While there are myriad ways to begin practicing in a new market, one consistent theme is the importance of getting to know your audiences.
From patients to colleagues, a big part of having a thriving business is making (and nurturing) connections with the people you serve, and the colleagues with whom you serve them. The challenges may be different in each market, but the solution is the same (and the effort is on-going.)
For physicians, the beginning and end of most discussions is patient care. Fortunately, providing quality care and an excellent experience is not only good for patients, it's good for business.
- Make sure your entire team prioritizes patient experience at every touch point.
- Provide days and hours of operation that work for your patients.
- Educate and communicate clearly in the exam room.
- Listen and respond to patient feedback.
- Provide meaningful and compliant outreach, marketing and social media posts.
- Prioritize review sites and make sure local listings are accurate.
- Unified branding and materials convey competence and confidence.
Some of the most important professional relationships you will have are with providers (and their staff) that will refer their patients to you for specialty care. Realize that long-standing referral patterns can be ingrained in the processes of those offices, and it can take extraordinary measures to change those patterns. The first step is to let referring offices know who you are and what you do.
- Schedule in-person meet-and-greets with potential referring offices and their staff. It's important to meet not only the physician, but the referral coordinator if they have one, and the front desk specialists that are making the calls. These can be quick, informal introductions.
- Reach out to providers you know (or would like to know) with a handwritten note.
- Prepare and distribute materials written for a physician audience. Provide information on your scope of practice, including patient ages that are treated in your office, and conditions for which providers should refer.
- Consider offering educational presentations for larger offices.
- Respond quickly to referrals that your office receives, and implement a workflow to insure this always happens.
- Provide timely consultation and reports to referring providers, as appropriate.
If you are joining a group or taking over the panel of a retiring physician, don't rest on your laurels. The referral relationships that an existing physician had are theirs, not yours. An ideal scenario would be a warm introduction from the provider that's leaving, communicating his or her confidence in the continuation of care.
It varies by location, but consulting or call affiliations with local hospitals can help introduce new providers to the medical community and open up referral channels. Hospitals often have advisory groups or committees that allow participation by adjunct staff, and this can be a great way to make professional connections. If your practice is near a teaching facility, having medical students, residents or fellows rotate through your practice can provide future leads for staffing.
Team and Industry Relationships
Even in a group practice, physicians can sometimes feel like they're on a virtual island. It takes time and effort, but it's good practice to regularly connect with other physicians (in your specialty or otherwise) to talk shop. College and Academy meetings are a great way to connect with colleagues on a national scale, and regional association meetings can connect providers to discuss issues and policies closer to home. In any of these settings, you can meet physicians with similar geography or areas of focus.
If you practice with other physicians, make an effort to connect both inside and outside the office.
- Start a journal club to compare and discuss relevant publications. Take turns choosing articles and meet informally to talk about them (you could even do this by Zoom or email if time is tight!)
- Research HIPAA-compliant platforms to share and discuss cases
- Make a physicians-only email distribution list to share business discussions
- Meet socially!
The personal and professional relationships that you create, if well-maintained, can sustain your practice for many years, and introduce generations of patients seeking allergy care in your community.