By Michael Tetreault, Editor
SEPTEMBER 9, 2014 – While scanning through DPC Journal emails, submitted stories from doctors and industry professionals and the vast landscape of our social media channels each day, we are able to monitor the direct primary care industry for trends. One of the most recent findings we have stumbled across is that direct primary care doctors tend to stay in start-up mode way too long.
“Keeping your practice in start-up mode is like driving your car with the emergency brake applied,” says one DPC physician from Georgia. “If you keep telling people you are new to the industry or still figuring things out, you’ll never be able to take actions for real growth.”
After reading this story, our hope is that you’ll realize that it’s time to move your medical practice from start-up to growth mode and from planning to actually doing.
“Direct Primary Care practices should be successful in most cities and states where there is an inadequate supply of primary care physicians,” says Dr. Chris Ewin, Founder and physician at 121MD in Fort Worth, TX. “This may be true in the country with the correct practice model. Most important, a physician needs to have social skills to sell him/herself and there new practice model to their patients and their community.”
In two or three years, you want to be able to look back at your start-up phase as an important part of your thriving business’ history. You want to say something like, “I remember when I was the only one working in my practice answering every email, Facebook comment and referral phone call. Now I employ 6 people and am on my way …”
This is the mindset we want you to move towards and here are five ways to do it:
Pick Your Battles
Don’t get wrapped up for a week deciding on a logo when it ultimately doesn’t matter. Your new (or relatively new) brand will evolve as your practice evolves, so your logo is likely to change. There are far more important things to obsess over such as building a great menu of services for your patients, how your going to incorporate tablets into your interactions with patients, learning why text message appointment reminders are essential to your schedule, referral strategies for existing patients and ultimately, making money.
One of the most common problems direct primary care start-ups have is becoming “known.”While you might think that DPC
Your most important task early on will be to spread the word about yourself and your new practice model. I.e. ‘what makes you different from the other MD or DO down the block?’ Ultimately it’s the way to new and returning faces to your practice. In recent news, one concierge doctor in southern California ruffled some feathers because she took an interview with a controversial magazine. She got national media attention for the story and was able to educate and introduce her practice to an entirely new and unaware audience. While she may have ruffled some feathers, her talking points turned criticism into curious, new and loyal patients. Get out there and get attention, get critics and then get patients.
When you’re in the first few years of starting your concierge medicine practice, in most cases you are handling everything — and you’re scared. To begin growing you have to start investing in people to do tasks you can no longer want or can do. We have found that nearly three quarters of all concierge medicine offices start with zero employees, (Source, The Collective, 2014) which underscores the resistance some doctors have to delegating. You have to grow your practice. Stop thinking that people cost money; your uncertainty and failure to grow your practice will ultimately cost far more.
Be Confident. Be Ready.
Are you confident enough to tell anyone about your practice? Or, do you say the same thing you’ve said for the past 10-years? Do you believe you’re doing something unique for your patients? Are you confident and capable its going to be a huge success? Know how to pitch yourself and your practice. Be ready to explain what your practice does that is better, faster and of value to your local marketplace. If we’ve learned one thing and one thing only from DPC doctors over the past decade or more, it’s that success of a DPC office largely depends on your “local” presence.
Create A Sense of Urgency.
If you start a direct primary care practice without setting specific timelines for action and achievements, you will be stuck in startup forever. Pressuring yourself to perform should not lead to inferior service inside your practice; it will end up with tasks and responsibilities being accomplished. Urgency is key to getting things done.
Communication is the lifeblood of any business relationship, but it’s even more important when your direct primary care practice suddenly takes off. Once you’ve worked with your trusted team of advisors or even conversion consultant to formulate the proper strategy, letters, printed promotional materials, met with your staff and educated them on what to say and what not to say, and you’ve approved your strategic plan – the biggest mistake a doctor can make now is failing to communicate with his or her patients that there is a deadline in which to join and after that, it’s might too late.
Your vision is not improved by staying in start-up mode. It’s time to put your foot down on the accelerator and become a physician that is attracting attention, delivering results and grabbing market share from the other more established retail medicine players in your area.