Editor: “DPC Isn’t Perfect. But that’s not the point. The goal is progress, not perfection. The Patient Survey data from the past two years is informing us that Patients expect more from the Doctor-Patient relationship. And, they should. They deserve it. It’s the right thing to do … but discounting doesn’t grow margins like purpose does. Remember that.”
By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief
Once something becomes familiar, it’s human nature to lose our eye for the details. It can be a very big deal for the Membership Medicine Physician community at-large. As you know, running a Membership Medicine practice and/or program requires you maintain highly competitive service offerings and fees to keep hold of your market share.
One of our mentors and business advisors around here, Jeff Henderson and fellow author recently wrote “Winning organizations of tomorrow will be more concerned with becoming fans of their customers instead of convincing customers to become fans of the organization.”
He also went onto write “If a business was a person, many businesses would be considered narcissists. And narcissism is bad for business.”
We see this a lot in healthcare environments and medical practices though don’t we? Just look at a clinics social media page(s). They’re usually littered with “Look at me! Look at us! We’re amazing!” posts.
What we have observed in both DPC, Concierge Medicine, retail healthcare and telehealth over the past decade or more is that the customer, (eg Patient) is the focus, not the practice. When you talk more, thank, interact and show more appreciation for the Patient than you do the business, the Patient talks more about the business.
And that’s the secret sauce every Doctor I talk to says they want.
The coveted, mysterious ‘Word of mouth referral.’
But how do you get ’em?
What’s the secret?
What’s the formula?
Who’s cracked the code? And if they did, should I be skeptical that it will actually work for me?
First, let’s clear the air, particularly when it comes to Direct Primary Care (DPC).
Discounting your fees doesn’t grow a DPC practice or program. Purpose grows a DPC practice and program.
There shouldn’t be a race to the bottom, which we see is often the case in DPC.
Low cost services are great, don’t get me wrong. Hospital facility fees and surprise medical bills are completely out of hand here in the U.S. I know, I just got an out-patient surgery bill and it was nearly $30,000.
But Physician’s today are worth far more than they are being told or even taught.
According to surveys and interviews with Physicians and Patients from 2007 to present day, the private physician community over a period of about 5 years … the observation and trend lines we’re seeing appear to tell us that patients will typically retain their membership at a subscription-based medical practice 2 years longer than a traditional primary care practice.
There’s certainly more study and data that needs to be unpacked on this one … but being the Editor or four subscription-based healthcare delivery trade publications for the past 15+ years, we’re starting to see some encouraging signs.
Meaning, most Subscription-based Doctors Offices, (Eg. Concierge Medicine, DPC, etc) can retain a patients loyalty for about 7-9 years, compared with 5-7 years at a non-membership offering primary care or family medical practice.
There’s room for improvement, but the goal isn’t perfection. The goal is progress.
That’s insightful data when you look into (above).
These trends should strike a note with you.
If patients stop coming to your practice, or stop calling, it’s important to remember they usually have other options they can find from other clinics, centers and doctors in your local area.
The little things matter.
I often say, “I’m not a Physician, but I am a Patient. So, I know what it’s like to sit on the other side of you in the exam room.”
And let me tell you, it’s not always great. It’s rough out there.
We can’t say that DPC or Concierge Medical practices have it altogether either, because perfection doesn’t exist.
So what can you do to keep your medical practice running at its best?
Sometimes, you need to look at your medical practice with a fresh pair of eyes – yours, and your staff’s.
Here’s how you can audit your practice and see what your patients see.
Do Not Audit Your Medical Practice By Thinking You Can Become the Customer.
You will never get an accurate perspective of patient relations and customer service if your the boss and asking your staff to ‘act like normal.’
The key to this approach is to ask a trusted advisor to be you’re a first-time patient, even an out-of-town consultant you trust.
Next, approach the front desk [if applicable] and pay attention to the staff (or the primary point of contact for newly arriving patients) non-verbals, smiles and reactions.
Are they friendly and eager to help?
Are they on the phone, a personal call or continue to remain on the phone after you’ve arrived?
How do they interact with other staff or your family you may have brought with you?
Is the paperwork they ask you to complete explained simply and clearly?
Is this the first impression you want patients to have?
Remember, these people represent your practice, your treatment and care, your livelihood, your reputation and yes, YOU!. They will deal with virtually your entire patient-customer base. Yes, I said customers.
Good communication skills and intrapersonal skills among your staff are a must.
Do these devices get regularly updated and cleaned? #germs
Apple advises that fans of its products do not use alcohol-based cleaners on iPhones or iPads.
Another way to keep your gadgets clean is to keep your hands clean.
Ardis Dee Hoven, a member of the American Medical Association’s board of trustees, told US News and World Report that carrying portable hand sanitizers and using them regularly may also be useful.
If you’re worried about your keyboard and phone, Hoven also recommends wiping them down with a bleach solution from time to time, but be careful to not get moisture in any openings or ports.
Pull up your Medical Practice Website.
Does it need a fresh look?
Does it load completely within 3-5 seconds? Patience is a virtue, but for many, it is often a difficult concept to practice. That is especially true for web users visiting a website that takes a long time to load. Are the services and special offers still valid that your advertising? Does it work as well on mobile devices as it does on a PC or laptop? Any problems in these areas can lead to losing new patients and existing ones too.
Audit Your Medical Practice With Your Staff
Your eyes shouldn’t be the only set of eyes involved in this exercise.
Enlist the help of your staff. Have your staff experience the practice as patients and give you their input. In particular, get the nurses or PAs out of the back office and into the front office and vice-versa as observers. Having the total experience, from start to finish, can spur creativity and help fine-tune your operations.
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