Monograph A1 ~ Health Professional Practice-Building Tip
 
   
Health Professional
Practice-Building Tip


By Richard C. Schafer, DC, PhD, FICC


Please keep in mind a fact of life: "Doctors need patients. Patients do not need you as their doctor. You can be easily replaced."

In the beginning of any solo practice, professional community relations are necessary to inform the public who you are, what you do, and where you are located. It is a period when it is not uncommon to have feelings of worry, anxiety, and insecurity. For a professional who doesn't believe in blatant advertising, this means joining and actively participating in as many church, civic, social, or fraternal organizations and clubs as possible. It is a period when you must become known as a nice honest person.

It means leaving or exchanging your professional card wherever you can. It means writing a "health hints" column for your community newspaper or mailing a newsletter. It means sending notes of congratulations to those you have learned have been promoted, received an award, had a baby, celebrated an anniversary, etc. In time, such commitments can be minimized.

As I was beginning practice, a friend gave me some direction that I came to realize would assure most any health-care professional in practice for 5 years of never worrying about patient procurement again. With a few years more, one will likely find that he or she will have to turn down requests for appointments by prospective patients.

This advice will likely not be new to you. You have probably have had knowledge of it since childhood but never thought of applying it personally and thoroughly with the correct esprit de corps. But with insight, it will be new --possibly a revelation when you read between the lines and embed it within your inner self.

The suggestion is so simple that many will ignore it. That's okay. Yet, it can be proved without any doubt with any little calculator. If followed, it will be more profitable, more rewarding than any office-management system or scheme costing thousands of dollars.

If you clutch the spirit of this counsel and thoroughly bestow it, you will have no need for television or radio advertising. You can save the high cost of yellow page displays. A simple listing will do. You will have no need for a billboard sign. A small unpretentious high-quality shingle will do fine. There will be no need to "compete" with anyone.

The key is simply this. You are in health care. Thus, you are concerned with correcting health problems, maintenance, prevention, and monitoring a patient's health status according to your scope of practice. To accomplish this, a simple act is necessary. That is, every patient that leaves your office departs with an appointment card for a specific future date and time --be it a week, a month, or several months in the future.

Assure that every patient is convinced that you care about them, that they occupy a special place in your thoughts. A patient without a specific appointment may feel that they are "discharged," that you have nothing more to offer. Feelings of your disinterest, rejection, or abandonment may arise. They may feel "dismissed" or expelled from your practice. Such "released" patients will then be inclined to seek some doctor a few minutes closer or some doctor whom really "cares."

What does this simple advanced specific appointment represent? Overtly and/or subconsciously, it indicates to the patient that you are attentive to the patient's health permanently --both now and in the future. It is a subtle contract, a commitment between doctor and patient. It is a covenant that the patient will return and that you will be there for them.

Especially, it is a reminder to the patient that you care. You will not abandon them. Your professional knowledge, experience, and concern are there, waiting to serve them.

If an appointment is made for much more than 2 months in the future, the patient should be advised that this appointment is for a check up, to assure good progress or to catch anything that might be going wrong in its early stage. If symptoms arise before the appointed date, the patient should call the office immediately.

If an appointment is made for a date over a month in the future, the doctor's office should send a reminder card and/or possibly a telephone call to confirm the appointment. Even the most sincere patient can be forgetful.

Doctors who are forever seeking new patients do not know how to maintain a psychic kinship with those patients they have. Once you have this wisdom and affix it, every doctor-patient bond is nourished and thrives for life. And this link can contagiously extend to the patient's spouse, children, relatives, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.

There is much more in this philosophy than that which can be truly absorbed with one reading. Relish its subtle clues. Have you read it three times? Read it again tomorrow.

Who led me to this philosophy? My dentist. He also advised, "Dare, do, and keep silent." For you, I have broken the silence. Why? Because you are special.

--RCS



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