These days, consumers, feeling the rising squeeze of lost jobs, stale investments, and eroding assets, have made it a challenge for physicians to stay afloat. Even seasoned health care practitioners, across the country, are seeing up to 20% fewer patients than just 2 years ago. Billings are down for many physicians, as much as 50% in some cases, as existing patients elect to stay at home and save money rather than visit their medical providers. It appears today’s consumers are definitely watching their medical expenses more closely than ever. The news isn’t too positive for graduating medical students either, as they face the challenges of a tough and competitive marketplace on top of rigorous student loan payments.
But it isn’t all gloom. The encouraging news is that there are several viable tactics that both veteran healthcare practitioners and recent medical school graduates can execute right now.
1. GET YOUR COSTS UNDER CONTROL NOW.
One of the most critical survival steps you can accomplish is to immediately lower your costs. You may think you’ve already done this. But, check again. It pays to be observant. I often encounter medical office buildings that are virtually deserted. Is the current lack of paying tenants your next opportunity? If so, perhaps the timing is right to have an affable discussion with your landlord about the renegotiation of your current lease, or to inquire about some reasonable tenant improvements!
In this unyielding economy, cash is king. Recommendation: Make it mandatory that all patients pay for services rendered at the time of service. No exceptions. Allow your patients to use their credit cards at checkout if they prefer. And, even if you must pay a small percent to the credit card companies, 3 percent, say, on a $15 bill, this would equal a mere 45 cents (about the cost of a postage stamp), and well worth the investment to save your staff time and energy!
2. GET YOUR STAFF UNDER CONTROL NOW.
If you did not conduct at least 6 in-depth interviews, then you probably inadvertently hired at least one staff member that is causing you some form of problem. Now would be a perfect time to eloquently "invite" your bad hire to look for another job somewhere else. When ending someone’s employment, be genuine, be professional, and make certain your dismissed employee leaves with their dignity. Be sure you document, in writing, everything that occurs in order to limit potential post-employment problems.
Hiring productive and honest people, and removing dead weight, is probably the single most important thing you can do to help yourself survive a tough economy.
3. GET YOUR MARKETING PLAN UNDER CONTROL NOW. It is time to pull out all stops when it comes to marketing your practice.
It might actually be the little things that ultimately count. For example, try calling the patient you saw that morning around dinner time. Your call should be short, such as, "How are you feeling?" Or, "Did you have any questions about today’s visit?" The level of service you create with this marketing/customer service activity may far exceed the benefits of that costly remodel you were considering before the economy began to collapse around you.
It’s also a great idea to always ask your patients for referrals. Patient referrals continue to provide some of the most economically feasible results for building your practice quickly. The patients whom you’ve successfully healed trust you, and may even subconsciously feel somewhat obligated to thank you. It would be a small matter for a happy patient to refer a friend to you. Referrals are FREE, unless of course you wish to provide an incentive program for this purpose.
4. GET YOUR DISPENSARY OPERATIONS UNDER CONTROL NOW. The nutritional supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Your patients are already purchasing nutritional supplements, if not from you, then from someplace else.
Setting up a small supplement dispensary in your office may well be your best financial strategy for surviving these tough times. You may want to carry only the supplements you need to support your type of practice and to help treat your acute care patients. You may also wish to always have a good supply of men’s and women’s multivitamins, plus, some effective immune enhancing products (like a great Vitamin C), and perhaps some joint support products. Lastly, many Americans have some thoughts towards "weight loss" on their minds. So, perhaps a good meal replacement/detoxification product might also fit into your operation.
In the end, it’s all about improving the quality of life for your patients. And, if you have a successful practice, you will have given yourself a fighting chance to survive these challenging times, and accomplish all of the above.
Evan Zang, Healthcare and Protocol for Life Balance consultant, is the CEO of Jump Start, Inc., based in Scottsdale, AZ. Mr. Zang has more than 20 years of chain retail and distribution experience. Many recognized colleges and universities have benefited from his business lectures. These schools include Arizona State University, The University of Arizona, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, University of Bridgeport, Logan College of Chiropractic, and Pacific College of OrientalMedicine. He can be reached at 1-602-717-1173