By Michael Tetreault, Editor in Chief
MARCH 4, 2015 – A significant portion of the upcoming 2015 DPC Journal’s 2015 DPC Annual Report and Market Trends Summary this year was spent talking to our readers who are patients and consumers of Direct Primary Care across the country. They shared enthusiastic stories of how it is changing their life, how refreshing it is to be able to call their physician when they need them and how convenient routine and seemingly urgent appointments are to schedule.
On the flip side, no business or person is perfect. There will be patients who are unaware of your time, require more energy and emotion than desired and well, just plain don’t work well in these types of healthcare delivery environments. And that’s okay. There are things that can be learned however from every patient.
Over the years of covering the free market and membership medicine industry, we’ve been able to learn many of the top tips from the most successful Direct Primary Care (DPC) clinics to help others build a successful practice and keep on-track. One thing everyone says that is quite common is … ‘Running a DPC practice has never and will never be easy, but it can be very rewarding … financially and emotionally.’
They also understand that the DPC business model is far less complicated operationally but it is far, far more demanding. It’s far more demanding because every patient expects the same amount of dedication from a doctor, an unusual amount of time set-aside just for them and asking the question of yourself as the doctor … ‘What do my patients require of me?’ And this question is different for every practitioner.
So today we present our DPC Journal physician readers and their staff with …
15 DPC Practice Management Tips To Enhance Profit
1) Show you care. Focus on providing great care … and above all, smile when they walk in your door.
Last year, the Concierge Medicine Research Collective, the research arm of our sister publication, Concierge Medicine Today, partnered with a prominent medical university and asked patients inside membership medicine practice ‘what’s most important about your doctor’s office when you arrive?’ The answer overwhelmingly was ‘I like to see the office staff greet me with a smile.’
What was also interesting about this national survey was that the majority of patients who answered the survey were females, age 35-60 and preferred that their clinicians office staff also be female as this sends a warm and friendly greeting to entering patients.
In our growing consumer/patient-centric culture there are plenty of options and places where people can receive access to affordable healthcare. Yes, there are. These choices might not provide superior service … but there are options available to the price savvy consumer. Consider sending a secret shopper to your practice for a visit and ask them later how your practice can be a special place for the enrolled or new patient and inquire about the way they were treated by your staff and office team.
2) Keep the staff optimistic.
Negative emotions are contagious. If your staff is feeling down (for whatever reason), their performance will drop and patients will quickly catch on.
3) Build trust.
If we get this right – DPC can become as irresistible and popular as the services and value Dr. Marcus Welby communicated years ago. Building trust isn’t easy. It take time, patience, thought and creativity. It makes it easier to clear up problems in areas such as late appointments, scheduling conflicts, payment issues, or professional relationship management. Most important, it helps you and your employees work together effectively to treat your customer and patients.
4) Lead by Example.
Don’t tell your employees to do something you won’t do, and if you notice that your staff is hesitant to perform a specific task (i.e. asking for money), do it with them the first time around. Lead by example. Your responsibility is to leverage what you have for the benefit of others and that you have their best interest in mind.
5) Get in there and do it.
You should have on a daily basis the ideology of a submission competition in your practice. When things get busy … and yes, they do at a DPC clinic, pitch in as needed. Pick up the phone and make those difficult calls. Every office has them. Redefine servant hood in your practice. You’ll gain respect in the eyes of your employees and you’re probably surprise your patients.
6) Learn and use local marketing strategies.
Participate in local networking events that can grow your top of mind awareness (TOMA), your brand and drive business for a minimal cost. We’ve listed a lot of examples in previous articles here at DPC Journal. We’ve also written two entire books about it … visit: DPC Journal BOOKSTORE and in particular, read The Marketing MD. It’s ranked #12 of Amazon as a bestseller in its category for a reason.
7) Be consistent with your discipline.
Don’t pick favorites, your entire staff will know. Maintaining a strict and consistent set of disciplinary rules and performance standards with no exceptions that will result in your office team trusting you more and sticking to the rules you set.
8) Plan ahead.
Don’t let surprises happen. Keep an eye on your DME inventory and order items as needed. Schedule vacations in advance and tell your staff , choose which special events you or you expect your staff to participate.
9) Keep your cool.
What if you decided to simply pause in those difficult moments and ask yourself ‘what does caring for this person require of me?’ It goes without saying that you shouldn’t blow up at employees. You need to understand that mistakes are part of human nature. Instead of assigning blame, look for solutions and sprinkle in some patience.
10) Communicate with your team, often.
Depending on the size of your team and your relationship with them, hold weekly departmental meetings, schedule regular monthly staff meetings, and yes, do performance reviews. Most importantly, keep your employees informed about what you expect of them with a ‘written job description’ and be sure to include practical goals (both yours and theirs) and use these meetings as an opportunity to introduce new ideas, policy changes and allow them to ask questions.
11) Know your DPC patients.
Learn your regulars’ names, their favorite grandchildren, what they like to eat, where they spend their vacations. Greet everyone you recognize by name. Believe it or not, DPC patients complain that a lot of DPC doctors offices still don’t know who they are.
12) Run and read daily reports.
You will learn quickly that the data in these magical reports is your best friend. Look for trends, and see how you can improve your monthly sales while cutting losses such as over-ordering supplies. Look for patterns in your monthly reports. If you look hard enough and look enough, you will find them.
13) Be a leader.
A DPC clinic, much like a ship, needs a leader. You need to lead your team. If you personally can’t be there, a manager should always be present. More importantly, they need to know they are to responsible for fulfilling that role while the doctor is away.
14) Multi-task and delegate.
Delegate where necessary, and do more than one task at a time. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of your DPC practice duties. Get the best mileage out of your time by maximizing it, and if necessary, have additional staff on hand for busy days during each week.
15) You will be defined by how much you care – not how much you know.
This is probably the most important point DPC doctors have emphasized over the past couple of years. The point they are trying to make is not about having a degree, a specialized interest in a unique area. That goes without saying. Knowledge is vital to the success of these DPC practices operating across the country today … but DPC doctors will be the first to tell you that the ability to be nice is oftentimes, demanding and hard. You should not be surprised that today, many of these physicians success is not measured by their charisma, use of techy-gadgets or location. It’s measured by patients in several ways which include: your time, your sensitivity and attention to details; and so much more. But the common thread is … YOU!
Do you have any additional DPC practice management tips for DPC physician community? If so, please feel free to share them in the comment section below, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or share them on our LinkedIn or Facebook Page. Better yet, call us and tell us your story … tel: 770-455-1650 ext 151