If you've followed us for a while, you know I've been urging practices of all sizes to take their payer directory listings more seriously for years now. It's not that insurers shouldn't do a better job. It's just that (as someone who once owned a directory company) I know how hard it is to keep directories accurate, especially if it's not your core competency (like, when your actual job is providing health insurance). It's also something that requires effort on both sides to be done properly. There's just no way around this. The insurer can't be expected to know when anything changes on your side unless you inform them. And while insurers should do a better job of accurately publishing information you provide them, mistakes are inevitable. It's up to you to catch them and make sure they're fixed. And it's absolutely worth monitoring and correcting your listings! I can think of few marketing tasks that are more directly connected to attracting new patients. Patients want to know that you're (1) in their network (2) accepting new patients and (3) convenient to them before deciding to contact you. If you're not listed accurately in their health plan directory, you're basically turning them away at your door. More on the latest study showing directories just haven't gotten any easier to maintain: https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/inconsistent-physician-directories-no-surprises-act/645307/
Medical practice management is filled with unique challenges. But there's also a unique marketing advantage that practices have -- at least traditional, insurance-based practices. When your practice accepts insurance, the insurance plans you contract with, and even patients' employers, become a potential funnel of patients. The key is to be sure your practice is able to take advantage of it. Consider the process a patient will likely follow when looking for medical care. If the patient needs a new primary care practice, they'll almost surely start with their health plan's physician directory. Even if they ask for recommendations from friends and family, they will still want to confirm that your practice is in their network. And even if the patient needs a specialist and gets recommendations from their primary care physician, that in-network confirmation will still be crucial. Despite how critical it is for patients to know whether a physician is in-network for their plan or not, payer directories are often inaccurate. Any mistake in a directory can mean that your practice misses out on a patient that would have come through your doors. Some errors are particularly damaging -- like leaving a physician out of a plan altogether, displaying an obsolete or inaccurate location or phone number, or showing "not accepting new patients" when the physician is, in fact, accepting new patients. It seems logical that payers should want these directories to be accurate -- and they probably do. But it's harder to keep them updated than it might seem, and that means errors are common. Even if it's not technically your practice's responsibility, payer directory accuracy is too important to leave in the payers' hands. Someone on your practice should periodically check all payer directories, to be sure that they're sending patients to you and not passively turning them away with incorrect information. Besides the basics of accurate information, many payer directories now offer the opportunity to enhance your listings with photos and other information. Take advantage of it! It's your chance to stand out versus the competition in the best free marketing resource around.
In a typical medical office layout, there’s a front door that’s used by patients and a rear door (or staff entrance) for employees. Of course, this can be quite convenient, especially when connected to employee parking. But an interesting consequence of this configuration is that physicians and managers never experience the reception area from the patient’s perspective. Next time you head out of the office during the day, come back in through the front door. Have a seat in the reception area. Are the seats comfortable? Are there enough of them? Are they spaced appropriately or too close together? (Imagine yourself sitting next to a sneezing flu patient if you need helping deciding.) If there’s a television, is it audible, but not too loud? Are there recent magazines on hand, or raggedy old ones from last year? What does the front desk activity convey to people waiting? Do patients look impatient – like they’ve been waiting too long? If so, does anyone behind the front desk seem to notice? In our consulting engagements, we almost always have comments on how the reception area can be easily and inexpensively improved. But you don’t need consultants to figure this out. It’s easy to self-diagnose – and the upside on improving could be huge. Patients start deciding how they feel about the quality of the care they receive the moment they walk into the office. Even ill patients will feel better about their visit – and their experience in the exam room – when their first moments in your practice reassure them they’re in a welcoming, professional, and caring environment. Patients view their entire practice experience as their “care” – not just the 15 minutes they get with a clinician. An inviting reception area is a cost-effective way to reinforce your practice’s caring attitude – and get the patient visit off to a strong start.
When presented with ideas to update your medical practice’s technology, better support your clinicians, or market your practice in a new way, is your go-to reaction “we don’t need that” or “we’re doing fine without it”? Is your financial management approach simply to always minimize expenses? (Perhaps because you remember the old maxim of taking care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves – or, its more modern cousin, “the latte factor”?) If you’re thinking about business spending in the same frugal way personal finance experts recommend you run your household, you may be missing out on opportunities to grow and increase your profits. Keep it up long enough and you may jeopardize your practice’s future profitability. The good advice to skip a few lattes and pocket the money simply doesn’t correspond to many business expenses. While a latte is a fleeting pleasure, upgrading practice technology is an investment that can increase productivity for months or years to come. Similarly, keeping headcount at the number needed to “get by” may mean your physicians, NPs, and PAs will be less productive – an opportunity cost that quickly outpaces the “savings” from bare-bones staffing. Just because a business investment requires a decision doesn’t mean it is analogous to that forgone latte that puts money in the bank. Not pursuing an investment may actually cost more in terms of lost revenue and profit. Over time, under-investing in productivity tools, visibility for your practice, and modern, convenient patient service can make it harder to attract patients and retain staff. Rebuilding from that sort of decline can end up being much more difficult and costly than investing in keeping your practice up-to-date and well-staffed would have been. Before rejecting investments in your practice’s infrastructure, marketing, and staffing out of habit, be sure you’ve considered whether the upside you’ll pass up is greater than the savings.
One of our previous clients decided to move on from her group practice to set up her own practice. After being in town for just a few short years it would be important for her to have a following of loyal patients. For this reason, I decided to research how patients were rating her, and discovered her average rating with several major sites was a 4+ stars. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I decided to dig deeper and read some of the reviews. 4 out of 5 had wonderful things to say, but the one critical rating was brutal and contrary to the glowing comments other patients made about this fine doctor. The strong negative comments by this single reviewer related to his experience with the front office. I suspect this could have been avoided if the front office team took pride in their work and understood that a major part of their role is to greet each patient properly and make sure their needs are met, as well as preparing them for the visit. Such comments as: “I waited an hour in the reception and was completely ignored; the receptionist was rude and acted inconvenienced; I was a new patient and no one seemed to care” reflect a patient that feels discounted and gets upset before ever being escorted to the exam room to meet the physician. Unfortunately, it’s not rare to hear patients complaining about the way they are treated at the doctor’s office and how poorly it compares to their experience at Starbucks or their local bank. It’s time for medical practices to implement some training standards that put patients first. It starts with creating a culture where physicians and managers believe their staff is their number one customer. Staff will only treat patients as well as they are treated by their superiors and the respect and care they are given. A practice will not thrive unless the work environment is one of respect and appreciation – and it starts at the top! Hire good people and treat them right Be selective in who you hire. The
(c) Michael Jung-fotolia.com Summer's here! If the change of the season has you thinking about reading on a beach, a back porch, a dock, or a hammock, we've got the reads that you need. Judy and Laurie have both published new books. They're both easy reads packed with intriguing case studies of real practices -- the furthest thing from a dry textbook. And you'll find they're full of practical ideas you can readily implement to make your practice run more smoothly and profitably. (We'll understand if you want to wait until fall for that.) In celebration of Judy's latest edition of Secrets of the Best-Run Practices (released just in time for summer), we've got a special offer. Buy both Secrets and Laurie's book, People, Technology, Profit: Practical Ideas for a Happier, Healthier Practice Business, and we'll send you a $5 Starbucks card you can use for the perfect cold (or hot) beverage of your choice. Here's how it works: Buy Secrets of the Best-Run Practices (3rd Edition) Buy People, Technology, Profit: Practical Ideas for a Happier, Healthier Practice Business Send us proof of purchase: your emails from Amazon or other retailer, or even a photo of the two books will work (email "info" at capko.com) We send you your $5 Starbucks card! If you bought either book in 2017 and can provide proof of purchase, that works; you don't have to buy them at the same time. And if you want to buy the books for someone else (like your practice manager), you can tap into the promotion up to three times. This promotion runs through Labor Day 2017 -- you must purchase both books by then. Prefer ebooks? Visit this page for the ebook version of this promotion. Questions? Feel free to contact us.
Whether you've got the deductible reset blues or have simply resolved to keep your schedule as full as it can be in 2016, I've got some ideas to share in my new webinar, "Five Tips to Fill the Schedule in 2016." It's free (sponsored by Kareo). Some highlights of what will be covered: Reputation management -- why it's more valuable and powerful than ever, and also easier than ever; The key segment of reputation management that must be your top priority -- and most reputation management experts never even mention it; How preventive services can help you cope with the deductible reset this year -- and for years to come; How embracing technology can become its own form of (painless) marketing, even as it gives your practice other big benefits. Of course, if you sign up, you'll have access to the recording a day or two after the presentation, so don't hesitate to register even if you think you might not make it for the live presentation. (But I hope you can join us live, because I really look forward to your questions and comments.) Here is the sign-up link.
It's almost a new year -- woohoo! Resolution time! Fresh start! And for many patients, brand new insurance! For many patients with new insurance, it's also time to shop for new doctors. When they do, will they find you? By now you probably already know that there are many resources out there to help you with online reputation management (including lots of software products, and publications like this book by yours truly). But an often-overlooked part of online reputation management is especially important early in the year: payer directories. Patients rely on payer directories both when they shop for a new plan (if they want to keep their doctor(s), they'll want to be sure they're in the new plan) and when they start to use the plan (to choose a new doctor(s)). Both of these moments are among your very best opportunities to attract a patient who has just secured a plan you accept -- just the kind of patient you want. But if you're not listed in the directory, or not listed properly, your chance to attract that patients just slipped through your hands. It's just as if your practice intentionally turned the patient away -- if your payer directory listings are not correct, the effect is no different. It may seem to you (as a sensible person) that payers should make sure their directories are accurate. And indeed they should. But, unfortunately, errors abound. Maintaining directories, it turns out, is a very difficult job. While it shouldn't be your job, unless you assume some responsibility for monitoring these listings, you can't be sure they're correct; if they're wrong, it's your business that pays the price. Plus, in some cases, online payer directories are adding features like photos and website links that can give your practice a promotional boost. You can't access these new features unless someone at your practice is engaging with these directories and keeping them updated and polished. Make checking and updating the directories of all your payers a top priority for the New Year. Finding and fixing even one erroneous entry can make a significant difference in
It's almost that time again: deductibles re-set in less than a month. Got your game face on? For many practices, the end of the year is so busy, it's hard to think about planning for slow business in January, February and March. Ironically, the cause of the busyness in Q4 is related to the cause of slower demand in January: deductibles. At year end, patients are eager to bring any known problems or elective procedures in to practices, because their deductibles have been met or nearly so; in January, many patients delay care because their deductibles re-set to their original amounts (or even higher amounts in many cases). It may also seem like there's little you can do to deal with the deductible re-set. But you do have options, and making even a small dent in the downturn can make a big difference in overall profitability. So isn't it worth trying? If you're in a pediatrics, adult primary care, or OB/GYN practice, of course one of the best steps you can take to smooth your revenue is to let patients know you have availability for preventive services in the beginning of the year. Let them know that your practice may be less crowded (barring, of course, a wave of flu or another virus coming through your neck of the woods). Make sure patients are aware that preventive services usually come with no copayment or deductible. (It can be helpful to create a list of common tests and vaccines that are preventive per the USPSTF, to avoid confusion.) Here's where your EHR can shine: use list-generating capabilities to identify patients that are due for preventive services, or who have chronic conditions are overdue for a regular visit. For example, it's usually easy to isolate healthy patients you rarely see that are overdue for pap smears, hepatitis screening or check-ups. Tapping your system a little more creatively, you can identify patients that have just crossed a threshold to qualifying for a preventive service such as herpes zoster, pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine or cancer screening. Patients that turned 65 in 2015 may also be identified and offered an
Paraphrased from my Management Rx blog: The New York Times reports that the federal government hopes to fix a problem that many citizens complain about: inaccurate health plan directories. When health plan directories are incorrect, patients can wind up unintentionally receiving services out-of-network, which usually leads to unexpected, significant out-of-pocket costs. The administration is naturally concerned about the impact of directory errors on patients, but out-of-date directories are a huge problem for medical practices, too. Out-of-network errors mean the practice probably is paid less, and the patient may blame the practice for not catching the costly mistake. Patients may share their disappointment with others, via word-of-mouth or even publicly via a review or rating. And besides out-of-network errors that everyone would like to avoid, practices lose even more when they're not listed at all by a plan they participate in, or they're listed with the wrong address, wrong specialty, or wrong status (i.e., accepting new patients or not). When these errors occur -- and they're common -- the directory is turning prospective patients away from your practice. You can read the rest of my post at the Management Rx site. But the short version is, health plan directories are such an important source of information for prospective patients, medical practices can't afford to leave their accuracy to the insurers alone, even if the government gets involved. And on the plus side, health plan directories may be your single best source of new patients, and fixing and enhancing your listings is free! It's rare to find a marketing effort that can be so easy, so effective, and free. My practical, step-by-step ebook on the subject -- "The Quick Guide to Online Physician Reputation Management" -- will empower you or a staff member to take control of all your online directory listings, and start seeing the benefits of being easier to find online. It's just $6.99, but you can download a free sample at Amazon to try before you buy. (If you don't have either a Kindle device or the free Kindle reader on another device, you can also purchase a PDF version for the
If you've been among the practice managers and physicians ignoring the 'fad' of physician ratings sites, hoping they'll just fade away eventually, there's bad news for you in last month's JAMA: more people than ever are aware of the existence of physician ratings sites. And more people than ever are using them. As has long been the trend, though, patients aren't flooding sites with rants of disgruntlement; positive views continue to heavily outweigh negative ones. The most important take-away from this new research? If you haven't started taking control of your listings on ratings sites, the time to act is now. Hiding won't help ... and taking charge is easy, once you learn a few key steps. Interested in learning more about online reputation management? I will be publishing a new Management Rx ebook on this subject in the next few weeks. To be notified (and take advantage of free review copies if you're interested), sign up here: Subscribe to the Management Rx interest list by Email
We often point out to our followers how important it is to monitor your payer directories and the online physician directories aimed at consumers for accuracy. Now, from here in California, is more proof of how important it is to do so: Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, has just disabled its provider directory because it contains too many errors. (This story from the Los Angeles Times notes some -- like listing obstetricians as ophthalmologists and wrongly denoting whether physicians are speakers of languages like Russian and Farsi.) This post is not intended to pile on about exchange and ACA (Obamacare) glitches! Rather, this move by Covered California offered an opportunity to reinforce how easy it is for incorrect information to enter a provider directory. Once incorrect information is published, it can be replicated all over the internet -- as happens especially with the physician ratings directories. (This is one more reason that Covered California did the right thing by disabling their directory until they had more confidence in its accuracy.) This problem was not caused by practice managers or physicians, but, unfortunately, it is one more thing that practices need to take some responsibility for -- lest their patients become misinformed (or unintentionally turned away, for example when a plan incorrectly lists a physician as not accepting new patients or fails to denote specialty/subspecialty properly). Practice managers: get in the habit of checking directories periodically, or assign this responsibility to a staff member. Every practice should establish a tickler to check payer directories -- at least once a year. You can tie it to contract renewal (another thing you need a tickler item for), or, better yet, find out if there is a schedule for new directories to be prepared from each of your health plans. And check your listings on online consumer directories like Google+ Local, Healthgrades and Vitals at least annually; this is a great opportunity to both correct errors and add custom information (pictures, URL, custom text) as permitted (free marketing!).
If you follow this space, you may already know that I'm dubious about the value to physicians of stopping out for an MBA. As an MBA-holder myself, I think the coursework can be overkill for independent physicians who just want to run their practices better (this is less the case for those that intend on corporate careers, of course). So much of modern MBA training focuses on things that aren't generally relevant to the small/medium business owner (and, therefore, the typical private practice physician partner). Even worse, some of the business basics that doctors need most usually aren't well covered by MBA programs -- managing people; the minutia of local, state and federal regulations; the marketing of a small, local business; real estate finance; negotiations, etc. The other issue facing physicians (and sometimes practice managers, too) is the opportunity cost -- and actual cost. The opportunity cost is the income lost by taking time off from practicing/working to attend an MBA program, and the actual cost is the (often very high) tuition at business schools. For many, perhaps most, private practice owners and managers, it just may not 'pencil out' to take the time and invest the money*. One solution that can work well as a substitute is taking local classes (e.g., nights and weekends) that focus just on what you really need and want to learn. This can be a reasonable approach -- and even a trial to see if further investment in MBA education is of interest. But, there is also the issue of having to attend class at set times -- not always convenient ones. Now, though, there is a better alternative: MOOCs, massively open online courses. Incredibly, some of the most prestigious business programs in the country, including Stanford, Wharton and Columbia, are making some of their most valuable content available through the free platforms like Coursera and EdX. And it's not only self-directed -- i.e., you take the classes at your convenience -- it's FREE! (Yes, unbelievable.) Lest you think this is just throw-away content, Business Insider has kindly assembled a list of some of
If the doctors in your practice have been practicing for a while, odds are you've already got listings in the Vitals.com and Healthgrades.com, the largest online physician directories. However, there's no guarantee that those listings are correct -- in fact, it is not unusual for these sites to contain incorrect details such as defunct addresses and phone numbers grabbed from older public resources. The listing for one physician we worked with recently even had the medical school he attended incorrect. The good news is, it is usually easy to 'claim' your listings on these sites using their automated self-identification processes. Once you've claimed your listing, you can change all the details -- and add others that can help promote your practice, such as a photo and a link to your website. Besides checking out your physician rating site listings, the start of a new year is a great time to review your health plan directories as well. Make sure that you're listed properly in all the plans you accept -- including verifying the 'accepting new patients' information. And, don't forget to check that you've been removed from directories of plans that you've dropped -- to avoid any out-of-network surprises for patients that can turn into uncollectible bills for your practice. And don't forget about Google+ (aka Google Places) -- this easy to use listing process is a great way to get additional exposure for your practice and its website, with a link back, space for photos and the opportunity to add custom text about your practice and your philosophy. Customized listings stand out dramatically versus unedited ones -- and it's all free!
We often post here about the opportunity directory sites present to get extra exposure and add inbound links (great for SEO) to your website. Recently, we learned of a hospital system that is not just taking advantage of free directory listings by fleshing out physician profiles, they've actually partnered with the team at Vitals.com to get even more value out of the site. This hospital works with the team at Vitals.com to upload correct information for its hundreds of doctors -- to ensure that all its physicians are represented and appear with accurate contact information, background, specialty and insurance information. What's more, they use call center phone numbers for each physician that are assigned only to Vitals.com profiles, so that they can track exactly how many calls come in via the site. Web click-throughs are also tracked, using Google Analytics on the hospital's own site. While this extensive relationship with a directory may be overkill for (and beyond the reach of) independent practices, it speaks volumes about the changing internet directory landscape. When a major hospital system -- with a dedicated team of marketing professionals on staff -- chooses to rely on a directory as a critical marketing source and partner with them, it suggests that this form of internet marketing really has come of age. This hospital understands that a significant number of prospective patients will visit online medical directories every day for physician information. Practices cannot afford to online physician directory and rating sites for the same reason.
Did anyone else catch the recent This American Life episode called "What Doesn't Kill You?" It featured a story about comedian Tig Notaro and her four months of sheer hell -- which included a harrowing, life-threatening bout with C. difficile, a breast cancer diagnosis, and the unexpected, accidental death of her mother. Ms. Notaro turned the experiences -- amazingly -- into a highly personal comedy set that has come to be regarded as a legendary performance. There was much to love in the segment. But, there was one small aspect of it that really made me the practice management consultant in me wince: the hospital survey that was sent to Notaro's mother after her death. Notaro made great comic lemonade out of the survey that asked her deceased mother if her hospital stay was comfortable, and if all procedures were clearly explained in language she could understand (Notaro's mom was unconscious during her entire visit, and died at the hospital). But, the comedy reflected the pain that the survey caused. We're all for surveying patients -- it's a wonderful way to learn what you need to know to improve your operations, and many patients will feel that you care more about them just because you asked for their feedback. But, a mistake like mailing a survey to a deceased patient is really inexcusable -- especially because it's so easily avoided. Did the hospital's database fail to either track or remove deceased patients? If you're mailing or emailing surveys or newsletters and tips to your patients to improve your practice and build on your patient relationships, good for you! But, be sure you have processes in place to segment your lists and exclude specific patients from mailings that might upset them. And be sure you have a routine in place to clean your lists periodically to remove patients who've moved or passed on.
All of us by now have had the feeling of being held captive by a merciless phone tree or being asked, "Can you please hold?" before being left in limbo for five, ten or even fifteen minutes or more. Like you, patients don't like having their time wasted when calling your practice. Nonetheless, many practices have taken high demand and technological developments as an excuse for failing to review and refine the systems they have in place for serving their patients over the phone. If you've recently reviewed your online presence and encountered a negative review, you can appreciate how important it is to establish with your patients a sense that you are dedicated to taking good care of them regardless of whether they are in or out of the exam room. Improving patient phone service needn't be an overwhelming chore for your all-ready busy office. In fact, this process is ideally suited for working on around your schedule as there are many components that can be improved in fifteen minute blocks. Most modern telephone systems have impressive reporting capabilities, despite the fact that most practice staff usually know nothing about them. Make it a priority to generate reports that can serve as benchmarks for your practice's performance in this area. How long do callers wait on hold? How many calls come in relative to your patient visits? When are calls coming in? One very common problem is the rush of calls that often occurs as the practice opens up after the lunch hour. As the lunch hour is the most convenient times for many of your patients to call, the simple fact is that you should have telephone coverage over lunch. Rotating this assignment through your staff is easy to implement -- you'll get more new patient bookings and smooth the flow of calls, meaning happier patients and staff. You should have a current diagram of your phone tree that illustrates that patients can find their way through the tree in a timely manner. Consulting with your systems reports, eliminate branches of the tree that are infrequently accessed. You've
MarketingProfs has a nice summary of how important it is for any small/local business to monitor, own and, if necessary, "clean up" its listings in online directories. For medical practices, this is doubly important, because of the increasing number of medicine-related directories and ratings sites that are pulling from licensing and other databases -- databases that are often outdated. Moreover, patients often look for listings online while on-the-go -- for example, using mobile phones. Keeping tabs on this information helps insure all the places you're listed relate to the "real" you -- i.e., the real identity of your practice. It doesn't have to be time-consuming. Work on it over a few weeks, one site at a time, until you get all your medical site listings and main yellow pages directories claimed and cleaned up. Then be sure you have Google Alerts set up so you'll receive notices when pages are launched or updated containing your practice information -- so you can fix any erroneous data. (Find Google Alerts here.)
Today's Washington Post has a story about a lawsuit by a dentist against one of its patients. The dentist had the patient to sign a "do-not-talk" contract prior to treating the patient's aching tooth, but the patient nonetheless posted a negative review on two sites when faced with an unexpected $4,000 bill. Attempting to control online reviews by contracts that squelch patient speech is an approach that is bound to backfire; patients will wonder why you feel the need to restrict their honest views and what kind of negative reactions other patients have had. Moreover, as the article pointed out: online reviews are only one tool patients can use to choose a doctor -- and only a small percentage use them doctors have many other lines of defense when bad reviews are posted -- including the courts if a review is defamatory the vast majority of reviews are positive! One website, RateMDs.com, has even started a "wall of shame" where patients can report doctors who attempt to prevent reviews by pre-emptive contract. Not the kind of publicity any practice wants! Don't let paranoia about negative reviews lead you to make this kind of mistake. Reputable physicians can use reviews to their advantage -- not just through the benefit of positive reviews, but through the opportunity to learn about (and address) customer service problems in the office that may be invisible to providers.
I recently completed a series of articles for Kareo's Getting Paid blog about how small business management issues relate to practice management. While medical practices have an important mission that reaches beyond business, they can't achieve that mission without succeeding on business terms. And, in many fundamental ways, medical practices are not so different from other kinds of small businesses. There's a lot to be learned from examining the success factors that apply to seemingly-unrelated businesses. Plus, it's kind of interesting and fun to think about other businesses in the 'real world' and how they deal with their challenges -- almost like looking at your own organization through a different lens. If you're interested in checking out the Small Business Lessons for Physician Practices series, here are the links: Small Business Lessons for Practices: Human Resources Getting Started with Marketing Financial Basics Operations Management for Physician Practices
Media exposure can be a helpful tool for building and expanding your reputation -- by sharing your expertise, you can market yourself and your practice without "selling" and without outlaying cash. However, it can be challenging to make reporters aware of your expertise and willingness to contribute to their stories. HARO -- Help A Reporter Out (www.helpareporter.com) -- solves this problem for both reporters and sources. HARO connects reporters with qualified interview subjects through its website and thrice-daily newsletter service. Reporters submit questions and general information about the pieces they're working on, and the newsletter circulates all the opportunities to subscribers. There are multiple medical questions every day -- with outlets running the spectrum from small local newspapers and targeted magazines (e.g., by medical specialty) to national websites and print publications. Best of all, the newsletter comes to you, and a quick scan (just a few seconds) is all that's needed to see if there's an appropriate opportunity for you.
Marketing via social media has many advantages for small businesses of all types. It's a non-salesy way to connect with customers at lower out-of-pocket cost to start up than traditional advertising. No wonder so many medical practices are exploring how they can get started with social media -- and no wonder that so many 'experts' are at the ready to tell physicians how they should get started. Usually, the advice begins by offering an entry point to begin using the social web. "Start by creating a blog," the advice might read. Or, "Facebook reaches more people and it's easy to create your presence." However, what this advice sometimes fails to consider is the personal connection that is the key to social media success. Users of these networks already know what engages them and what doesn't. Non-users who jump into social media as a marketers first, though, tend to stick out like sore thumbs. It's not that there's anything that mysterious about using social media -- after all, Facebook has 700 million users precisely because it's easy to use! -- but there is a certain flow to how people use it that's important to understand. So, before you try social media as a marketing tool, try it first as a user. For example, before starting a Facebook page, set yourself up with a Facebook account, and subscribe -- i.e., 'like' -- different organizations to see how they interact with their followers. (A few examples we like in medicine: Children's Hospital Boston, MacArthur OB/GYN, Kaiser Permanente, One Medical Group.) Another way to put your toe in the water with blogging: start out as a commenter. This is a great first step for would-be bloggers -- and, in addition to building your online reputation, comments on other physicians' blogs can give you links back to your website. The range of blogs published regularly and inspiring comments is as diverse as the population of physicians: something for everyone. Some lively medical blogs you might want to check out include Dr. Wes, KevinMD, Movin' Meat, Pharmalot, Diabetes Mine, Buckeye Surgeon -- plus, we'd naturally love to have you comment
Here are three simple strategies your practice can take to attract more referrals, gain visibility and be the doctor of choice in your specialty. Forge Alliances: You can't build your network of referrals by sitting in your office, so get out and meet the other health care providers and potential referral sources. You can maximize the time spent and the gains in this endeavor by hiring a marketing director or consultant to go out and meet people of interest on your behalf. And remember, your competition is not the enemy - So forge relationships with other physicians in your specialty, as well. Build Allegiance: By providing the best service, you can to both the referring sources and the patients that are referred you will strengthen their allegiance to you. Feedback is an important part of the process so it is wise to develop an on-line survey to send to your referring sources to be sure you are on the mark and meeting their needs. It also keeps your name in front of them - and this is a very good thing! Express Appreciation: Honor your referrals by sending a thank you note and offering value add services. For example, you can offer a lunch and learn program at their practice to educate the entire staff about your specialty and your commitment to their patients. It is another opportunity to thank them for their allegiance. You'll want to thank both staff and physicians and this is a good way to do it. The three A's will have a powerful impact on building the kind of practice you want and gaining an enviable reputation as the "go to" doctor in your specialty. Capko & Company - your source for building a practice that shines. www.capko.com
Whether you are a academic faculty practice, multi-specialty group or a solo physician, there are some simple things your practice can do to protect the environment and save money while you do it! Cut printing costs by scanning insurance cards and posting internal documents on line such as employee manuals, newsletters and other shared practice information. Also print on both sides of the paper and save a few trees. Save on electricity by switching to Energy Star-rated light bulbs and remember to turn off the lights if you will be out of a room for 15 minutes or longer. Buy green products like both recycled paper and ink cartridges. Checkout biodegradable cleaning products at www.goodguide.com for helpful information. Implement a filtered water system and eliminate the use of individual plastic bottles. Have a green idea contest for staff to get everyone in the green mode and on board with making the practice more eco-friendly. Green is good!
Our last post talked about some of the key performance indicators a practice can examine to understand how well it is performing. Now we will dig a little deeper and look at other indicators that identify if a practice is above the norm and meeting the expectations the team has set. Managing referrals and the revenue cycle It is important to monitor and compare these additional performance indicators between each physician in the practice from year to year: Top ten CPT codes by utilization: Determines the high demand services and variables between physicians. This report can also be used to track payer reimbursement trends for these top revenue sources. Number of new patient and established patient visits: Monitors practice growth or decline. Referral trends: Tells you who are referring, who is not and how this is changing over time. This is also a good way to evaluate referral management and marketing efforts. Accounts receivable and days in A/R, DAR reveals how well you are doing at bringing in the money. Aged accounts receivable 90 days or more: An important indicator for monitoring internal billing and collection performance. Ideally ,this will be less that 15% of the total A/R. Outstanding claims: If there are variants between physicians there could be contracting issues or differences in physician coding (CPT and ICD) and reporting patterns. The old saying “you cannot manage what you fail to measure” is true. When armed with this data the practice will be able to better understand its position and know what corrective actions and changes need to be made. If this post brings a question to your mind that remains unanswered, contact us by following this link: www.capko.com. We are on your side!
Physicians are accustomed to speaking in front of their peers and giving clinical presentations, but don't assume this makes you a good speaker for a general audience. Beyond practice makes perfect, here are ten tips to take to the podium: Read your audience. Using appropriate humor can: Warm up the audience; Engage the audience; and Help you relax. Stay within your comfort zone – it will expand over time Material and Style. Validate your audience: Ask a question to engage the audience – and occasionally you might say “Do you agree?” if a comment you made was general to the audience – or “I see some of you agree with me” (If you see some yes nods); Thank them for coming; abd When asked a question occasionally say “that’s a good question” and repeat the question for the audience before answering (unless the question is asked with a Mic), Modulate voice, adding emphasis when making a point. Avoid overuse of clinical slides for general audience. Tell stories – good ones not horror stories. Use lay language as much as possible. Keep it simple – leave the audience wanting more. Be yourself, but s strive for improvement - and always smile. It makes you a friend of the audience. Go for it and soon you'll be a pro! Capko & Company your resource for statregic planning, practice management and marketing.
Mastering referrals is an art and a powerful tool in helping you create the practice of your dreams! Define your perfect patient, the demographics, the type of cases and the kind of patient you like to treat. Identify how you can reach those people and build a solid referral network. Create a marketing plan that nurtures the ideal referral sources and keeps your name front and center. Train staff on the solid principles of mastering referrals: Probing the patient to ensure you accurately documenting how the patient heard about your practice and tracking it in your practice management system Provide an outstanding patient experience: an aesthetically attractive and comfortable office; well dressed professional staff; staff and physicians that make each patient feel special from the time she or he calls the office until the bill is paid in full and everything in between; and thank the patient for choosing your practice. Conduct patient surveys to be sure you are on the mark with delivering an awesome patient experience. Honor and nurture referral sources. Thank them, ask if they are pleased with your service and find out if there is something else you can do to make sure they are satisfied. Network and be visible throughout your community. Be grateful and give back: giving of time and resosurces to support the community and causes you believe in. Stay constant in your efforts and measure your progress every quarter. This will help you build strategies that work and make your practice shine. You can be the master of your practice and build the practice of your dreams! Capko & Company; experts in medical practice management, strategic planning and medical marketing.
Whether you're contemplating expanding your practice, starting a new practice, or simply wondering what your practice's profit potential might be, your profits depend on your understanding of local patient demographics. With a host of free online services available, it's easier and less expensive than ever to understand your area's demographics and how they might represent threats or opportunities. You need to know how well your area is being served by your practice-type! One very useful website is www.city-data.com that supplies wide-ranging demographic information on thousands of communities. Among the most telling information is the population and growth trends of your service area -- where your patients come from or nearby areas new patients could come from. Often service areas are defined by geographical barriers, valleys, rivers, etc.. When we work with medical practices, we find that compiling data from the various communities in their service area (and other areas of interest) in a spreadsheet is invaluable. First, we take note of these population demographics: total population, population growth, income and, naturally, any demographic segment particular to your type of practice, such as women, children or the elderly. Next, combine the separate community data so that you can have a single figure for "service area" for each demographic segment. Now that you've compiled data to define the demographics of your service area, you can compare how your service area compares to nearby or similar-sized areas anywhere in the country. Is there a relatively high, low or average number of your practice-type in your service area when compared to similar other regions? You'll need to employ your first-hand knowledge to help you define the "service areas" that compare to yours. Be mindful of population density, income and geography and you should be able to identify at least two competing service areas. You can plug these data from their respective communities into your spreadsheet to calculate the same measures you have for your service area. Now that you've become somewhat of an expert on the population, it's time to gather information on the physicians. You'll goal is to find the number of physicians (FTEs)
Get serious about your practice image. First impressions are powerful and your image leaves a lasting impression - so make it positive! The office space See your office from your patients' eyes. Walk in the front door and take a critical look at everything from the paint to the floor, to the lighting to the furnishings, the equipment and even the reading materials. If it's shabby or worn it needs to go! Beyond the space If you think scrubs are the in thing for staff to wear, get a grip. Patients, who are often sick, take time to get dressed for the office visit only to be greeted by employees dressed in scrubs that look like slept-in pajamas. Scrubs are inappropriate for front office and even look shabby in the clinic. A tailored uniform or lab coat with the practice name and logo works nicely for the clinical staff and will make the patient feel they are in good hands. Front office staff might dress in this attire, but nice causal business attire makes a positive impression that separates front office staff from the clinic in the patient's mind. Little things mean a lot The power of image extends to the little things. Set a policy on no gum-chewing, conservative jewelry, and no food at work stations that are visible to patients. These are things we don't often address, but should be part of the dress code that is discussed with each employee during their orientation. Engaging patients Get name tags for everyone - include their name, title and the practice logo - all in a font size big enough for patient to easily read. Then patients will know who they are talking to and who to address when they have a question or need help. Call patients by name and introduce yourself and you will begin to engage patients and build a patient-centered practice.