Kids aren’t getting sick as much right now, so they aren’t progressing down the path that normally leads to visiting the Pedi ENT. And, we can all agree that this is a good thing for those patients! People will likely go back to normal habits someday, and the regular need for tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies, and ear tubes will return. And, those patients deserve awesome Pediatric Otolaryngologists when that time comes.
And, Pediatricians are slow both from people skipping well visits and the aforementioned reduced sick visits. Patients not seeing the Pediatrician is delaying the normal referrals to all pediatric sub-specialists, especially the more elective ones. At some point, people will resume their normal patterns of well visits and sick visits, at which time, we need to have strong pediatric sub-specialists for those patients.
So, what can we do to sustain practices until then? Position the practice now to thrive when we get back to normal.
Direct to Consumer
Moms are fierce when it comes to the health of their children. While their child’s primary care physician is a huge resource and often directs referrals, moms (and dads…but mostly moms) will absolutely seek out a Pediatric ENT on their own for a second opinion or with the blessing of their Pediatrician. They look at reviews, they talk to other parents, and they do their homework. Use this time to set your practice up as the clear choice in the community for Pediatric ENT services. The worst case is that patients land in your office that are too early in the process to need your services. It’s a great time to educate the parents which will ease their concerns, help them plan for future needs, and establish a rapport in the event that they need you down the road.
Educate patients on the safety of seeing the doctor/having a procedure now
There are plenty of people that will see value in getting a surgery (and all the accompanying office visits) out of the way now while they are home to care for their child, their child is doing virtual school, and other reasons unique to now. Hopefully, in 2022, there are things they don’t want their kid to miss out on. So, consider an educational campaign around this, especially if you are in an affluent community. Be careful with the wording and don’t be pushy. And, be sensitive that there are families that are suffering. Be honest about the pros and cons. Explain the minimized risk in the office and in an ASC for an outpatient procedure. Explain the normal steps that are taken to keep patients safe and then share added measures for coronavirus. Most people have no idea just how safe an operating room is.
Get reviews to a 4.8 or higher
In affluent communities with lots of choices for Otolaryngology care, having excellent reviews is vital. This takes time to change if they aren’t stellar, so start today. Aim for a 4.8 or higher.
Look across Facebook and Google first. They are the most important. Secondarily, search the internet for any reviews of your practice and take them into consideration. Healthgrades, Vitals, WebMD, Yelp, ShareCare, and YP are some to look at.
Take an honest inventory of what the reviews say. You won’t make every patient happy. But, if there is a consistent theme, you have an issue to address. It could be real or perceived, but it doesn’t really matter which one it is. If your patients perceive it to be an issue, it’s worth addressing. We work with practices all the time where the patients love the doctors and hate the staff. Your practice is only as friendly as your least friendly team member. Yes, an amazing doctor can overcome a grumpy staff. But, why should they have to? Any issue can be overcome with appropriate training, scripting, managing of expectations, and staffing. Phones, billing, friendliness are all things that should be working for the doctor, not against them.
If your reviews need improvement in quality, address concerns, then implement a campaign to bring in reviews. If your reviews just need improvement in quantity, start today on a campaign to increase the quantity.
Educate patients on a Pediatric ENT vs an ENT
In a competitive market, it’s worth educating parents on a Pediatric Otolaryngologist versus an Otolaryngologist. Explain the benefits without disparaging general ENTs. Talk about kids not just being small adults medically. And, if you work at an ASC or hospital that is particularly good at Peds or exclusively Peds, talk about it. Same with Anesthesia. If your Anesthesiologists are fellowship-trained in Pediatric Anesthesia, say so. If they just do a ton of Peds and are great at it, talk about that. Share about the unique pain management for kids versus adults. Talk about PALS vs just ACLS. Share about culturally how a hospital/ASC that cares for kids is different, gentler, quieter, calmer, smiles and kittycorns.
Get active in Moms Groups
Get active in Moms Groups to be the resource before they even need you. If you happen to have a warm and fuzzy female employee that lives in the community, they can be the face of this. If not, anyone friendly can do it. And, then they bring in the doctor whenn the time is right. Or, if the doctor has the time, they can even be the face.
These groups meet in person and virtually. Educational talks, articles, videos, Q&A can be used in these groups and repurposed across your website and social media. To find the Moms Groups in your area, search for MOPs, Moms of X city, early childhood PTAs, actual PTAs, other school groups, Moms of Multiples groups, Moms groups within churches. Then, there are tons of organizations that simply have a lot of women – Women’s Clubs, Assistance League, NCL, etc. And, then there are all the online groups. You’ll find lots of Moms groups on Facebook and then not necessarily moms, but conversations amongst moms on NextDoor and other online platforms. We see requests DAILY in these groups with people searching for physicians.
Find these groups and volunteer to provide information, answer questions, and support their members. It’s best to have someone join the group and organically get involved – not just promoting the practice. But, you can absolutely just reach out to them and volunteer your time to answer questions and educate their group.
Also, your hospitals, ASCs, and even Chamber of Commerce may already be active in some of these community groups. Consider plugging in through them.
Pediatricians and Family Practitioners
We all know Pediatricians are slow right now. Perhaps it is a good time to expand your referral base of Pediatricians. Do you have a great relationship with every Pediatrician in your town? How about the next town over? Aim to have an awesome relationship with every Pediatrician within 10 miles of your office(s). And, don’t forget the MedPeds! Be sensitive to what is happening in their practice and look through the lens of how you can help them. Are there things you can do to help? Do you have patients without a Pediatrician where you can make a reverse referral? Have you figured out an awesome telemed platform that you can share? Also, approach them in a way that is sensitive to the pandemic. Some offices are still doing in-person lunches. If that’s the case for them and you are comfortable, do that. If not, look at virtual options.
Also, do the same with Family Practitioners. They are busier than Pediatricians in general right now, but many of their practices have still been impacted.
Are Urgent Care centers potential referral sources? If so, market to them. Be a resource to them.
For all three of these specialties, be sure to let them know that you’ll get their patients in right away. Set the expectation with your staff that referrals be offered same-day or next-day appointments. Give these physicians your personal cell phone number and tell them to call you if they ever need anything for a patient or even just have a question they want to run past you. Be their trusted resource for Pediatric ENT…and even ENT if you are okay with that for questions.
This is a unique time. It’s a chance to reinvent aspects of your practice if you want to. If there are areas of your practice where you want to grow, improve, or revamp, now is a great time to do it. This sets you up to thrive when we get back to normal.