A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of having a Medicare employee (or at least that’s what he claimed) enter (of course without warning or without an appointment) my office and stated, “I Need to take some pictures.” He never stated his name, or showed a card or asked for pictures of anything specific. However, having been practicing for almost 9 years now, I know not to mess with Medicare so I politely replied, “Sure thing! What is it that you need pictures of?” Apparently, that was the wrong question to ask because the next 20 minutes of my life were not only painful, but shocking.
You are in your office meeting with an elderly mother, your patient, and her daughter. There is strong resistance from the daughter to a much needed treatment plan you are proposing for the elder mother. The elder mother wants the treatment, but is dependent on her daughter for care-giving and for financial decisions. You know she needs this treatment. Conflict: What do you do?
There are countless books written and seminars given on the art of presentation to patients and customers. The common message amongst the different venues is the conviction of the presentation and the application of “strategic words.” Physicians often have a disconnect as to understanding how the patients perceive our message and evaluate each and every word we say. With this in mind, it is critical to develop presentation skills with “strategic words” that drives our point home in the patient’s eyes and leads them down the road we wish.
Doctors’ offices are one of the few and only places left in our instantaneous consumer society where a customer, the patient, can receive services and goods and not pay for them immediately upon receipt. In a day of mounting debts and rising expenses, the doctor riskily assumes the role of credit grantor, unless the unusual happens and the patient pays for services in full before he or she leaves the office.
After recently attending a practice management seminar, I found myself excited with what I learned, but also overwhelmed with the wealth of good ideas that was in my luggage to take home. Attendees of this seminar not only had been given tools that would help provide comprehensive care for patients, but also to inspire us to make podiatry fun again if we had lost that enthusiasm.
I recently attended the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management (AAPPM) resident’s workshop seminar. I had the usual “tools” with me to begin what I thought would be the usual conference: the quintessential cup of coffee, my trusty notebook and pen, and being the typical female, my winter sweater for the predicted temperature flux in the prototypical hotel conference room. However, this workshop seminar was unlike any I have attended in the past. I like to say I am a resident “veteran” of the annual podiatric conferences like ACFAS and typically like to contribute research in the form of posters or presentations each year. Yet, I can honestly say that from the moment I sat down at the standard Marriott conference room table on August 26th in Pittsburgh, I knew this would be no ordinary workshop and my pen didn’t stop writing until long after the last speaker stopped talking.
The current rage of practice management and marketing is the “meet and greet.” You cannot attend a seminar or read an article in one of the many podiatry magazines without suggestions such as: 1) have the doctors do a meet and greet at the local hospital, or 2) have your staff set one up with a primary care physician practice. Employing the services of a marketing person is useful to promote and educate others about your practice to local businesses and other related health care providers such as physical therapy centers, other specialists, and pharmacies. The other trend in vogue right now, which is very similar in nature, is the term “lunch and learn.” These are all excellent ideas and should definitely be implemented if you haven’t already done so, but an aspect that often needs constant reinforcement is the relationship between doctor and patient. This should be your first marketing implementation, and I would like to give some helpful reminders to what I‘ll title the “10 steps to the doctor-patient meet and greet.”
Many doctors and office managers struggle to find and hire the right employees. From interviewing strategies to prescreening for computer literacy, the process of hiring seems to become more difficult all the time. It is for this reason that we have come together, utilizing our experiences and the experiences of others in our field, to demonstrate and to simplify the art of finding that right fit for your office.
On a cold mid-November evening, we had a simply mystical experience with a select Group of ten podiatry students at the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine (OCPM). We had the idea of taking the commonly known concept of the Mastermind Group to a group of students who share a common goal and interesting dynamics with many similar challenges, but have quite diversified reactions and related behaviors to them. The students were freshman and sophomores chosen based on their degree of embracing their practice management class, which is now delivered as a full four year curriculum at the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine with much love and passion from some of our profession’s best practice management.
Have you ever anguished over a phone call to a disgruntled patient, or experienced sweaty palms when you had to make a presentation in front of your colleagues? Have you ever been intimidated by hospital administrator who calls you to his\her office for a discussion about your admitting practices? If you answered 'yes' to one or all of these questions, then you will want to read the rest of this article that will help you deal with those feelings and will provide suggestions for turning fear into fuel.*
The last issue of Podiatry Management Magazine presented the concept of having your office function as a League of Its Own, mirroring the Tom Hanks movie called, "A League Of Their Own," about the women's baseball league where Geena Davis, who was incredibly passionate and alive with her love for the game, was ready to quit and move back to Oregon due to her husband’s war injury. Her coach, played by Tom Hanks, confronted her and asked her why she was leaving. She replied, “things just became a little too hard.” Tom Hanks replied "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes you great." This rings so true in building and maintaining a successful podiatry practice in today’s times.
Remember watching an old Tom Hanks movie called, "A League Of Their Own," about the women's baseball league during WWII. In the movie, Gena Davis, who was incredibly passionate and alive with her love for the game, but was ready to quit the league because her husband returned from war with a minor injury and wanted to move back to Oregon. While trying to "sneak away," her coach Tom Hanks confronted her and asked her why she was leaving. She replied that with her husband coming home, things just became a little too hard. Tom Hanks replied "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes you great."
For the health and success of your practice, you must have a high quality and motivated staff. Someone not suited to your practice can create a negative impression among your patients and cause the morale of your staff to decline. With today's tight health care labor market and competition from hospitals and other professions that offer higher salaries with more benefits, finding the right employee is even more difficult. Also the cost of employee turnover can be thousands of dollars in lost revenue plus a cost of energy and time it takes to replace and train a new employee.
Now that we have discussed the many benefits of in-office dispensing in Part One, how do you begin? Many practices with very successful in-office dispensing programs employ a technique known as “passive marketing.” Patients are never told that they have to purchase a product. Instead, opportunities for product use are made available through recommendations in the treatment plan. Take for instance this scenario: “Mrs. Smith, you really need to use a skin moisturizer on your feet twice a day.” Her response is usually, “Can you recommend one for me?” With this response, your door of product opportunity flies wide open.
Compassion is one of the hallmarks of the medical profession and physicians, once they’ve attained a measure of professional success, often want to give back to the communities they serve. However, writing checks to a handful of charities is not always the best way to make a difference, nor is it the ideal for your fiscal well being. To maximize your philanthropic impact while enjoying significant tax savings and estate planning benefits, you’ll want to explore charitable vehicles such as donor-advised funds (DAFs) and private foundations.
When we completed our medical training a medical generation or two ago, both of us knew doctors who were unique and special in their ability to listen to patients, perform a thorough physical exam, and order a minimal number of tests which often led to the diagnosis. Today, many of us, including the authors, have found that the art of listening to our patients has become lost or marginalized.
According to the story about the rock band, Van Halen, the band stipulates in their contract that there must be a bowl of M&M’s backstage before every concert and that all of the brown colored candies need to be removed. I didn’t believe that an entertainer could be so demanding and capricious. However, I did my research on Snopes.com (http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/vanhalen.as) and found that the story was indeed credible and accurate.
The perception of time spent with your patient is related to your energy directed toward them. Their psychological and medical needs can be fulfilled in a short time with simple techniques. This starts with their perception and expectations. Their expectations can be exceeded by making their perceptions reality. Much of this information shows common courtesies our parents taught us as children, which are frequently lost in adulthood.
Hiring an associate can be a daunting task. As an owner of a podiatry practice, you would like to continue to grow and make more money, while at the same time not spending more time away from your home and family. In addition, you don’t want to go through the pain of finding a new doctor. So, before hiring an associate, make sure you have everything in order so you truly can have more time and money.