The Small Business Approach to Growing Your Private Practice
You’ve scored a desirable location. You’ve framed and hung your stellar credentials on the wall of your office. And you’ve made sure that your waiting room is a calm and inviting space with pleasing artwork on the walls and soothing music playing softly in the background. You are now ready to receive patients, yet the waiting room remains empty and the phone is silent.
If this is your current situation, take heart . . . you are not alone.
One of the greatest challenges faced by private practice physicians is building a solid and reliable caseload. If you expected patients to come knocking at your door simply because there’s a name plaque on the door, you are in for a rude awakening. The most successful physicians are those who can step outside of their comfort zone, take off the “doctor hat” for a moment, and adopt an entrepreneurial spirit. Granted, a course entitled “How to Grow Your Private Practice 101” probably wasn’t offered in medical school. But if you want to run a profitable private practice, then it’s time to become a quick student and learn the basics of marketing.
Seek out your desired clients. The first step in attracting new patients is to determine who your perfect clients are and then go where they go. In other words, are you a pediatric practice? Then naturally you want to make yourself available at kid-friendly community gatherings such as children’s workshops, kids’ days, and any local sports day. Are you a general practitioner hoping to attract entire family units to your office? Then go wherever young families gather at church events, sporting events, and other community get-togethers. The point is that to get your ideal clients to enter your office, you must go beyond your own four walls and seek them out.
Be available. You must make yourself available in other ways as well—primarily by being listed on staff at local area hospitals. This step will not only build your credentials, but also provide free advertising. When potential clients search the hospital website for a physician, your practice will be promoted at no cost to you.
Begin taking calls. Yes, being on call often leads to unpredictable and grueling hours. But the payoff will be worth it as your availability begins drawing patients to your practice.
Build business-to-business relationships. While you’re partnering with a local hospital, take the opportunity to build relationships with other doctors and their medical staff. Hand out your business cards and remind fellow physicians that you’re taking new patients and are available to provide follow-up care for their patients. And seek out some of the older, more experienced doctors on staff who could serve as mentors and help you grow as a professional. Also consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce and attend events that will expose your practice to key community figures, such as local politicians and leading business owners.
Create positive word of mouth. One of the most powerful yet underestimated means for growing your business is through word of mouth. In today’s age of Google reviews and Angie’s List, your practice must operate on all cylinders 24/7 to avoid getting that one incendiary Internet review that could destroy your practice’s reputation. With that in mind, hire friendly and courteous employees and remind them daily that they are the face of your practice. Train your medical staff to be professional yet compassionate. And most importantly, make sure your own bedside manner is refined and polished.
While simple, these five steps require time, consistency, and focus. But the long-term payoffs will far outweigh the short-term personal costs. Your practice is just waiting to blossom, but it must be solidly rooted with sound small-business principles to achieve lasting success.