Imagine you could look forward to walking into clinic each day, knowing that every patient you were going see would turn out to be a really interesting case, whom you could help with your favourite type of procedure or surgery, and who was thoroughly pleasant to be around. Your first reaction might be ‘dream on’, but we believe differently.
Private Practice is fundamentally different to NHS work because you get to choose your patients.
In other words, if you can be specific about the types of patients you wish to see and the investigations and interventions you wish to be involved in, you can literally seek those patients. This seems very logical. The reality is, we tend not to go about choosing, and instead, we default to the ‘FOMO’ method of practising. FOMO (or the fear of missing out) is a double-edged sword. When we are starting out in practice, we are so grateful for patients, that we tend to take on all and sundry, just to get those bums on seats (or is that the examination couch?). Whilst this initially brings revenue, it can also problems.
If you were intending on developing a practice focussing on ankle surgery for sporty patients, and you find yourself working with diabetic feet, you’re in danger of attracting more of the same. And being a good surgeon, chances are, you’ll do a good job of it. But complicated patients have a habit of developing, well, complications. Suddenly Friday’s neat little operating list of six day-case scopes followed by early finish, has turned into three sick overnighters who need visiting over the weekend. When you were planning on seeing your wife and kids. Far from advocating that you avoid complex or medically challenging cases, we’re advising that you purposefully go about attracting the patients that you love to work with.
So.. What’s to be done?
Firstly, you need to have a good think about exactly what you do, and don’t like clinically.
Do you, for instance, enjoy spending time with patients, getting to know them, and working collaboratively with other clinicians, because you thrive on the mental stimulation of helping a patient who is medically challenged? Maybe you take pleasure in aiming to be one of the best revision arthroplasty surgeons, or pituitary problem solvers in the land? Or maybe you like quick and easy dermatological procedures in a one-stop-clinic? It’s actually even more important to focus on who or which interactions you don’t like. Think back to a time when patient made your heart sing, or sink.
Decide what you should drop.
By this, we mean which clinical activities would you really rather not be doing. In the NHS, we’re required as a general physician or psychiatrist to see pretty much every case that is presented to us, and we tend to stick with that mind-set. If Lyme disease doesn’t float your boat, then why in private practice are you seeing those patients? It’s tempting to see any case, but in the long term, it stresses you and your support team out, moral drops, and work becomes a chore. Are there any aspects to your practice you’ve been waiting to expand upon, and could this be a potential new service, tailored for your kind of people?
Try to visualise your ideal patient.
Marketing experts talk about creating an ‘Avatar’ for your ideal client, and it’s a good visualisation technique. An example of a Ninja patient might be a busy professional who works in the city, and is appreciative of rapid, expert advice. He is a weekend warrior with knee pain, who is time conscious and looking for help with getting to the start of the London Marathon. His goal is to get a swift and accurate diagnosis, a rapidly formulated treatment plan which is communicated to his physio, and clinical care from a Doctor who understands, and is passionate about his sport. In other words, he needs a swift acting, sporty doctor, with good availability who doesn’t automatically tell him to give up on running 26.2 miles.
Once you’ve understood what your patient’s biggest problem or need is (and this may be as simple as e.g. wanting to be seen by a Doctor who runs and cares about runners), you can begin to promote your work as an expert who provides that care. You and your support staff need to embrace your practice’s identify as ‘the running doctor’ or the ‘frostbite physician’, and over relatively short space of time, referrers will come to think of you as that.
Happy Clinic Days.
Sometimes, we all need a little extra help in building our practices – from a business perspective, as well as a clinical one.
Are looking for guidance and advice ?
We are waiting to help you gain more patients and boost your referrals
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