How Well Do Parents Know What You Do As a Pediatrician?

It’s hard to appreciate the value that pediatricians provide when one is not aware of exactly what it is that pediatricians do.

During the summer months, I posted on our practice’s Facebook page, a note encouraging parents, to schedule their children’s wellness visits.

Although the message was for our entire Facebook community, I wanted to catch the eye of parents with teenagers. Don’t know how well you manage teens in your office, but in our office, we have decent wellness visit numbers with younger patients. The teen population?

Not so much. Once the teen years kick in, we mostly see them when they are sick.Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 11.48.51 AM

I wanted to encourage parents to make their wellness visits but also throw in a subtle nudge to parents with teens.To get their attention, I opened with this line: Did you know pediatricians are trained to treat children from birth to adolescence? Then I went on to talk about the importance of wellness visits etc.

Something interesting happened. The post outperformed other Facebook post. It received more likes that than the ordinary. But that the surprise me. What surprised me the most, were the comments from parents.

One mom said, “it’s good to know the pediatrician can see my teen.”

Another said, ” Timothy is going to be so happy when I tell him Dr. B can still see him.”

WHAT WAS THE LESSON?

It’s an age-old lesson. It’s a lesson on assumptions and what happens when we make them.

That simple, otherwise ordinary status update, got me thinking about how well (or not) we communicate what it is that we do as pediatricians. If so many people weren’t aware that pediatricians can treat teens and beyond (0-21), what else don’t they know? The irony is that our website is tagged with the line “Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.”

OPPORTUNITY

We clearly have a communication problem. And I would argue that our lack of proper communication about what it is we do as pediatricians (more than runny noses and giving shots) is why many parents don’t see the distinction between a retail clinic and a pediatrician.


 

It’s hard to appreciate the value that pediatricians provide when one is not aware of exactly what it is that pediatricians do.

 


 

The good news is that there is a significant opportunity for pediatricians to cover a lot of ground. How so? By using social media channels to educate our community about all the great services we are trained to provide.

I also believe that leveraging this opportunity could aid your practice in differentiating itself from the competition.

WHAT IS YOUR COMMUNICATION STRATEGY?

Since I realized there was a chasm between our assumptions and the reality, I’ve been intentional about informing our community about the training, knowledge and expertise our pediatricians can address.

Some of it may seem too obvious for those of us that do this every day. Like explaining the importance of wellness visits.

But the truth is, some parents don’t know about yearly wellness visits. They assume that because the child no longer needs shots, they don’t need to go to the doctor.

Beyond promoting wellness visits, I use many of the things included in the Bright Futures guidelines as a way to highlight that a visit to the pediatricians is highly comprehensive.

And by educating our population, I’m also marketing our practice in a unique way. Instead of mentioning in a promotional piece that we accept most insurance plans, I may mention that how we can provide family support, safety and injury prevention, or mental health.

MARKETING STRATEGY

Not only is promoting and sharing this information relevant and valuable to parents, but I also think it is an excellent way to differentiate ourselves from the MinuteClinics or other medical services that overlap with pediatrics (i.e. Urgent Centers, Family Practice, Telemedicine).

YOUR CHALLENGE

Think about your medical practice’s communication strategy, or lack thereof. What is your practices unique selling proposition? What problems do you solve that others don’t? Then think about how best to communicate your message. Also, consider the channels you’ll be delivering your message. By channels I mean, traditional advertising, email campaigns, social media, etc.

Remember, each channel is unique, thus requires you to craft the message differently.

I’ll leave you with this… times are changing. That is certain. And we have two options, two paths to choose from. Disagree with how things are changing, or find ways to agree with the shifts in a way that benefits you and your practice.

Embrace Change And Transform Your Medical Practice

In medicine, spontaneous change isn’t encouraged. And for good reason. Life is at stake. Change is only encouraged when there has been plenty of scientific evidence to support the change.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.37.11 AMWhen it comes to changes as it relates to the business side of medical practices, many adopt the same posture that is common on the medicine side.

For example, new AAP recommendations/guidelines, treatments, screenings, clinical protocol and vaccines? We’re okay with  implementing these changes. Retail based clinics intruding on our turf, disrupting “our” medical home model? Unacceptable.

Vaccine pricing increases… Facebook… Yelp, Healthgrade.com…ICD-10… high-deductible plans, unwelcome.

Apples and oranges?

You might say this isn’t a very good comparison. You may be thinking that adopting new guidelines from the AAP or adjustments to the vaccine schedule based on the CDC’s recommendations is not the same as MinuteClinics “stealing” patients or negative – unfair – reviews on Yelp.

I’d argue they are the same based on the premise that all of these changes – whether medically driven or market driven – challenge our practice’s status quo.

We’re in a unique position

One of, if not the biggest, challenge we have to manage, is the tug of war between being clinical providers and business owners. On one hand, medicine is about people’s health. Therefore medicine should not be influenced by market-forces, financial and economic influences, or consumer trends. Medicine is driven by science and patient care.

On the other hand, private pediatric practices are businesses just like a car-wash is a business, just like a dry-cleaners is a business, just like Microsoft and Apple is a business.

This means private independent pediatric practices are not sheltered or protected from market-forces or trends that challenge and potentially disrupt the businesses.

If we are in business, then let’s be in business.

The business world – the non-primary care business world – not only accepts changes, but they embrace it. At least the ones that want to survive or that have survived.

Change demands from them to find new ways to adapt, create, meet and resolve the new challenges. Change also gives them motivation to remain competitive.

Episode On How We Embraced Change

A few years ago, a large, well established pediatric practice, opened shop right next door, literally. We were so upset when we found out.

We wanted to call the landlord and complain to them about how unfair it was to rent space to a pediatric practice next door. Why couldn’t they find an OB practice?

We didn’t call or complain, much. But here is what we did.

We assembled the team to brainstorm ways we could keep our competitive advantage. We asked ourselves, how could we improve? What areas of our practice could we enhance? What did we do really well? What didn’t we do so well? Could we provider a better experience? How so?

Adapting

We made several changes. For example, there was a renewed commitment towards providing unsurpassed medical service from our staff. We decided to open early and close later than the practice next door. On our website, we highlighted a couple of our ancillary services (i.e. VEP) and our extended hours. We also began to stagger lunch breaks so that we wouldn’t have to close for lunch.

The market rewards those that change

Looking back, the pediatric practice moving next door actually made us a better practice. Without them, disrupting our status quo, we would have remained complacent. And complacency doesn’t drive advancement, growth, or progress.


Did you like this post? Did it resonate with you? If so, I’d like to read about it. Write your thoughts the comments section below. Oh, and don’t forget to share this post. Help me, help others to embrace change. 


What A Top Management Guru Can Teach Us About Managing Our Medical Practice Better

Jim Collins affirms that accumulated progress is what drives greatness in companies. He adds that focusing and being disciplined about progress in small increments is the only way to become a great organization. Greatness, in other words, is not a silver bullet. It is a work in progress. And we get there not mile-by-mile, but rather inch-by-inch.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 1.05.17 PM

We often talk about making things better. We often challenge the staff to think about how to improve a process; for example the check-in or check-out or improving the process of drawing up the vaccines.

When we challenge the staff to find ways to make it better, faster, stronger, more efficient, we don’t imply incremental changes. We are, in essence, asking for an overhaul. We are asking for a re-invented, transformational, innovating change.

But Collins tells us that high performing companies don’t work like that. Great companies are disciplined in their progress, which in turn, results in incremental improvements; which over time creates drastic change.

For me, this is important. It reminds me that when challenging staff to improve, I need to be clear about not asking for a complete overhaul or make a request to dismantle a process, but rather emphasize that the purpose is to make incremental improvements.

This frame of mind also helps me set my expectations too. I often devise plans with the expectation to improve an area of the practice and make it 10x better. When in fact, small additions an increases accumulate over time are not only a more realistic approach, but it is also easier to manage.

How about you? How do you approach changes in your practice? When you and your team are trying to make changes, improve or make progress with something in the office, you expect a complete overhaul? When you come back from a seminar, do you want to implement everything you learned at once but end up not doing most of it because it was just too much?

If so, perhaps adopting this notion may help.

How Do You Get People To Change In Your Medical Practice?

When I speak at seminars and conferences, I often get asked questions surrounding the topic of change. Here are a few examples or variations of the questions:

  1. How do I convince my partners to change their minds about social media?
  2. All the partners agree that we need to change, but the senior partner doesn’t want to. How do the rest of us convince her otherwise?
  3. I’m a recent grad and I just started working at a practice that has been around for a long time. The owner and the staff are pretty set in their ways. I want to change lots of things, but I get push back when I make suggestions. How do I get the owner and the staff to see that they need to change?

RiseI usually respond by saying “…. there is a magic potion down in Baton Rouge called: Comment puis-je changer l’esprit des gens. Pour the potion into the drink of the person you want to change and wait a couple of weeks. They’ll eventually come around.”

I’m kidding… I don’t say that (out loud).

The truth is, I don’t have a clear cut answer. So I do what gurus do when they don’t know answers to questions.

And that is, I answer the question with a another question so they can figure it out for themselves. Brilliant! I know.

Here is how I usually respond:

Let’s say I’m a pediatrician that is having a hard time convincing parents to vaccinate their child. I’ve already brought up the issue during each wellness visit and discussed it at length with them, but the family won’t budge. So I come to you for advice. What would you suggest is the best way to change the parent’s minds?

This usually gets me off the hook. But I don’t re-framce the question back at them so I can get off the hook. The purpose is to get the person to realize the answer is complicated and can’t be solved with a one-size fits all approach. Moreover, it prompts the person to begin drawing from personal experiences and their knowledge of the situation (i.e. personalities, office politics, employee dynamic, partner relationships, etc) to find the best approach.

For some, it will take a year long trust building relationship before they are ready to hear what you have to say. For others, research, graphs, numbers and science will do the trick; for others, a powerful emotional story will get them to head into the direction you want them to go. And for others, you may never be able to change them no matter what you do just like some parents will never see the risk of not vaccinating, regardless of one’s efforts.

So, how will you get people to change in your medical practice?