By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief
APRIL/MAY 2018 –So here’s what the data 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.
I recently spoke with a long-time DPC Doctor and we love to solve the problems of healthcare together, like so many of you. We came to one conclusion that may resonate with some of you …. “You will become who the people closest to you say you are. It’s easy to agree with people we like. But how are Doctors treating the people they disagree with most? You can know someone’s heart if you see how they treat the people that creep them out. For some, that is the insurance company, the hospital, etc. Is it going to be hard, you bet.”
Huh, food for thought, eh? (says the northerner in me. :))
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.
What we learned last year and unpacked this year [e.g. 2018] is that The DPC Journal surveyed over 1,100 actively seeking patients from across the U.S. in 2017 and asked them about their overall ‘faith’ in a general Physician in today’s healthcare marketplace. Nearly 60% of those participants surveyed said ‘If DPC was not an option, they would NOT select an M.D. for their next primary care visit. 34% said they would prefer to see a Doctor of Osteopathic (D.O.) Medicine; 14% would prefer to see a Nurse Practitioner (N.P.) and 7% would prefer to see a Physicians Assistant (P.A.).
“There is a mystique, a temperament and a curious fascination about Doctors who spend an inordinate amount of time with their patients. It’s so simple, it’s weird. And today, like it or not, a Patient wants and deserves your time and attention. That’s why they pay the subscription, keep calling you and keep texting you. They want and expect that their Doctor will be ‘present’ and ‘mentally’ dialed-in. We’re hearing routinely that they will leave your [DPC] practice in a matter of weeks if they feel they are not a priority. That’s not fair, but it’s true … While the human spirit is willing to forgive your colleagues for long wait times, errors, staffing, etc., Patients will remember and share what their last Doctor’s office visit was like.” said Michael Tetreault, Editor of CMT/The DPC Journal.
If you have made it past year one in Direct Primary Care, this article is for you.
Today, I want to talk to the veteran “DocPreneurs” and Physicians who seem to struggle with likability and sometimes, take things “personally.”
I want to talk about setting the tone for your practice and that means “keeping your practice as unique as you are …”
It is easy to get our feelings hurt when someone walks away. But here’s two little known secrets some of the veterans in the space as well as in Concierge Medicine have shared over and over throughout years.
- Give yourself a raise each and every year.
Now, you might say that’s selfish. And, that’s okay. That is your opinion. But, I am just the messenger here. I’m telling you that this is one of those successful tasks that both DPC and successful Concierge Medicine doctors do each year. It’s important.
Hopefully, this is a message that resonates for a few of you.
2. To a Patient, price is important, but it’s not THE MOST important. Relationship is!
I certainly know of a few who may argue with this point. And, in their segmented audience, that might be true. But, human nature will ultimately find a way to get that latest iPhone or car they’ve been eyeing, even if they cannot afford it.
“We took our survey a step further in January of 2018 and began to ask prospective patients seeking care from a subscription-based healthcare provider [e.g. DPC alone] across the U.S. to choose ‘Cost’ or ‘Convenience’ over ‘Friendship’ with a Doctor they know, like and can trust. Early findings from this survey are telling us that 62% of Patients want and choose … ‘Friendship with a Physician they can get to know, like and want to trust!’
“Sometimes you just need a trusted person with more knowledge than myself to guide my decision making,” said a Millennial Patient from Goose Creek, SC.
In Contrast, when Physicians are asked the same question, they ranked what they considered most important to their Patient which was Cost as most important (e.g. 46%) followed closely by Finding A Doctor I Know Like & Can Trust (e.g. 42%).
“I like the concept and I am having to leave my DPC physician I am with now,” said a Gen-Xer in our survey response.
Okay, so let’s unpack an old business principle and make it new for just a moment.
NOT EVERYBODY LIKES YOU, And That’s OKAY.
As you know, one of our favorite authors around here at The Direct Primary Care Journal and our sister publication, CMT CANADA and Concierge Medicine Today is an author by the name of Jon Acuff. He had this to say recently… When we think about our businesses, we dream about reaching everyone. When you ask an author, “Who is your book for?” they often reply, “Everyone!”
Okay, let’s STOP right there. Push the PAUSE button because here’s the takeaway.
The author continued to explain … We tend to think biggest is best and 0.1% feels a bit like a failure.
Wow! Let that wash over you for just a minute.
One thing I’ve observed about DPC Physicians in the past dozen or so years is that few tend to think biggest is best and 0.1% feels a bit like a failure.
This is an amazing entrepreneurial quality. And, notice I said “FEW” and not “many” or “most.”
I think this sentiment is perfect for physicians and more specifically, those in DPC and other forms of Private and Direct, Membership Medicine, including the many forms of Direct Primary Care as well. I’m not talking either about reaching the 0.1% demographically either. This has nothing to do with salaries or earned income or the wealthy. It’s about knowing who is attracted to your service, what they are willing to pay for it and is your practice operating as a business, not a charity and focusing on what it delivers that is truly unique for your community.
For example, when you started your practice, you had a particular patient in mind and a relatively good idea of who was going to be attracted to your practice. That’s what I want to zero-in on … what makes you and your practice truly unique. Another way to say it is … your USP or Unique Selling Point. That USP isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Remember that.
- When we think about “MY PRACTICE NAME,” [INSERT YOUR PRACTICE or NAME HERE] we dream about reaching “everyone.” When you ask a doctor, “Who is your practice for?” they often reply, “Everyone!”
- BUT REMEMBER … What you are creating is NOT actually for everyone. For example, not everyone uses UPS. Fed-Ex is out there too! And that’s okay! It’s not about rich vs. poor or even out of pocket dollars vs. insurance. It’s not about elitism either, It’s about priorities in the eyes of your community. When you build a business, you build it with an audience in-mind. Lets revisit a thought once again. Why is it someone you know has a new iPhone and a nice new car, they probably can’t afford? And why is it, they didn’t join your practice? It’s not always about price. In fact, in most cases, it isn’t, at least according to the thousands of patients we’ve surveyed. It is about perceived value in the eyes of the buyer and his/her priorities.
I love this quote from a Physician recently where she said … “People ask, ‘Why would I pay far and above?’ Well, ‘Why did you spend $150 on a haircut that you could’ve gotten at Cuts 4 Less for $25?”
As great of an idea as the automobile was, FORD isn’t the only thing people drive 100 years later. We can sometimes forget this when we think about growing a business or you re-center and meet with your staff for weekly or monthly staff meetings. It’s glaringly obvious when you walk out the door of your practice and something we don’t really even think about that often. Remember, your practice is a part of the big picture. It is one unique branch or stem, different from the others yet part of a larger and growing dynamic in your community. You are part of the Free Market Healthcare Delivery Family Tree and not everyone wants to branch out that far. Some do. In fact, many will. But not everyone, and it’s not your fault.
What you are personally creating in your LOCAL 0-9 mile radius around your medical practice is today, truly designed for a very small amount of people. I may be offending some by saying that, but that is today, the reality of our marketplace. It will grow. In fact, it is growing.
We haven’t arrived yet, the brand and concept of DPC is still building. We’re all going to get to the starting line at different times, and that’s going to be something beautiful.
So, when you find the right ones [e.g. a happy patient], the patient who loves what you are selling, they will LOVE what you are going to do for them and their health. Successful organizations outside of DPC know this. They don’t simply make customers consumers of their service, they make them participants. According to the hundreds and hundreds of successful physician stories that we’ve written over the years, that is what one of the many strategies that makes any medical practice successful.
Here’s what you can do today.
Focus on those who KNOW, LIKE and TRUST YOU around you! Businesses aren’t easy. Diets aren’t easy. The good stuff is always the hard stuff. (I don’t know who said that … but I think it’s catchy and you should start saying it to patients …) lol
This doesn’t mean the hard stuff can’t be fun.
Of the countless DPC Physicians we speak with each week I know most, are having a lot more fun. Are you???!!!
Finally, I’ll leave you with this … Great business people and I’d now argue, great Doctors know that “you just need to be a superstar in your own backyard …” and you accomplish that by focusing on your strengths and finding people who want to come along for the ride. Not everyone will want to join you along the journey. If too many people do … that’s actually, when you raise the fare and see who still believes in your mission!
More good things are in store for DPC and for you in the weeks, months and years ahead!
PS | “Remember, if your practice is about super-servanthood, YOU have NOTHING to apologize for.”