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.

Pediatric Practice Management Seminar You Don’t Want To Miss

The content in many practice management seminars or conferences are either too generic (the one size fits all medical specialty approach) or too specific (subspecialty focused) in my view. As a result, it makes it difficult sometimes to figure out how to apply the lessons from other medical specialties to pediatrics.

If only there was pediatric specific seminar, where everybody in attendance speaks yScreen Shot 2014-11-21 at 10.10.07 AMour language (the language called Pediatrics), are aware of my specific challenges and when I receive advice, tips, suggestions or recommendations, it is provided with in the context of pediatrics. Wouldn’t that be great?

Well, our prayers have been answered.

My friends at the Pediatric Management Institute have put together an awesome line-up of speakers (Disclosure: I’m one of the speakers. But I’m not including myself among the awesome ones), presentations and case studies for a one day seminar in the San Francisco/Oakland area that you will not want to miss.

This one day seminar packs a lot of information. Here’s a glimpse of the topics that will be discussed:

  • Coding, The Basics and Beyond
  • Set Your Practice Prices Fairly and Easily
  • Brave New World: Future Pediatric Models
  • Key Performance Indicators for Pediatric Practices
  • Easy Methods to Collect Patient Balances
  • The 5 Legal Issues To Watch Out For In a Pediatric Practice
  • Top 10 Coding Lost Opportunities
  • Five Concepts to Maximize Your Marketing
  • When to Add Another Provider to Your Practice
  • ICD-10, Ready or Not!
  • Patient Recalls
  • Budgeting for a Pediatric Practice

Whether you are an expert in practice management, employed by a large health organization or just starting to learn about how to properly manage a medical office, this seminar offers a valuable learning opportunity.

But wait… there is more!

The PMI team is holding the seminar at the Holiday Inn & Suites Oakland Hotel Airport , which as the name implies, is right next to the Oakland airport. No need to rent a car or arrange for additional transportation. You’ll be right there. Fly in. Attend the seminar. Fly out.

For a PDF on the topics, speakers, location and date (Saturday January 24, 2015)  click on the link: Pediatric Management Institute Seminar

Psst…. one more thing.

If you use the code “PediatricInc” when you register, you will receive $75 off your registration. How cool is that? This offer is exclusive to PediatricInc readers. Now you can bring someone along and save $150.00. If you bring one more person, you’ll save $225.00… it’s like the gift that keeps on giving. 🙂

Register

 

Do Pediatricians Have A Marketing Problem? [Pediatric Practice Management AwesomeCast]

WorkingTogetherToday, Chip and install about pediatricians’ marketing problem. We dive in and discuss how pediatricians have not done a good job of distinguishing themselves from the competition. And when we say competition, we don’t mean other pediatricians, but rather retail based clinics and large hospital networks.

The result of our poor efforts in differentiating ourselves? Parents don’t really understand the value that comes from visiting the pediatrician’s office rather than a retail based clinic. So in many parents’ mind, going to retail based clinic is the same intern of quality of care as visiting the doctors office, but faster and cheaper.

We also talk about what each of us thinks peds could do to begin fixing this problem.

We hope you enjoy the Awesome cast, and if you do, make sure to tell your friends about it.

For the audio version, click below:

iTunes link

#9 Marketing Your Pediatric Practice [Practice Management VideoCast]

Marketing is a topic that most private practices are interested in. Who doesn’t want to get the word out about their practice and draw more patients, right?

When we think about marketing, however, we often focus on the tactics. In other words, we think about whether an ad in the paper or a post-card or social media is better than mailing a letter to daycares in the area announcing the new doc that joined the practice.

 But marketing is much more than the tactics.

Unfortunately, many among us, focus too much on the tactics and not enough on the important.

In this episode, Chip and I talk about what is the essence of marketing and what are the steps or activities we ought to embrace in our practice in order for the tactics to really have an impact.

As always, we’ve made the episode available in various format.  See the links below for details. Also, if you liked our discussion, we’d love to hear from you. Oh, and don’t forget to tell your friends about this AwesomeCast.

Different Ways to Engage:

1. Google+ Community

2. Pediatric Practice Management Mediacast PodCast

3. iTunes

And of course, YouTube:

If you would like to learn more about the conferences Chip and I mentioned in the recording, check out the links below.

Goryeb Children’s Hospital 15th Annual Pediatric Gurus Conference at Skytop Lodge

PCC Users and Practice Management Conference in Burlington, VT

NCE AAP: Do You Know How To Market Your Medical Practice?

Most of the time, we think of marketing as a direct mail piece or an ad in the paper or a Yellow Pages ad. These things, however, are merely marketing tactics. They are not the essence of marketing.

Marketing is much, much more. It is more than a pretty Facebook page or a website. It is more than an ad in the Yellow Pages or even an newsletter from your practice. All those things are important, mind you. But it isn’t the extent of a marketing strategy.

Companies that do great marketing understand that marketing is not a department, but rather an attitude. It is a way of life for the organization and everyone that works in it. It transcends the organizations. In fact, marketing begins even before you create your product or service.

At NCE, I will also be giving a talk on marketing with my friend Dr. John Moore.  I will be focusing on the essence of marketing. Specifically, I’ll be addressing five components that when woven together, you get marketing gold. Dr. Moore will be bringing it home by describing how social media can affect the inner workings of your practice network and your communication outside of your practice.

The talk is called Information Management: Marketing Your Practice From Handshake to Hashtags.

Dr. Moore and I will be presenting at 10:45 am Saturday, October the 20th. It is part of the Joint Program between the Section on Administration and Practice Management (H1020) and Section on Young Physicians. Check your brochure for details.

If you will be attending NCE this year, make sure to stop by our  talk. I think you will not be disappointed.

You may also consider attending all the sessions on this track.  Some of the most savvy doctors from a practice management perspective will be in attendance. This is the Superbowl of practice management, in my opinion. If you want to learn how to manage your practice, you will not want to miss  it.

Click on the link to download the flyer for all the practice management events at NCE this year.

Oh, and remember to come say hi. I’d love to meet you in person.

How Does One Know When They Are Doing Social Media Right?

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the CCPA’s annual meeting about social media. My pitch? Incorporate social media in your practice. Why? It is good for pediatrics and it is also good for you.

During the questions and answers session, I was asked how does one know when they are doing social media right.

Great question, but I think I gave the doc a poor answer.

I didn’t want to say, this is how you know you are doing it right, because I don’t think anybody can actually say that. You won’t really know until you actually do it. Moreover, I didn’t want people to not even try social media for fear they wouldn’t get it right.

Instead of clarifying that, I told the doc that because everything is new and moving so fast, it was nearly impossible to know how to do it right. What might work today may not work tomorrow.

I mentioned that in our practice’s social media journey, at the beginning we had poor results in terms of followers and patient engagement even though we were doing the exact same thing that other people and practices were doing.

In retrospect, the point I was trying to make is that there isn’t necessarily a right way to do social media. What works for you might not work for anybody else. But I felt that my answer was more along the lines that you can’t never know if you are doing it right. Which isn’t the case.

Below is the answer I would have liked to have given.

Clear as Mud Objectives –

Just like anything else, I think it is worth sitting down (not literally, this can be done in your head while driving to work if you want), and getting an idea of what you want to accomplish with social media. For example, if followers is your goal, then decide, 1000 or 10,000 or 1,000,000 is the goal.

Once you hit your goal, you know you are doing something right. Of course if followers is your only goal, I think you are missing out. But I bring followers up because it is easy to explain.

Perhaps your goal is to educate people about pediatrics in general. This goal is a little bit harder to measure. But for example, if you are getting people in your practice saying, “hey doc, I saw on your blog you wrote about fevers and I told my friend to read it too since her kid had a bad fever and your article really was great,” then I think you are doing it right even if it is just one person.

No Perfect Answer –

I know a pediatric office that has Facebook page that only post pollen counts. I think pollen counts are kind of boring and not necessarily useful. But, to their community, they are providing a great service and it is working for them. But it would have never occurred to me that pollen counts was the “right” thing to do.

Trial and Error is OK –

If we believe there is only one way to get it right, then we won’t try other things. We miss out on experimenting, which gives us an opportunity to see what works in our community or what does not. Thus, I think trial an error is a good thing.

I’d rather you try and maybe not get it right the first time, than have you not try at all because there is no one clear way to succeed.

Engage –

At the end of my response to the question, I told the doc that if I had to pick one measure of success, it would have to be engagement. If you are engaging, then you are winning. If you are engaging, in my view, you are doing it right.

Social media is about communication. And just like the real world, the best communication is when it is done collaborative. Otherwise, it is just advertising.

Hopefully this will help people that have the same question. I know that writing this post will help me answer the question a little better in the future.

How would you have responded to this question?

What Can A Medical Practice Learn From Big Brands?

If your medical practice’s reality is not in alignment with patients/customers/parents’ expectations, frustrations, disloyalty and poor customer satisfaction are bound to occur.

During my MBA program, we often worked on benchmarking exercises to solve business problems. In class they’d ask us to investigate organizations that faced similar issues that our company was having. The intent was to find solutions (or even mistakes companies have made so we can learn from them) that others have implemented, thus incorporate lessons learned into our own business.

It wasn’t easy to do these exercises because it was difficult to find lessons from McDonald, Starbucks, Home Depot, Apple and other great brands that I could implement at our small pediatric practice. But I had to do these assignments; which made me think harder. One observation I made while studying these big companies was the power of being Consistent with a Story.

Great brands – and even products – tell consistent stories.  What do I mean when I say they tell a story? Well, Prius, for example, tells a story. People that buy a Prius tell others a story about themselves. One may get the same gas mileage from a Honda Civic hybrid; but the Civic doesn’t tell the same story as the Prius. Same with any Apple product. Apple’s story is completely different than Dell’s story.

Consistent with your Story
Consistent with your Story

We can argue all day whether or not Starbucks’ coffee is better than Dunkin’ Donuts. But we can certainly agree each company tells a different story about who they are, and what they represent. Harley Davidson is another great example of a story. People who ride Harley’s are telling others their story; which is in essence what Harley represents as a brand. What do you think about when someone mentions Harley Davidson? Now compare that to what you think about when someone mentions Yamaha or Suzuki.

The thing about these big brands (here is the lesson I learned by the way) is that they are consistent with everything they do. In other words, their story, what they represent, their brand, their advertising, the customer experience is consistent with their story, with what they represent.

If you visit a McDonald’s in Pocatello Idaho, I bet you are going to get a consistent experience than if you visit one in Beijin. As a result, people know what to expect, which in turns creates loyalty to these brands. Godin refers to them as “connections.”

Another example is Apple. Apple sells sexy products. But they don’t stop there. When one visits their retail stores, we get the same look and feel. Their online experience is also consistent with their products and retail stores. It is clean, simple, sophisticated and to the point. 

In your medical practice, are you consistent with your story?

Does your policy say co-payments expected at the time of service but sometimes bill patients instead? Does your voice mail greeting say the call is very important, but don’t always call back within a reasonable time frame? Are the doctors top notch doctors, but the front desk staff (the face of your office) not so great with customer service?  

Does the practice’s website say open until 5:00 pm but if a patient calls at 4:30 pm the lines sometimes are not open? Do you have a sign that says patients have to show their insurance card at every visit, but sometimes the front desk forgets to ask patients for the card?

Are you consistent with your office hours? Or do you have the type of practice that only opens every other Monday from 1:00 to 3:00pm; Tuesdays from 3:00 to 7:00 (but only for sick appointments); Well visits have to be scheduled at the secondary office, which also has different hours than location A. Wednesday you open when there is a full moon, except during the winter months… You get the point.

Brands, companies or products that do not deliver a consistent story don’t do very well. Even big brands make this mistake. Remember New Coke? What about smokeless cigarettes? This notion also applies to a medical practices.

If your medical practice’s reality is not in alignment with patients/customers/parents’ expectations, frustrations, disloyalty and poor customer satisfaction are bound to occur.

But don’t take my word for it. Philippa Kennealy had this to say  in a recent comment:

“Every touch point (point of contact with the practice, be it the website, brochure, receptionist, voice mail, parking attendant, back-office nurse, physician or biller) needs to be examined and evaluated for patient-friendliness. And if found lacking, needs to be trained/designed to meet patient needs.”

In other words, constantly adhering to the same principles, course, form and not self contradictory to your story with everything the practice does.

Does your medical practice deliver a story? Are you consistent with your story?

How Web2.0 Can Help Your Medical Practice (Connect) Grow

How Web2.0 Can Help Your Medical Practice (Connect) Grow

web20-irWeb 2.0 refers to the changing trends of the Internet, particularly with web design, which aims to enhance communication, information sharing, collaboration and functionality on the web.

Just a few years ago, most web pages were static. When visiting a website one found the site had stagnant text with little or no user interaction. Today, web pages are much more dynamic. And as a result, new hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis and blogs are more prominent on the web.

When I think of Web2.0, I often think of Internet companies, or technology companies or even media companies. But is there an opportunity to welcome social networks and blogs in a traditional medical practice?

Yes! There is potential for medical practices to embrace all the Web2.0 tools the web has to offer. Moreover, pediatric practices in particular are in a better position – than other medical specialties – to adopt Web2.0 because patients and parents tend to be younger. And the younger demographic tend to embrace new Internet trends faster than older demographics.

Also, utilizing Web2.0 is a great way to create a community around one’s patients/parent. Sharing information, connecting with patient and allowing patient to interact with the practice in more ways  is a great way to promote your practice.

What are some of the Web2.0 tools that are available for your practice to  implement? And once you implment them, what can you do with them?

  1. Website: I know this is simple one, but most of the doctor’s website I’ve visited are lame. If you haven’t updated your practice’s website in 3 to 5 years, it is time you do so. Take a couple of hours and surf the web. See what you think is cool and what draws your attention. Then go back to your site and evaluate it. Does your site seem inviting compared to others? Does the site answer basic questions parents ask when deciding on a pediatrician? Is there an opportunity for web surfers to interact with the medical office using the site? A good place to start and get ideas is by visiting hospital’s websites. Hospitals generally tend to have a better pulse when it comes to design and web site development.
  2. Blog: starting a blog is a great way to bring patients/parents back to the site. It is also another way for patients to get information about new vaccines, benefits of certain treatments, do’s and don’t, promote preventive wellness and even promote upcoming events such as flu clinics, school and sport physical season among many others things. You don’t have to give medical advice on your blog, but you can discuss things like why it is important to put sunscreen on your child in the summer months or how watching too much TV increases children’s chances at obesity. Blogs are easy to set up and in some cases, free.
  3. Twitter. Twitter is hard to explain. You almost need to try it out first in order for this recommendation to make sense. Check it out at twitter.com. You can also check our practice’s twitter feed at http://twitter.com/spediatrics or @spediatrics to get an idea of what we are doing with it. Twitter can be used to inform patients and parents about different events, tips, healthy living among other things, but faster than a regular blog.
  4. Video: Video on the web has also taken off recently. As more people have broadband at home, streaming an online video is not very difficult. Producing a video and publishing it is also very easy. In fact, if you have a camera, a computer, and Internet connection, you can post a video to the web very quickly and free, by the way. Sites like YouTube.com and vimeo.com now come with features that allow you to embed your video on your site. So let’s assume one of your doctors wants to dispel some of the myths about vaccinations and Autism. Conceivably, you can shoot a video, uploaded to one of the video hosting sites, embed the file to your website and your done. Now patients can get  information directly from the practice, as opposed to Dr. Google.
  5. Facebook: Facebook allows you to set up a community for your patients. Most people use Facebook to keep in contact with friends, family and old acquaintances. But it also works for keeping in-touch with your patients. For example, if one of your doctors recently made a speech, you can share updates and pictures of the event. You can also share articles, links and resources on it. Like Twitter, you can inform patients/parents of different events as well as ask for feedback. For example, ask your “fans” what they think about the new office, the new policy you’ve implemented or their thoughts if the practice starts charging for telephone calls.  To check out our Facebook page click on the this link: http://bit.ly/4AAmNj

Fundamentally Web2.0 is all about connecting with people. Web2.0 tools can be used by business looking to expand their contacts or keep in touch with current customers. Likewise, medical practices have a unique opportunity to not only expand their patient base, but more important, stay connected with patients/parents by utilizing web-enabled tools to enhance the relationship between the doctor, the patient and the practice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts onWeb2.0 and how medical practices can embrace these new tools.