By now, you’ve met both acceptance and resistance with the subscription or membership fee you’re trying to sell in DPC. How do you reconcile more current Patients talking about your practice but naturally builds more new patient referrals? How do you make the dots connect each day?
By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief
Over the past decade now we’ve talked with hundreds of Physicians and published thousands of articles (SERIOUSLY, NO JOKE) for both the curious and already well-into their Direct Primary Care (herein DPC) Physician careers.
While DPC today is vehemently independent of insurance, evangelistically outspoken in their critique of “the system” and its unfair treatment of Physicians [and Patients — but usually the blogs lean towards Physician stories], there is a business side to this narrative that ultimately impacts your very own bottom line. That being, how DPC today specifically benefits the unique needs of your unique Patient population in your own community.
Meaning, how is it cost effective to consumers at-large (eg. Patients)? What makes this medical practice delivery model more unique (not better) than the Urgent Care Clinic in your local community? The traditional primary care office? And, the transparent retail healthcare clinics options available to your local patient population?
Let’s hit “Pause” for a moment.
Why did I insert the two words, not better?
Well, when you equate better with your service, there are inherent expectations you must now live up to, immediately.
We’ve all made assumptions. About products, companies, hospitals, services, etc?
And what happens usually when you make assumptions? [rhetorical :)]
You’ve made a marketing and business statement by using this one word, better. Which may hold water in your opinion, but it is still up to the Patient to determine whether or not your medical practice, your environment, your staff and your time are truly deserving of this unique and glorious word better. Patients today as you well know and have seen are constantly measuring up you and your service(s) up to what they’ve received in the past. Good and bad.
Using this one word better, can put you in a one-sided position whereby you’ve already set up an expectation in the mind of your consumer (eg new Patient) that you will exceed all of their expectations. However, you and I both know that the next Patient could be one of those challenging, unforgiving, never quite satisfied Patients that has a low-tolerance for almost everything related to the patient-physician experience.
You simply cannot please everyone. DPC as good as its value proposition is on your own web site cannot please everyone. So, please be careful when throwing this word around in DPC, that’s all I’m saying.
I think there might even be some laws, rules and regulations about this too! Check with your attorney about your advertising and watch what you say. (Note, this is not legal advice, just opinion/observation).
Back on point.
The fact is Patients, People, Physicians, we’re all berated today with “options” in healthcare.
Some are great. Some are not.
You may truly believe your DPC model is better than your competitors (and yes, you do have competitors), albeit not in the places you traditionally think of, but that’s a story we’ve written about a few weeks ago and continue to track along with each month (eg Retail Healthcare and DPC: Can They Compete).
Let me ask you a question.
Does the ER Physician’s career or pediatricians hard work to treat and care for his/her Patients negate the time, sweat, tears, money and energy they’ve spent dedicated to their community of Patients, make them any less important than a DPC Physician’s model? [Rhetorical]
While I’m the first one to say DPC is a great model, I also believe it’s narrative and benefits are more beneficial to our communities at-large than we realize, but I feel we have a long way to go yet. There’s still some maturing that needs to happen and voices that should really be more open-minded and positive about what’s happening in healthcare that brings the Patient-Physician closer together, but outside of a DPC model as well. And, you know as well as I do, the data, actuarial tables and so on, are just starting to tease this out … and that needs to continue and is a fantastic thing.
I truly think DPC has more potential than it realizes for the future of our local communities. However, today, we still have to help more Doctors move into it and thrive in the years ahead without putting DPC on a pedestal so high that makes it sound more superior and negates the efforts of colleagues and others outside of DPC who are working just as hard in medicine, if not harder, to help Patients.
The fact of the matter is, no one Patient wants to be sold. They want to be inspired by their Physician. They want to feel encouraged. We’ve written for years on the fact that just like when Mom and Dad say “no” to a child, words have power. They carry weight.
We’ve often said “Five words from you, mean more than fifty words about you.”
Imagine if your Physician complimented your weight loss? Imagine if they noticed your cholesterol levels dropped and made a big deal about it in their visit with you?
Patients want to feel important in your eyes. They want to feel cared for and you want them to ultimately buy your subscription, right?
But, you were not trained to sell. You were trained to care.
As an independent observer of this space for quite sometime now, many DPC Physicians and their teams may do well caring but they stumble and struggle we observe to “sell” the subscription to Patients. They rely on old, outdated, evangelistic statements that appeal to Physicians but are quite unappealing at times to some Patients bumping into the DPC model for the first time.
For example, a fifteen minute conversation knee cap to knee cap about how evil the health insurance company is may appeal to a few folks out there. Bear in mind, the evil health insurance conversation can backfire too … making the prospective Patient feel silly for even having it for their family. That’s not a good feeling if you’re trying to get a customer/patient to buy something from you AND, keep them coming back for more.
Another example, one Physician wrote his Patients a three and a half page letter about why he was moving into a DPC delivery model. He received a lot of questions as you would expect and plenty of people actually ended up leaving the practice. How many Patients do you think read the entire single spaced, three and a half page letter that talked about how frustrating being a Physician was today? [Rhetorical]
We find today that DPC Physicians are not well-supported when they’re in their own death spiral and/or facing financial difficulties and potential closure in the months or weeks ahead of them. Pride often fills the emptiness they have and many Physicians we’ve talked to over the years who’ve closed their DPC model feel like asking for help to grow their business/practice is the same as failing.
One of the common mistakes we see is only listening to the collegial voices Physicians have in their own life. The same colleague who is also probably facing some sort of financial subscription strain is now called upon to help the struggling Physician friend/colleague … when both received the same amount of medical education credit hours but very little (and I mean very little) business education on how to grow, market and build a practice/business. These collegial voices, while encouraging, are often sought as the gospel on how to build a better DPC business for the same reason administrators at hospitals are never sought after voices to get good business advice.
“I don’t want a non-clinician telling me how to run my practice or treat patients,” says one DPC Physician whom we interviewed for this story from the west coast. Where Do You See DPC Moving Into 2021 and Beyond?More transactional care, departure from subscriptions.Nothing.I hope there will be more openings in suburban areas.I’m concerned some DPC legislation is not in best interests of everyone.I hope DPC Doctors Can Work/Partner With More Businesses to Save HC Costs.It’s our [DPC] way or the highway.Creation of DPC Networks for Employer Use (sim. to MCOs).It’s a very “young” community of DoctorsMore annual retainers vs. monthly due to transient care needs.I don’t feel part of or identify with the DPC community because of certain viewpoints and their negative opinions.I hope there will be more openings in rural areas.More advanced testing/screenings offered for cash prices.It’s polite, empathetic and compassionate.HSA & FSA Integration.Some are brash, use colorful and unflattering language and are quick to be offended.I don’t think some will make it … like we’re already observing.Less Moonlighting and More Patients Will Join These Programs.More Telehealth/Mobile Visits.
While I am all for those voices in clinical practice giving their colleagues solicited and unsolicited business advice, it is wise according to most “successful” DPC Doctors, to seek the advice of multiple peers both inside and outside of the DPC space. Then, at the end of the day, make objective, unbiased wiser decisions armed with all the facts and figures that you feel will work for your situation.
You’ll do better and probably feel better too.
Back on point though.
You as a Physician and your DPC office team unfortunately may struggle to make the “sale” and end up leaving a great subscription model in your past because you just couldn’t quite connect the benefits of what you do each day with the value of having a Patient (a person) subscribe to it and give you their money.
Selling has negative connotations of pushy salespeople.
It’s even worse as you well know if you’re a Physician pushing or persuading a Patient to buy something or subscribe to a program.
After all, you’re taught “do no harm.” Some would make the case in DPC that this also means do no financial harm as well. Great points.
Some academics teaching our rising residents and future Physicians that making no money at all as a Physician is a badge of honor. So much so, it has ended years later with Physicians having mountains of debt they must repay and no business acumen to shovel the debt away.
Unfortunately one of the easiest strategies to increase DPC subscriptions, suggestive selling, isn’t taught in medical school and has been abandoned by many Physicians entirely because of lack of knowledge about its benefits. Today we’ll discuss how to use of “suggestive selling” to build your all-important DPC bottom line and increase patient panel membership. Something just about every DPC Physician we’ve ever met needs. In fact, did you know that over 95% of DPC Journal readers surveyed over the past four years (to present) still tell us that they need between 150-500 or more patients to have full patient panels?
3 Key Strategies and Tips
1.Give Them A Reason Why
Why should I buy from you? And despite the years of hard work, labor and money, the degree on the wall is not the reason. Why should I take your suggestion to come meet your staff and see your medical practice? Is it really that well-designed and impressive? If a photo of your exam room, hallway or bathroom was posted to a Patients social media feed, would it be embarrassing or a moment of pride? Is the building and artwork on your walls truly unique? Did a Patient paint them? Is your time with me really 30, 45 or 60-minutes?
There’s nothing worse than over-promising and under-delivering, especially when it comes to our Physician and healthcare experience.
Patient Burnout is far to prevalent. Yes, I said Patient Burnout. It’s a term we’ve been using to help Physicians understand what it’s like to sit on the other side of you in your exam room. And, the data proves this out as well to be true. Nearly 80% of prospective patients (not currently enrolled in a subscription-based medical practice/program), but whom are considering joining one of these practices in the next 3 to 12 mos. tell The DPC Journal that they “Do now Know, Like or Trust” their Doctor.
That’s a big deal. In fact, that’s a really big deal. That’s also a lot of pressure, for you!
You have big shoes to fill, so impress them. Give them a reason to remember you. Truett Cathy, the Founder of Chick-fil-A once said “The universal sign that someone needs encouragement is … if they are breathing.”
Give me a reason why I should tell my friends, my family about you and your DPC practice. Give me a reason why you’re “worth it.” Because as you know, while the degree on the wall matters in the end, the smile from your staff and your time spent with me in the exam room are what keep me paying your subscription fee and coming back.
Impress me. Because, in today’s culture, very little about healthcare is impressing patients. Don’t believe me? Let the patient survey data do the talking here.
2. Avoid Negativity
No one knows or can tell your story as well as you can. But, no Patient wants to hear your negative experiences with hospitals, bitter contempt for payors, twitter rants or read a 15-paragraph blog on your web site about why you left your last three medical positions. It’s not that Patients don’t care, but they just don’t have time to hear your story or woes. There’s too much happening in their own lives and this story is noise they simply don’t have time to listen to. It’s not fair, but it’s true. Especially since the majority of patient (eg 80% according to The DPC Journal) are within 10+/- years of your current age.
Instead, when you tell your story, remain positive. Don’t demean any provider, facility, payor, alternative model, colleague, specialty or different way of doing healthcare. Patients may have had great experiences at a former practice. When you tell your story, the story of your practice, suggest how you have enhanced the patient experience. Tell them about your friendly staff member and how you love to play a particular sport or activity. We talk more about “Social Prescribing of Your Doctor-Patient” in another article. Click here to read more about how Physicians are using their hobbies to develop closer connections with their Patients. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
3. Sell Specifics
You’d think DPC would sell itself, right? Well, sometimes it does. But, the demography, the geography and the Physician matter too. Price to high and you attract another level of Patient. Price too low and you attract another audience of Patients. Price just right and you risk questions you must answer over and over, right?
By now, you’ve met both acceptance and resistance with the subscription or membership fee you’re trying to sell. How do you get more current Patients talking about your practice that naturally builds more new patient referrals?
The mental picture of wasting 90-minutes with a Patient who will cancel their membership with you in three months, responding to heavy-handed questions they have so they can save a few bucks with you vs. elsewhere can be scary for any DPC practice/owner.
“Would you like a no-wait, family friendly medical practice environment you can take your kids to?” “Would you like coffee with your Physician-Patient visit?”, or, “You should join my practice … because we’re really great and we don’t take insurance.”
Now which phrase would get you to buy or lean-in for more information if you were a prospective Patient?
Probably not the last one, right?
Patients want and need specifics. As a communicator and author, we call them “handles”. What do you want your new Patient to “Think, feel and do” when they leave your office? What will stick with them?
Have any additional suggestive selling tips for other DPC Physicians? We’d love to hear them. You can share your ideas in the comment section, our DocPreneur Leadership Academy or social media.
Have a fantastic day!
Categories: DPC News