Building a Patient Base for Under $100

You either have to spend time or money to build a new practice. If you have time, but not money, these items are all free or mostly free. You can absolutely build a patient base for a new practice for less than $100 if you are willing to invest time.

  1. Create a blog.  Blog about general topics that people care about.  Nutrition, general health, exercise, stress management.  Include seasonal topics like allergies and flu prevention.
  2. Create a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Post useful information that people care about.  Don’t self-promote.
  3. Send out a press release to local papers and upload where possible announcing your practice.  I have a list I can share.
  4. Get involved in your community church, your kids’ school, gym, clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, VFW, etc.  Be friendly and what you do for a living will come up.  When it does, share in a non-salesy way. 
  5. Offer to do free health talks for employers (nice commercially insured base) and community groups.  Keep the talk to 20-30 minutes and allow time for questions.  Give a topic handout with pearls of wisdom that has your contact information discreetly on there. 
  6. Write health articles and give them the local publications, employers (for newsletters), and community groups (for newsletters) for free.
  7. Introduce yourself to local school nurses.
  8. Go introduce yourself to any other providers that might be a potential referral source – PTs, Pain Management Docs, Orthopedic Surgeons, Primary care docs.
  9. Participate in community and employer health fairs.  Offer some kind of free screening to engage people.  Even if it’s just blood pressure checks. 
  10. Attend local Chamber events.  Sometimes they are free.  If you can afford it, join and take advantage of all the membership perks. 
  11. Update your information anywhere it can be found on the internet.  This is VERY important!  Upload pics and information that makes you unique.

Improve Physician-to-Physician Outreach Visits

Want to grow your referral base? Visit other doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, chiropractors, and other medical professionals that could refer to you. Improve physician-to-physician outreach visits by being intentional in how you set up the visit and some pre/post-visit tactics.

Be clear when scheduling that meeting the physician is the purpose.  If it’s a lunch or breakfast, whoever is scheduling should make it clear (in a friendly way) that they are happy to provide a meal to the team and glad to meet everyone, but that your physician needs 5-10 minutes of face time with their physician(s). 

Try to schedule visits right before clinic or right before lunch when possible.  Avoid Mondays, Fridays, and at the end of clinic. 

Don’t pop in unless the doctor’s office allows unscheduled visits.  We find way better success with scheduled visits. This said, if you are comfortable cold-calling, you can see a lot more offices this way. We usually reserve drop-ins for offices that we can’t get an appointment scheduled.

Send the physician information 1-2 weeks prior to meeting with information and let them know you look forward to discussing on X date at X time.  You’d be shocked how many times a meeting or lunch is scheduled through the staff, but the physician doesn’t realize that another physician is coming to the office. Be sure they know you are coming.

Meet the doctor(s), mid-level providers, referral coordinator, and office manager.  Try to meet any other available staff as well, such as medical assistants and nurses.  Ask questions about what the practice needs first before selling your service.  Find out what they are looking for in treatment for their patients, what they want report-wise, and how you can work together.  Bring brochures (with address, specialties, what you treat, fax, ACO participation), business cards, and list of insurances accepted.  These make it easier for the referral coordinator.  Also, ask them if they need cards for referrals.  A decent number of offices still use business cards to make referrals, so be sure to stock them up.

Have branded material to leave behind after the visit.  A basket/box of cookies, granola bars, candy, or healthy snacks works well.  The package or the item itself should say the practice name and the physician’s name.  Use stickers to put those on everything from donut boxes to individual items.  

Send providers, referral coordinator, and office manager note after the visit thanking them for their time and mentioning how you think you can work together to improve the lives of patients. 

Continue to follow-up 1-3x per year in some way – a postcard, a note, a visit, a holiday gift.  Track your referrals from the providers to measure success. 

And, remember, you don’t have to do it all yourself. We can help with all of it! We can help you improve your physician outreach visits and all you have to do is show up!

DPC Docs: Make it All About the Patient

Do you want to convert more prospective patients into member patients? Is your sales pitch a sad story of burnout and how the insurance companies treated you badly? Patients don’t want to hear this.

They want to hear how you are going to improve their quality of life, their health, and the efficiency and thought around receiving medical care. That’s it.

Sales 101. Ask questions first.

Talk second. If you start with your pitch with how or why you became a Direct Primary Care Physician and what you can offer the patient, you are wasting precious time. You don’t know what they want or what is important to them. Maybe they want access. Maybe they want empathy. Maybe they want cost reduction. Maybe they want diagnostic depth. Maybe they want all of that. You have to questions FIRST before you give your sales pitch.

Sales 102. It’s ALL about the customer.

It’s not about you. Again, they don’t want to hear your sad story about how the system exploited you. They came to your office for happiness, not sadness. They may want to tell you their sad story about all the perceived failings of the system in their care. You should listen intently and empathize, then remember those points in your sales pitch. You aren’t friends. They aren’t your therapist. This isn’t a back and forth conversation of sharing mutual hurts. It’s a prospective patient telling a prospective physician what they are and aren’t looking for in a patient-physician relationship. They are looking for a physician that is excited to go to work every day and think about improving their life.

What questions should you be asking?

Why are you considering leaving your current primary care doctor?

What is important to you in a physician-patient relationship?

What is important to your other family members in a physician-patient relationship?

What is appealing to you about the DPC model?

What are you most concerned about when considering a DPC relationship?

You should get most of what you need from those questions and may even be able to skip some. Then, tailor your pitch to their answers. If ALL of their answers are around access, don’t even talk about money. Or, if it’s all around getting the time to have proactive care, focus on that.  Then, talk about how you are going to partner with them on the journey of health – whatever that looks like for them. Maybe they need to lose 5 pounds, maybe they want to reduce the number of medications they take, or maybe they are great and want to stay that way. Use your discretion to focus your precious “sales” time to talk about the things they care about.

And, ask them questions to see if they are a good fit for you. Are there certain types of patients you just can’t handle? Screen for that. Are you adamantly opposed to mixing essential oils and medications? Say so upfront. Use the interview time to figure out if this is a good fit for both of you. 

I’d love your feedback and ideas on verbiage that has worked..or hasn’t. I believe in the DPC movement and want to see it work. This blog post was inspired by actual events…that happened twice. 😂

How Patients Choose

How Patients Choose a Provider and What This Means for Providers

Having and maintaining our health is a top priority.  We try to eat right, exercise often, sleep enough and do things we enjoy.  Sometimes, no matter what we do, we get sick or hurt, and we need to find a healthcare provider.  This can be tricky for someone who is in general good health and hasn’t had to see many doctors.  After thanking your lucky stars that you don’t have a long list of previously seen providers, how do you start the process of finding a provider?

Talking with people who can recommend a provider is always a good place to start.  Ask a respected and trusted family member or friend if they know a doctor who can help you.  It is also helpful to ask if your family or friends have had a bad experience with a provider.  This information is just as important to know. Their direct interaction with that recommended physician is a firsthand “review”, and this information is usually very reliable.

What this means for providers:  Treat all of your patients with kindness, patience, professionalism and compassion.  In most situations, the reason a patient has come to see you is because they aren’t feeling well.  They don’t want to be there.  They aren’t at their best.  They have reached the point where they need to feel better.  With this in mind, show your patients grace.  And know that this will pay off because your patient will come back to see you and will tell their friends and family why.  You are growing untold future patient possibilities because your happy patients will let others know how happy they are with the care you provide to them.

Doctors have a variety of specialties and expertise.  Why wouldn’t you want to be cared for by a doctor who has been trained to treat your specific medical condition?  And wouldn’t you want that physician to have treated many patients with a similar condition?  When you want to learn to play the piano, you want to be taught by someone who was trained for many years to play the piano.  Sure, someone who knows how to play the guitar can teach you a few things, but the trained piano player is specifically qualified to teach you piano.

What this means for providers:  Become an expert in your field.  Do your best to stay up to date on the most recent developments in your specialty.  Continue to learn about what’s happening in your field, and then share what you know with others.  This can mean writing blog posts for your practice website or social media or reaching out to community groups or the media to become a resource for them.

Asking your primary care doctor for a recommendation is also a good idea.  You should trust your primary care doctor, and if you don’t, you should find another.  Your doctor should be your partner in your lifelong health.  And because you trust your doctor, she is a good resource for all things medical.  She should be willing to help you with a recommendation or direct you to someone who can.  And because doctors interact with lots of other doctors, either directly or indirectly with hearsay from other doctors, they can be an excellent resource.

What this means for providers:  Nurture your relationships with other doctors.  Keep in touch with them.  Visit, call and email them a few times a year to check in.  Find out if there is anything your office can do to help their office whether that be with referrals or anything else. Send them a thank you note or small thank you gift for their support throughout the year.  The Thanksgiving time of year is a good time to show your thanks.  Think about what you would like a doctor to do for you and then offer to do it for that doctor.  Even a small gesture can make you stand out from the crowd and help your name come to mind when a doctor needs to make a recommendation. 

As a patient, you want to feel welcomed and appreciated.  You want to feel like you matter and that a provider wants your business.  And indirectly, these feelings translate to a feeling that your care matters to the doctor, too.  And while this may seem like a minor detail, it’s a big deal to patients for good reason.

What this means for providers:  Simply said, be nice.  Treat your patients like family and they will remain loyal to you and share their loyalty with others.  This also applies to ALL of your staff.  You could be the nicest person ever to your patients, but if your front office staff is rude or even indifferent, your kindness can be canceled out.  The entire patient experience in your office, from the parking lot to the check in desk to the actual appointment to the check out desk, needs to be compassionate, kind, friendly and attentive.

Knowing if a provider is covered under your insurance plan is important information.  Unfortunately, this is the reality of our current healthcare system and could be a factor in your decision to see a particular doctor.  This is especially important for major medical issues that can be costly.  Some patients, however, may be willing to pay out of pocket for smaller issues like physical therapy visits.

What this means for providers:  Share the insurance plans you accept on your website, in your office and any other place that would be helpful for patients.  And while this info can change, it’s important to keep this information updated for your patient’s sake.  For cash patients, offer reasonable out of pocket pricing and payment plans.  Not all patients can afford expensive care, but all of them want to feel better.  What can you do to make that happen for them?

How a provider engages with you during a visit is critical.  Yes, she should be welcoming and kind, but does she actually listen to you during the appointment?  Does she take her time or does it feel like she’s in a hurry?  Does she ask questions to truly get to the reason for appointment?  Is she patient with explanations and willing to repeat them?  Does she take an overall interest in your life because something that seems unrelated may be contributing to the health issue?

What this means for providers:  We all know a provider’s time is valuable and has lots of demands, but perhaps a bit more time with a patient will prevent a future appointment or a future phone call or email because their issue will be better addressed in the initial visit.  Time invested on the front end will likely mean less time needed later.  A great question a doctor can ask a patient at the end of an appointment — “Is there anything else I can do for you?”  If you have effectively addressed the patient’s needs, he is most likely going to say, “No, thank you”.   Not only are these nine words a great way for you to assess how you did in that appointment, they can also make a patient feel like they had some control of that time and the doctor was genuinely interested and responsive to what they needed.

Picking a Doctor

Why Do Patients Select a Doctor?

Why do patients select a doctor and what can you do to maximize your possibility of being selected?

Some obvious ones include being referred by:
-primary care provider (PCP),
-hospital, emergency room, or urgent care center,
-insurance company.

Strategies here are pretty straightforward. Be nice to PCPs, send them reports after you see their patients, and remove any barriers (like insurance/networks) to make it easy for them to refer. Be nice and answer the calls of Hospitalists, ER Docs, and local urgent care docs. Ensure they have all of the correct information to refer to your practice (fax, address, insurances, what all you treat). On insurance companies, being in-network is key and check their online listings regularly to be sure your information is up to date. If it’s not, go through their credentialing department to get it updated.

Next set is pretty intuitive too. Patients pick a doctor because:
-their office is close to home, school, or work,
-availability or ease of scheduling,
-specific skills and specialties of the physician
-cost and financing options.
To maximize location, be sure that patients can clearly find all your locations on your website and allow them to visit the office that is most convenient to them. Be sure they know they can come to any office any time. Maybe one is close to home and one is close to work? And, consider offering telemedicine visits for established patients. Ease of scheduling appointments is important too. If all things are equal, patients will pick the doctor that can get them in first. Online scheduling is ideal, but if that’s not possible, at least allow appointment requests online. Think about offering 7:30 am or late afternoon appointments to catch professionals that have trouble getting off work (like teachers). Then, the cost. Patients really don’t know how much services cost before they come in, but the practice sure can ease fears and manage expectations upfront. Clear pricing is a great way to be selected over your competitor.

How about outside affiliations and their websites? Patients may consider:
-hospital affiliation or listing on a hospital website,
-vendor websites,

-society websites.
Some patients have a hospital they like and they pick doctors that go there or are affiliated with the facility. Seeing you listed on a hospital website seems like an unofficial endorsement and patients like that…as long as they like the hospital. Vendor websites can be particularly useful when you are listed on their “Find a Physician” section. They often spend big bucks on search engine optimization, so patients may find them before they find you. This is particularly useful for self-referable procedures. Examples include Medtronic’s VenaSeal™ or ClosureFast™ Find-A-Doctor listing and NovaSure’s Physician Locator for endometrial ablation. If you buy equipment or materials from reps, ask if they have these available. Additionally, most professional societies offer an online physician directory. Be sure your listing is up to date because being on these sites offers credibility in the patient’s eyes.

Spoiler alert: Being nice to people and updating online profiles will set you up for success on this set of reasons…and generally make your life better and easier. Patients often select a physician based on:
-the reputation of the physician for bedside manner, personality, & empathy,
-family, friend, or colleague recommendation,
-reviews on a medical site,

-consumer reviews on a non-medical site.
Reputation is pretty self-explanatory. Be nice to people. Even though it’s your 30th patient of the day and your 30,678th time to diagnose x, it’s the first time for the patient and they need to feel like you care. This plays well into the next three reasons people select a doctor. Personal recommendations from a family member, friend, or colleague weigh heavily when that information is available. It’s tangible and lets the patient feel like they have some control in their care. Review sites have grown exponentially for this reason. Reviews are their own article (or many articles), but here’s the short version. Claim and update your medical profiles on sites like Healthgrades, Vitals, and WebMD. Keep your information updated with the state medical board and CMS because many pull from those. Then, claim and update your profiles on Facebook, Google, and Yelp. Think you aren’t on those? You are. Read the reviews and respond to them in a professional, kind, HIPAA compliant manner.

Finally, patients do select doctors based on more traditional advertising methods like:
-a snazzy website, online advertising, magazine ad, or other paid media,
-a press release or media interview,

-best doctors lists.
A lot of patients will take a PCP recommendation and then go to Google to decide if they really want to use that doctor. A cohesive and engaging online presence definitely makes patients think you might be a good doctor. While it shouldn’t matter, a crummy website or no website will turn them off. And, finding complimentary print media reinforces what they’ve found online. Press releases and media interviews have a similar positive effect on the patient’s opinion of a potential physician, assuming the news is positive. And, then best doctors lists really do make patients think that doctor is the best. Getting on those lists is a huge strategy in itself. Check out this article to be sure you are on the right track.

How do you measure up on these? Would you pick your practice? If you aren’t sure, ask an unbiased person to go through these and let you know what they find and what conclusion they come to. Pick one strategy per week, per month, or per quarter and put your practice on top. Then, track where your patients come from and tweak your strategies based on that data.

Checklist for Events at Doctor’s Offices

You’ve planned the perfect event!  Now, let’s make sure no detail is missed on the day of the event.  Don’t let a missed item or forgotten to-do ruin the fun…or the purpose…growing the practice.

Four weeks before the event

  • Invite waaaaaay more people than you think will come.   Maybe 10% will actually come.  If you are a member of a Chamber of Commerce, their membership list is a great place to start.  Promote it on social media.
  • Block the clinic schedule.  Block it half an hour earlier than you think you need.  Don’t be shy about starting back seeing patients right at the end time though.  It’s a good way to get folks out the door.
  • Tidy up the office.  Remove unnecessary signage.  Touch up paint.  Repair or replace any sketchy looking furniture.  Clean the carpets, if needed.  Add a few decor touches to personalize the office, if needed.
  • Order food.  Order enough for how many you think will attend.  Don’t worry about having enough food.  Not everyone eats.  And, you don’t want leftovers.  Select food that is easy to eat standing…no cutting.
  • Order plates, forks, napkins, serving pieces, linens (if caterer isn’t providing).

One week before the event

  • Confirm with the caterer.
  • Do a mock set-up of the space after-hours to see how long it will take and if you are missing any items.
  • Promote the event daily on social media.
  • Let your staff and providers know if they need to wear anything in particular.

The day before the event

  • Confirm again with the caterer.
  • Do one last walk-through of the office to see if anything needs to be tidied.
  • Remind your staff and providers of what to wear and to have their name tags on.
  • Promote on social media.

The day of the event

  • Start early….hours earlier than you think you should.  Set up everything except food as early as you can.
  • Cross your fingers that everything goes as planned.
  • Post to social media during the event, especially if it’s a long event to draw in more attendees.
  • Have fun!!
  • Thank your team for participating and thank your guests for attending.

Best of Lists for Healthcare

We love them. We hate them. We want our clients on them.

There isn’t a perfect source for finding a quality doctor. In fact, there isn’t a single source we know of that takes everything into consideration (clinical quality, bedside manner, front office, billing practices, office experience) to rank a doctor. If you want to find a quality doctor, talk to someone that works in the industry. They know the good docs and more importantly, they know the ones to avoid. Great, now that we all agree a source doesn’t exist for the best doctors, we can talk about the “Best Of,” “Top Docs,” and other lists.

Some of them are voted on by peers. Some are voted on by the public. And, some are even a combination of the two. Are these flawed? Sure. Humans are flawed and humans are voting, so it’s flawed. Now that we can agree that the methodologies aren’t perfect, let’s address the other awkward subject that always comes up around these lists.

Can you buy your way onto them? Maybe. If we owned a magazine and had doctor’s advertising in my magazine, would we want them to win? You better believe it. Would we just put them on the list? No. But, we would make sure that my advertisers had all the appropriate tools to set themselves up to win. Tools? Yes, tools….and the actual point of this article.

We’ll split the tools up into Peer Voting and Public Voting. For the hybrids, just do both.

Peer Voting

This means doctors are voting for doctors. You typically need a medical license number to do this. Examples include D Magazine and Fort Worth Magazine. They key to winning these is to be 1. A very well known and well respected physician, 2. Organized about soliciting votes, or 3. Completely shameless in just simply asking your fellow physicians to vote for you. The first one is pretty self explanatory. We’ll expand on the other two.

If you are in a large practice, figure out as a group who you will be voting for and vote as a block. Do your homework to find out the minimum number of votes to be included or win, because you may be able to all win! Often, you’ll have to pick who to vote for though. It’s a tough call, but no one said winning is easy. Then, regardless of practice size, tactfully remind your peers in the community to vote. Don’t ask them to vote for you…just remind them to vote. Give them the link and the deadline. You’ll be top of mind, but haven’t actually asked. We recommend these reminders come from the actual physicians in the practice via email or text to personalize it.

If the shameless approach doesn’t make you cringe, then go for it! Ask every doctor you know in the community to vote for you. It’s not our preferred method, but we sure have seen it work.

Public Voting

When the public can vote, this is a great opportunity to engage with the public and the publication! Examples of these include Southlake Style and Living Well Magazine. Social media is your friend here. Plan an entire campaign around gently soliciting votes and reminding them to vote. Tag the publications in your posts. Many of the magazines like DFW Child and Living Magazine will even provide you materials to use. Use them! This is also the time to put your email campaigns to use. Send an email letting people know that voting has opened up and you would love their vote. While we aren’t huge fans of signage around the office, this is an exception. Use signs or tent cards around the office to let patients know that voting is open. They key is knowing when voting starts so you can promote it.

We keep a running list of the organizations, when voting starts, and when the winners are announced. Contact us and we’ll happily share! Good luck!

Health Fair How-To

Health Fairs are a great way to attract new potential patients for your practice.

Finding events

  • Check local Chambers of Commerce
  • Check with cities
  • Check with schools
  • Check with large employers
  • Google city + health fair, city + expo

Before the event

  • Promote on social media that you’ll be attending.
  • Confirm date, time, setup time, tear down time
  • Confirm table size, location, electricity, chairs, trash cans
  • Determine if you are offering screenings.  BP is easy and almost fee.  Glucose is inexpensive.  Here is a list of ideas to engage participants through screenings.
  • Work with Site Manager to arrange staffing
  • Order/gather any supplies you may need
    • Gloves, lancets, bandaids, alcohol preps, glucometers, glucose strips
    • Gather table cloth, pens, screening forms, sharps container, blood pressure cuff, candy, clip boards
  • Mock setup (the first time).  Pick up any additional items you need.
  • Figure out prize for drawing…basket…$10 or under gift card
    • Create/print signage
    • Create/print drawing slips
  • Day Before
    • Remind providers/staff
    • Confirm with venue

Day of event

  • Arrive early…set up everything.
  • Wear scrubs or polo with logo.  Wear a name badge clearly representing your organization.
  • Greet participants and encourage them to engage with practice.  Tell them about the doctors (introduce if there), offer screenings, help them enter drawing.
  • Take pictures.  Get lots of staff.  It’s best to not get patient faces (so you can avoid photo releases).  Be sure to ask before you take anyone’s picture.
  • Visit with other vendors.  Talk to them about your practice and what you do.  Encourage the docs to do this, as well.  Divide and conquer. Don’t all go together.
  • If the table isn’t busy, go out and try to draw participants in.

After the event

  • Tear down and take note of anything that needs to be re-stocked.
  • Drop linens at dry cleaner
  • Notify winners and mail gift card or have them come to the corresponding office to pick up basket
  • Put all of the contact information you collected into your system for future outreach
  • Post pictures on social.  Be sure to tag venue, sponsors, whoever you worked with.
  • Drop a thank you note to the person you arranged it through and find out when their next event is taking place.

Creating Great Bios for Staff in Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Practices

When writing bios for staff of Orthopedic and Sports Medicine practices, we want to showcase that the staff is competent, knowledgeable, and friendly.

Include skills, training, education, certifications, work experience, languages, and something about why they love orthopedic and sports medicine patients.  That can be what got them interested in orthopedics, their favorite success story with a patient, or something personal that they feel comfortable sharing about their own sports experiences and how orthopedics played a role in that. 

For example, James became interested in orthopedics after a football injury in high school. The orthopedic surgeon and the rest of the team really helped John get back on the field and get back to living his life.

Some questions to get the creative process flowing:

  • Name as you’d like it listed
  • Title
  • Post-high school training and education?
  • Licenses or certifications?
  • Professional organizations that you are a member?
  • Any particular areas of clinical interest?
  • What made you want to work at this practice or with this doctor?
  • What do you love about caring for patients?
  • Is there something you wish you could tell every patient (and they would actually do) and why?
  • Do you speak any language other than English?
  • What is your favorite sport to play or watch?
  • Who is your favorite sports team?
  • What is your favorite exercise or stretch and why?

We are aiming for something like this: Meet Susan, our Orthopedic Physician Assistant. Susan joined OrthoPractice in 2009 because she had worked with Dr. Smith at the hospital and was impressed with how quickly his patients got better and his caring bedside manner. She loves helping post-operative patients get back to doing the things they love. A former college volleyball player, she also enjoys working with athletes to both prevent and treat injuries. When not at work, you can find Susan at a Texas Rangers game, spinning, or doing yoga.