September 2012

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September 2012

September 2012

Are False Assumptions Killing Your Practice?

 The healthcare business is full of assumptions. Doctors assume that their skills and credentials are enough to open and sustain a practice. They assume that office managers can run their practices while doctors deliver patient care. They assume that they only earn income by seeing patients. And they assume that they can attract patients, referrals and higher income by avoiding marketing. It’s a recipe for disaster!

Don’t abdicate your responsibilities
Physician/owners abdicate their financial and administrative responsibilities to office managers and staff. But the vision and strategies required for long-term success of the practice can only come from the practice owner. The rule of thumb, as in any small business, is that no employee should have the power to derail the practice.

Seeing patients is just one way to generate income
Doctors are not taught basic business operational skills or strategies in medical school. The thought of devoting one-third of their time to running a small business – which every practice is – is difficult to comprehend because they assume they only make money when seeing patients. They don’t understand that smart business, strategic thinking and savvy marketing also contribute to sustainable incomes – not just seeing so many patients daily.

Skills and credentials are enough to create viable businesses

Too many experts with skills and credentials start healthcare practices – small businesses by assuming their skills are in demand. While that may be true in healthcare, it is still not nearly enough to open a practice without also knowing how to run a small business.

Doing nothing is a horrible strategy

Yet, that’s exactly the chosen strategy for many physicians today. Because of the uncertain future of “Obamacare” and the national economy, most doctors have adopted a “wait and see” strategy and continue to do what they have always done. They live on the hope that things will just magically get better or that new patients will simply beat a path to their doors. Or new sources of income will miraculously fall into their laps.

Marketing is a waste of time and money

Practices that don’t do any marketing don’t get any new patients, referrals or new sources of income. They don’t understand that marketing is not optional. Marketing is a necessary component of running every single business entity. Physicians who eschew marketing will watch and fret as their practices plateau and then stagnate until they die a slow, painful death.

Physicians don’t understand that business success is intentional, not accidental. That’s why eighty percent of new businesses – including healthcare practices – fail. Their owners do not take the steps necessary to develop a sound business plan and implement growth strategies correctly. If physicians do not want the decision-making and responsibilities that go along with running any small business, they should not open any medical practice.

There are many reasons why physicians go into medicine and then private practice. But when their personal goals are derailed by the realities of running a healthcare practice, they feel tremendous frustration. If they don’t replace their false assumptions with good basic business training – especially in a rapidly changing healthcare environment – they are dooming themselves to business and practice failure.

A little advice that could make a big difference

If you intend to practice for at least five more years and you own a practice or part of a practice, or intend to invest in a practice, then you should seek professional business training. If you can’t make time for that and the very idea makes you feel ill, then hire a competent business/practice manager to implement your vision and your practice goals for you. Make that person accountable and offer performance incentives to ensure that the practice goals are met.

The other alternative is to work for someone else as a salaried employee. It will remove most of the risks of running your own business, but it will also remove most of the rewards.

If you want to remain in private practice and do none of the above, you should – at the very least – hire an established and reputable company to help you attract new patients, protect your reputation, reach a greater online audience and increase your income. Since 1979, Practice Builders has helped over 15,000 healthcare practices reach their goals. Today, Practice Builders can help your practice, too.

Online Reputation Assessment

Get More Referrals From Your Patients

Almost every healthcare practitioner wants more referrals, whether from their peers or their patients. In terms of sheer numbers, it makes sense to focus on your patients first. With spheres of influence that extend outward to their families, friends, co-workers and colleagues, your patients are a goldmine of potential referrals. And to make soliciting referrals even easier, you often see them regularly…

The single most effective way to increase referrals from your current patients doesn’t cost you a dime. All you have to do is ask for them. But if you are like most healthcare practitioners, you are uncomfortable with the whole notion of asking patients for referrals (or AFR, as we like to call it). You probably believe that asking makes you seem needy or greedy or unprofessional, so you simply avoid it entirely.

We want to help you avoid that “needy-greedy-unprofessional” feeling. Why? Because AFR is a potentially huge source of revenue for your practice, not to mention continued goodwill between you and your patients.

You don’t have to “sell” anything.

First, you have to dispel the idea that you are trying to “sell” your patients on giving you referrals. In reality, you are not selling them anything. All you are trying to do is help as many people as possible. That’s why you went into healthcare and private practice – whether you are a medical specialist, a dentist, an orthodontist, a physical therapist or a veterinarian.

Timing is critical.

Of course, timing is critical. The best time to AFR is when a patient thanks you for fixing a broken bone, relieving their pain or helping them improve their quality of life. At that moment, they’re giving you an open invitation to ask for a referral. Instead of just smiling politely and thanking them, this is your perfect opportunity to say something like:

“I really appreciate hearing that, Mrs. /Miss/Mr. Jones. I joined this profession so I could help as many people as possible. If you know someone – a family member, friend, co-worker or business colleague – with a similar problem, please have them call my office so I can help them, too.”

It’s that simple. You have expressed your appreciation and enlisted their help in the patient-to-patient referral process. You have achieved the objective without appearing needy, greedy or unprofessional. And you’ve created some additional goodwill between you and your valued patient.

What if the patient shares appreciation with your office staff instead of you?

If for some reason the patient makes similar overt comments to a member of your staff, you might follow up with a personal note to the patient expressing the same sentiment as the quote above. Better yet, make sure every member of your staff is trained to AFR, too. They might say something like:

“I really appreciate hearing that, Mrs. /Miss/Mr. Jones. Dr. Smith joined this profession so he could help as many people with your condition/disease/illness/problem as possible. If you know someone – a family member, friend, co-worker or business colleague – with a similar problem, please have them call our office so Dr. Smith can help them, too.”

AFR every chance you get and watch your patient-to-patient referrals multiply.

Online Reputation Assessment