Engaging Participants at Health Fairs

Health fairs, community fairs, and expos can be a great way for a medical practice to engage with the local employers and the community.  This can build your brand and potentially be a source for finding new patients.  Having a booth isn’t good enough.  In fact, just having a booth alone is a waste of time. Participants need a reason to stop at your booth.  Set up an appealing booth, bring charismatic staff, and offer something to participants.

Having a great booth or table that is consistent with your brand is key to attracting attention.  Most venues offer chairs and tables.  Some offer electricity.  Take them up on these freebies.  Buy a nice table cloth with your logo on it and purchase accessories that match your brand.  Go spend $100 at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s to build up a nice set of accessories that you can use for all events.

Bring your staff and providers (if you have them) to interact with people.  You want participants to build a relationship with your doctors, NPs, PAs, chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and any other team members.  This is an opportunity to showcase your team and let people see they are friendly and approachable.  Don’t bring someone that doesn’t want to be there; that will only hurt your brand.  And, pay your staff to be there; don’t ask them to volunteer.

The more interactive your table is, the more traffic you’ll get.  Offer cholesterol and glucose screenings.  Body Mass Index, blood pressure, are color blindnesses are easy and free.  Your practice could team up with someone like a local hospital doing screenings and do the patient education side.  Don’t stop with the screening.  Once you have the results, have participants interact with one of your providers by having them explain the results.  This is a great way to engage!  And, let them take the results home on a beautiful form that fits with your brand and just happens to have your website, address, and phone number.

If you can’t do a screening, quizzes are another option.  Sleep quality, stress level, and allergies are common examples.  Come up with a quiz participants can take and then have your staff talk to them about the results.

Label your own water bottles at health fairs

Free stuff is always a good draw.  Candy, water (with your label), trinkets, printed tips…always a good way to bring people in.  Find left-overs from employee events or anything with your logo on it.  Or, buy candy that matches your colors.  Keep it in line with your brand and have your information on it, but don’t let it be too salesy.

 

Drawings are an excellent way to get contact information at these

Use a drawing to get contact information at a health fair

events. Drop in a business card to win a fabulous basket of stuff that compliments your business.  Supply your own goodies or ask local vendors to chip in – free yoga class, free smoothie, free cyrotherapy session, etc.  And, then follow-up with everyone that you get contact information for.  Thank them for attending and share some information about your business.

Not getting a ton of people taking advantage of all these great things?  Have somoene get out from behind the table and go talk to people!  Tell them about your screenings/quizzes and bring them to your table. Take your freebies and walk around handing them out.

The key to these events in not just standing behind a table.  Be engaging and give people a reason to stop at your booth!

Common Sense Tips for Maintaining Primary Care Referrals

In addition to the normal things that would help maintain referrals, like good patient care and customer service, a few additional hints are offered.

Get a printed physician directory for the main hospitals that you are on staff at, preferably with pictures.  If there isn’t a published one, print it from the hospital website.   This is a good resource for being able to put a face with a name. It will allow the doctor to be able to personally thank those physicians for the referrals or update them on a patient when he/she runs into them in the doctor’s lounge or on the floor.  It can also help avoid the embarrassing situation when the other physician knows you, but you don’t know who they are.

When a referring physician calls your office, call them back right away.  Same goes for their staff.  Try to work their patients in as quickly as possible and offer them the back line number to call.  Also, it’s nice for them to have a point-of-contact in your office that they can reach out to if there is ever an issue or a need, such as an emergent patient, or even a patient with a billing issue.  And, if you are comfortable doing so, give them your cell phone number.

One of the biggest complaints we hear from primary care physicians is that they make a referral and then don’t know what happens to their patient. It is important to follow-up with the primary care doctors by getting reports back to them quickly and for something urgent, making a phone call or sending a text. A primary care doctor deserves to know right away if their patient is admitted or is given a major diagnosis. It is unfair for them to find out from the patient, and is embarrassing for them.  Ask what they want – clinic notes, operative report, imaging, imaging reports, pathology reports – and provide it to them consistently.  Also, confirm you are sending it to the right fax number.

Additionally, if a specialist needs to refer the patient to another physician, admit them, or operate on them, it’s recommended to reach out to the primary care doctor to the let them know and ask if they have any preferences. This is also something that can be covered in a quick face-to-face visit in the hallway or lounge, as some want to be involved in referrals and others don’t.  Many of the physician affiliated with a health system want them to stay within the system.

Imaging, lab, pharmacy, and other ancillary services are worthy of a conversation as well.  Does the primary care doctor have these services in their office?  If so, send back to them.  If not, do they have a preferred vendor?  Asking makes it easy to be successful.

Track it within your office to ensure compliance and check in with the referring physician once a year to confirm their preferences.

These are small acts, but certainly keep the primary care doctors from feeling like they are left in the dark. It shows them that their patients and their referrals are valued.

Professional photographers capture candid photos of physicians well

Professional Photography for Physicians? Waste or Must?

Definitely a must!  We’ve all seen the ad or the website with cheesy pictures.  It’s a real tragedy to spend several thousand dollars on an ad, but not a few hundred to get the right image.  Spend the money for a professional head shot, group shot, and even some action pictures.  A nice set of pictures should last the practice 2-3 years (unless they change physicians/offices) and will enhance advertisements and the website.

No time?  Most photographers will come to your office and they work pretty quickly.  You should be able to get a head shot done in 15 minutes.  Surely there’s time for that.

No money?  Buy a smaller ad and use the savings for the head shot.  You should be able to get a nice head shot for under $250.  This is an especially good use of resources as the head shot can likely be used in other venues – hospital website, speaking engagements, etc.  Or, contact your local high school or college.  Photography students often work cheap…and sometimes even free to build their portfolios.

When you start photographing the entire group or staging action shots, the time and price definitely increases.  However, it’s still in the several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars range.  Divide this among a group of five or even 25 physicians and incrementally it’s just not that much.  And, photos of your actual practice are certainly preferred over stock images.

Here are some of our recent favorites.  These were all shot by our staff on-site and in well under an hour!

 

Physician Bios Made Easy

Physician Bios Made Easy

Is writing physician bios making you crazy?  Let us help with these tips.

First, decide what you are going for.  We are usually shooting for smart, academic, accomplished….all while being approachable.  We use training, accolades, skills to convey the first part and humanizing the docs for the second part.

Then, decide what content you want to convey.  It’s hard to write about yourself.  Typically, asking the docs to send you a bio to use isn’t very helpful.  Ask them set questions to have some consistency and then have a copy writer or someone on your team that loves writing craft them into bios.  You can do an interview with the questions and use the recording to write the bio or simply email them over and have the docs respond.  You decide which will be more effective based on your physicians and time constraints.

Here are some questions we like:

  • Name as you’d like it listed:
  • Where did you complete undergrad, medical school, internship, residency, fellowship?
  • Any other notable training we should mention (robotic surgery, urogynecology, procedures)?
  • Any particular areas of clinical interest?
  • What made you want to become a doctor?
  • What do you love about practicing medicine?
  • What do you wish you could tell every patient (and they would actually do) and why?
  • Fun fact about you?
  • What do you enjoy doing when not at work?
  • What city do you live in? Married? Kids? (if comfortable sharing…usually something along the lines of Dr. Smith lives in Dallas with her husband and teenage sons)
  • What brought you to Dallas?
  • Do you have pets?

Essentially, you are trying to draw out facts that will help you convey the personality of the physicians.  If you can make them seem approachable, it really helps “sell” the patients on them.  We are aiming for something like this:

Jane Smith was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and received a Bachelor of Science at University of Texas.  She completed medical school of University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas and both her internship and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She has extensive training in minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery.  She enjoys all aspects of Obstetrics and Gynecology, including wellness, infertility, and surgery.  When Dr. Smith isn’t at work, she loves spending time with her family, snow skiing, reading European historical fiction, UT football, and volunteering with the SPCA.

Finally, always let the doctors review the bio before publishing.  Include a head shot and you are ready to go!

 

Social Media Tips for Healthcare

Social media is a must for healthcare organizations that want to have a robust brand that is interactive with the community.  Social media should be fun and educational.  We offer a few tips to ensure both.

  • Post regularly, but don’t post just to post.  No one cares that you had Starbies this morning or are so glad it is Friday.  They do care that your sweet patient brought you Starbucks and you want to thank them (pics please) and that in honor of it being Friday, your office is power walking at lunch together (again, pics) to kick off a healthy weekend.
  • Aim to post 2-3 times per week.  1-2 can be health tips, health articles, and resources.  1-2 should be about your practice.
  • Want a bunch of easy content?  Do a “Meet our Team” series!  Feature every single team member…1 team member per week.  Picture, why they love working there, what they do for patients, and something fun about them.  Bam.  You just got 10-15 weeks worth of posts…and patients love learning about the team.
  • Want more easy content?  Have each provider give you one or two line Pearls of Wisdom for health.  Simple, easy to follow advice is best.
  • Another easy way to gather content?  Follow one of the hundreds of health topic calendars out there.  Here is one of many: https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/.  Either use tips on these topics from your own team or borrow resources and post links.  Mayo Clinic is a great, reliable source for that.
  • Local health/community events can be great content.  It shows your engagement with the community.  Be sure to check them out before posting though.  You don’t want to inadvertently advertise for a competitor or an organization that you don’t know.  If in doubt, skip it.
  • Most importantly, post about things going on in your organization in real time!  Celebrations, new services, new team members, new offices, new equipment, anniversaries, kudos, and anything along these lines.  This gives your practice an identity other than just being a company.
  • Consider non-work, healthy posts on team members.  If a team member runs a marathon or helps organize a local farmer’s market, with their permission, this can be good content to show what a supportive health-conscious organization you are.
  • And, sell yourself every now and then.  Don’t sell all the time.  But, do it sometimes.  Talk about your allergy testing services or hormone replacement therapy or success stories with medically-supervised weight loss.  If you have relevant regular content, no one will mind when you sell on your social media little bit…and you just might get some business from it.  Just space it out and be sure lots of non-salesly content lives in between posts where you are self-promoting.
  • Don’t use patients names, discuss patients, or talk about anything that would normally be an issue under HIPAA.
  • Don’t tag your physicians or staff members.  We generally think it is best to keep business and personal lives separate, particularly if patients may see anything “questionable” on the personal pages.  And, it gets messy if patients “friend” staff members and/or providers…and particularly so if they “message” them regarding health issues.  Evaluate the pros and cons…and make your own decision here.
  • Don’t allow photos of your team drinking or smoking.  While it may be innocent, it may not be perceived that way and literally could be used against you in a court of law.
  • Use the “front page of the paper” + “mom” + “grandma” + “pastor” test.  If you wouldn’t want it on the front page of the paper, wouldn’t want your mom, grandma, or pastor to see it, then don’t post it on social media.  If it passes all four of those, it’s probably fine to post, unless your mom or grandma is also a pastor that owns a gossip paper.  If that’s the case, we want to meet her!  🙂

Have fun with it and allow it to showcase your brand and your culture.  And, really, if you find that mom/grandma, introduce us!

Tips for Physicians When Speaking to the Public

Speaking at non-academic events should be a fun and easy way for you to interact with the local community, employers, and potential patients.  If you hate public speaking, consider more one-on-one interactions like an Ask the Doc table at a health fair.  If you are comfortable with public speaking, use this skill to educate potential patients on topics and use this as a way to build relationships.

Considering the goal is to make a good impression, put your best effort forward.  The following tips are based from years of observing what does and doesn’t work.

Attire

Wear something you are comfortable in.  If you don’t normally wear a tie or high heels, don’t.  Wear business attire or pressed scrubs.  Consider wearing a lab coat if wearing scrubs.  It looks both “doctory” and professional.  But, don’t wear a lab coat over regular dress up clothes.  Well-groomed fingernails and clean shoes are a must – as they are typically two areas people tend to notice.  Ladies, wear a little foundation and be sure to put on powder.  Mascara, blush/bronzer, and lip color will enhance your face.  Men, be sure to be clean shaven and have a fresh haircut.  Most important, look “clean” – clothes, hair, overall appearance.  No one wants to go to a doctor that looks like they just rolled out of bed.

Presentation

Keep the prepared talk about 20 – 30 minutes, allowing time for questions.  It’s great to survey the audience (if it is small enough) about what they are interested in hearing about before you start.  Consider using PowerPoint, rather than notes.  Keep slides simple and don’t put everything you plan to say on the slide.  No one wants to a hear a presenter read the presentation.  Only use pictures where they enhance the concept, not just to look nice (i.e.: picture of cancerous lungs for smoking cessation).  Be sure to speak in layman’s terms or explain medical terms, such as using the phrase high blood pressure in place of hypertension.

Take care not to be salesy about yourself or the practice.  Let your presentation, engagement with the audience and knowledge be the sales tool.

Handouts

Participants usually appreciate anything they can have as a take away.  Develop a one page “pearls of wisdom” on the topic that they can take and be sure it has your logo, website, address, and phone number on it.  Bring business cards.  If additional literature is available on the topic or about the practice, feel free to have available. These handouts are a great way to softly sell yourself.

In short, have fun with it and try to engage the audience.  These people could be great potential patients!

Is Your Staff’s “Off” Day Costing You Money?

Being nice to people is SO easy.  It takes the same amount of time as being mean or indifferent.  Smiles are free.  Welcoming word choice is free.  Calming tone of voice is free.  So, why isn’t everyone nice to their customers?   The excuse we usually hear is that they were just having an “off” day.  Those “off” days are expensive!

Patients have choices.  If they don’t like you or your staff or your billing company, they will move on.  And, that’s the best case scenario…that they simply move on.  Oftentimes, they leave their mark…on Google, Yelp, and Facebook.  Bad reviews are hard to overcome.  Not to mention that prospective patients look at them!  According to one survey, a whopping 84% of patients consult a review website to view or post comments and ratings of healthcare staff.  Don’t let your “off” day end up on the internet….and not having it is the only way to guarantee that.

For us, here’s what it boils down to:  It is CHEAPER to keep your existing patients happy than spending the money to market to new patients.  Do you need to market sometimes?  Sure.  We wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t.  But, before marketing, look inward at your practice first.  There is no reason to spend time and money marketing only to have patients have a bad experience.  Get your practice to a place where you have spectacular customer service.  Then, market!

Let’s start with the first impressions of the practice.

First Impression

How does your team answer the phone?  This is usually the first interaction patients have with your office.  Your receptionist should be the “Director of First Impressions.”  Phones should be answered by a friendly, helpful person.  Don’t stick someone on phones that hates people or needs to polish their people skills.  Also, avoid automated answering systems when possible.  Here’s a detailed post on the topic: How Does Your Staff Answer the Phone?

When a patient, vendor, or anyone walks in the door of the practice, the person at the front window sets the tone for their experience.  They need to be friendly, make eye contact, and most importantly…SMILE!  It’s vital that they look at the patient/vendor, rather than at their computer screen.  If they are on a call when someone walks up, make eye contact, smile, and mouth, “I’ll be right with you.”  It’s not hard.  Yet, about 90% of front office staff we encounter leave a lot of room for improvement.

If working the front office is challenging for staff, rotate them through it.  Figure out why your staff isn’t being friendly and try to remove things you can control. Many times it starts at the top.  They will treat your patients the way you allow them to and will mimic how you treat patients.  So, if your staff isn’t nice to patients, consider if you may need to step up your customer service.

Keep the “window” open and please use restraint with signage at the windows, particularly ones that say “don’t tap on window.”  You would be surprised how many of these signs we see.  They can set the tone as well.  If you are having issues with cancellations, payments or labs, address it, but don’t put it all over your walls for every patient to see.  Figure out what you MUST say in writing, create discreet tasteful signage, or include it in the patient forms.

The front office needs to make all visitors feel welcome.  Checking them in, collecting payments, and all of their other duties should come second to this.  This isn’t exclusive to patients.  They should treat everyone that walks through your doors with kindness.

Clinical Staff

First Impressions don’t end with the front office.  Usually a medical assistant or nurse and maybe even a PA or NP sees the patient prior to the doctor.  This is another opportunity to make a good impression.  Listening, asking questions, and showing genuine interest in a patient’s concerns can make a big difference for that patient and make him or her feel like they are really matter.

It’s important that the staff look at the patient and not just at their computer.  Consider setting up the computer in a position where the staffer can sit beside the patient or even show the patient what they are entering.  Your clinical staff should not turn their back on the patient during their interaction.

If patients have a bad experience with staff, before ever seeing the doctor, they are already starting from a bad place.  Patients should feel like VIPs after their interactions with all staff.

Oftentimes “lab” is not part of your staff.  They should look and act like an extension of your practice.  Anyone working in your office is part of your team and has the ability to make an impression on your patients, good or bad.

How to Avoid “Off” Days

It starts with the physician setting the tone for the practice.  Lay out your expectations, live by them, and hold your team accountable to following them.

Don’t hire people that aren’t warm and fuzzy during the interview.  If you have team members that aren’t people people, find a non-patient interaction spot for them to work or help them find their next job.  Doctors work too hard to let one staff person ruin the patient experience.

Compliment and reward your staff.  Reinforce good behavior and praise them for it.  Tie a component of their compensation to patient satisfaction.  Make it a reasonable goal, as you can’t make all patients happy.  But, make it a stretch to get there.  That’s why it’s a goal and not a given.

Read your patient reviews online.  Consider those patients as unpaid consultants.  Some of their reviews are not valid but some are.  Look for recurring themes and FIX those things.

Listen to feedback from patients.  Address issues when you can and remove sources of patient frustration.  Do everything in your power to make patients comfortable in your practice.  And, don’t be afraid to dismiss disruptive patients.

Have your practice secret shopped.  You can hire someone like us to do it.  Or, simply use your family and friends to secret shop the practice.  Once you have the results, make an action plan and implement it.  The action plan should include staff training, maybe scripting, maybe role-playing, and most likely changing some processes in your practice.  We can help with any of these.  But, it’s best if it comes from inside the practice.  Let the staff brainstorm ways to fix the issues; this increases their ownership of the process.

Look at your attrition rates.  Do patients “ghost” you?  It’s going to happen sometimes for a normal reason – moves, insurance changes, etc.  But, if it’s happening a lot, is there something more to it?  Engaged patients don’t just bounce.  They tell you they are moving and will need records.

We’ll leave you with this.  It’s cheaper and easier to keep your existing patients happy than it is to get new patients.  Having “off” days not only stinks for the patient, but it kills your bottom line.  Go big or start small, but start making your practice patient-friendly TODAY.

Leaders: Learn When to be Still

As a type A action-oriented person, I get stuff done.  I’m decisive.  It’s business, not personal.  And, I usually make good decisions… even when made rapidly.  This has been a large part of my success as a leader and an owner of a company.  When I see a situation, I analyze it, determine my options, and make a decision.  I commit to it knowing that if it is the wrong decision, I will deal with the ramifications later… and hopefully learn from it.

That said, I recently learned that I need to be still more often as a leader. I don’t think we are taught enough in business school about simply being still at times.  I don’t mean being indecisive because were afraid to make a decision.  I mean pausing before we make a decision to see if things change.

For me personally,  I approach this from a business and a biblical perspective. I understand that not everyone worships the same or worships at all… and that doesn’t change whether or not this impacts your leadership style.  In fact, a recent trip to Thailand and learning about Buddhism reinforced this for me.  In Christianity, we are often told to be still and let God’s will be done.  This doesn’t mean inaction is always the answer… but it means we don’t always have to react.  We don’t always have to act.  There can be value in simply being still… especially when it is an emotional decision.  Being still to ponder.  Being still to see if you feel the same way the next day.  Or, being still to allow a higher power to do their work.

This is HARD for me!  I like to get stuff done.  Make decisions.  Cross things off my list.  And, I’m good at getting stuff done, making decisions, and crossing things off my list!  I don’t like to sit still.  I’m not good at it.  And, it feels so vulnerable.  But, in fact, it takes strength to decide to wait.  To be clear, this isn’t not making a decision.  It’s making a decision to press pause for a day or a week or a finite amount of time.  Circumstances change.   Maybe more information will be available tomorrow.  Or you’ll have time to see reactions from stakeholders before making a final decision.

What I learned through a recent knee-jerk reaction is that there’s no reason why you can’t sit on a decision for a day or two.   If it is so urgent that you have to make a decision that day fine.  If someone is in danger, sure, make a decision immediately.  But, how many things are really  so urgent that you have to make a decision that day?   When something catches you off-guard and you feel like you need to immediately fix it, that’s your clue that some of the reaction may be emotional and that you may need to be still a day or two before acting.

For me, I’ll continue to make most of my decisions in the same fashion that’s worked so well for me for years.  Assess, analyze, decide.  The majority of the decisions I make are well-suited for that.  But, now I have on my radar to watch for signs that I should be still for a day or two before making a decision.  For me, those signs are if something is outside the normal parameters for our business, an exception that isn’t a no-brainer, and any decision that has an emotional component.

Try it the next time you have a big decision to make.  You’ll be surprised how powerful and freeing it feels to decide to be still.

4 Steps to Finding the Right Surgeon for You

Courtesy Surgical Group of North Texas
Printed in Living Well Magazine

1.  Find the Right Specialty

General surgeons have extensive training in a wide variety of surgical areas and can choose to specialize in different areas, such as surgical oncology and bariatric surgery. Particularly with weight loss surgery and breast cancer surgery, there are many different treatment options and approaches.  You want a surgeon who spends a significant amount of time focused on your area of need.

Additionally, surgeons can specialize in different minimally-invasive surgical techniques, such as laparoscopic, robotic, and endoscopic.  These techniques may cause less pain, less scarring, and reduce recovery times.  Selecting a surgeon that offers these techniques allows you and your surgeon to discuss together to decide what is best for you.

2.  Ask for Recommendations

Your regular physician is by far the best resource for choosing a surgeon. Not only do they know which surgeons are good at certain procedures, but they also know which ones have a good bedside manner. Ask your primary care physician or specialist to recommend the surgeon they would choose for their own family member.

Other patients can also be very helpful in selecting the right surgeon, especially for elective procedures. You can find people that have had the same procedure in online support communities. You can also find physician reviews online, but take them as just one source of information.  Ask people about their experiences with surgeons to determine if they could be a good fit for you.

2.1     Online Communities

BreastCancer.org/community
Cancer.org/treatment/supportprogramservices
TXTABS.org/support.html
Facebook.com/BariatricSurgerySupportGroup

2.2     Questions

  • Did the surgeon listen to them?
  • Did the surgeon make them feel comfortable?
  • Did they feel like the surgeon fully explained the risks and benefits of the different treatment options?
  • Did the surgeon offer non-surgical treatment options?

3.  Check Their Credentials

3.1     Board Certification

You deserve a surgeon that is board certified by the American Board of Surgery.  Look this up online at CertificationMatters.org.

3.2     Fellow Status

Look for “FACS” after the surgeon’s name. This indicates they are a Fellow of American College of Surgeons, meaning that the surgeon’s education and training, professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct have passed a rigorous evaluation and meet high standards. You can check Fellow status at FACS.org.

3.3     Professional Organizations

The organizations below can be very good online resources for finding a qualified surgeon and checking out a surgeon’s credentials.

4.  ASK QUESTIONS

If the surgeon doesn’t want to answer them, they aren’t the surgeon for you. They should take their time and you shouldn’t be rushed.  You have the right to be informed, which requires good communication between you and your surgeon.  Good questions to ask:

  • What are my treatment options? And, which do you recommend?
  • How many times have you performed this procedure?
  • Do you use minimally invasive techniques?
  • What are the potential complications?
  • What is the recovery?

No matter how common the procedure, surgery is a big decision. Use these 4 steps to find a surgeon that is right for you. You deserve it.