain: To a Patient, price is important, but it’s not THE MOST important. Relationship is!

This statement is counter-cultural to what you might believe, but that’s just the plain and simple truth right from the mouths and keyboards of thousands of people who are searching for a Doctor like you, right now in our communities and suburbs. You might disagree and that is fine. To prove my point, lets ask a question? Why do so many people live beyond their means? Why do so many live paycheck to paycheck? Why do we have segments of our population with little to now job skills with the latest technology, iPhones and devices? People want what they want and they are willing to pay for it. Service matters and relationship trumps price.

11. For residents, students, and young physicians, or if you’re under 49 years old — essentially, young enough to be considering DPC as a career option, understand that the pathway before you is full of both successes and failures. In fact, in a 2016 DPC Journal poll conducted from 2014-2016, those physicians (both young and old) that have “been there, done that …” were evenly split, 50/50 on why or why not residents should enter DPC right away.

Fast-forward to 2018, a new crop of DPC Journal readers are saying the exact same thing today.

Another point, 67% of DPC physicians polled from 2013 to December 2015 noted that they went into debt to startup a DPC practice. Fast-forward to present day (e.g. May 2018), nearly 58% of DPC Physicians polled in 2018 alone noted they went into debt to startup their DPC practice at an average of $92,083.33 per practice.

If you’re considering taking on additional debt, talk with at least nine (9) individual physicians [in DPC] and consider their experience and advice carefully. ~DPC Journal, May 2018

anatomy-of-a-dpc-doctor-dpc-journal-2016_LOWRES-If you’re in another category entirely, you’ve most likely attained a level of stature and a good reputation in your community as a physician. Most of you reading this, probably fit into this category. Here are some other considerations for you to consider while you are mingling and learning at these events in the upcoming months.

  • 20% of DPC physicians who told The DPC Journal that they had to close their practice said it was due to: “My Rural Demographic(s) Couldn’t Support It.” 30% said it was because of “Lack of Interested Patients,” and 15% said it was because of “Bad Judgement/Bad Advice I received from a colleague who was already doing it.”

12. Remember at events, you are always in learning mode.

Regardless of your situation, its you and your spouse who have to shoulder the wins and losses, so get many opinions, do proformas and fight the battle on paper first.

Be mindful that not everyone at a conference or event is an expert, even if they are at the podium. And, not everyone who is invited to speak on a podium should. Use your own gut feelings and discernment before you sign up for anything. “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.”

13. A napkin is not a business plan.

14. Have fun and be creative.

Subscription-based Medical Care, which can include DPC, is a relatively new, fun and free market delivery innovation. In fact, physician satisfaction in DPC’s familial membership medicine business model, Concierge Medicine, is over 96%. Physician satisfaction scores even in DPC are still too young to determine, but we at The DPC Journal see no reason why after year 3 that your career satisfaction levels in DPC shouldn’t be just as positive.

Much like the popularity of other service subscriptions in the marketplace like Prime, Netflix or Costco, Subscription-based medical care performs the functions of several different services. For patients, it provides a fair amount of selection, cost-saving deals, family discounts, and its ultimately up to you to decide each month, quarter or year if you want to keep the same doctor. It puts the patient in control and tells them how much it costs. Look for more subscription-based telehealth services from doctors, PAs and NPs in the months to come. The growth of retail clinics, the public acceptance of telemedicine, the large-scale employment of physicians by hospitals to develop Concierge Medicine Programs and the accelerated operational improvement inside more and more local DPC practices will set many physicians and healthcare professionals onto the right path for a fulfilling career in medicine.

15. Finally, and this is the best one of all … ‘Never eat lunch alone …’

This is pretty self-explanatory. 🙂

So how can you maximize your time and soak-in as much as you can from these various gatherings of professionals? Here are two more BONUS suggestions we recommend you consider:

  • Be ‘that guy/girl!’ You know who we’re talking about. The person who seems to try everything and talk to everyone. To be “that guy/girl”, stay mentally active during the event. Take a walk around the venue, talk with every exhibitor at the hotel, mingle the coffee and vendor areas. Try new activities and participate in the demonstrations. Take their literature back to your room and before you check-out, leave the literature and materials your not interested in inside your hotel waste basket. That’s how professional networks do it and you should to!
  • Ask questions, lots of them! Think “How?” or “Why?” vs. “Can’t” or “Why not.”

We’ve found after years of talking with physicians one-on-one, and at various events, that if you want to be successful in this space, you need to have intentional relationships with other people who have the same goal. Conferences are an ideal place for that. Do you have some tips you’d like to share, email us, call us or leave them in the comments section below or on our LinkedIn or Facebook page.

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