In-Office Dispensing: Why Trust Is Essential

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By Jeff Hall, Editor-in-Chief

Recently, someone came out to “test” the water at my new home. The tester mixed a chemical or two in a small container with water from my sink. It came up cloudy. He said it was hard water, which could cause clothing damage, pipe damage and potentially adverse health effects as well. He produced an article about environmental problems in the areas, talked about the color of my ice cubes and asked how much money I spent on soap and clothing.
About midway through the spiel, I stopped him and said, “What are you selling and how much is it?”
He was offering a system that would clean my water for $2,300. I laughed and told him I had heard enough. He doggedly continued the spiel, even going so far as to offer the possibility of a refurbished water cleaning unit for $1,500. The tester/salesman was soon on his way, without the sale of course. Given the bombardment of overzealous marketing efforts such as these, it’s no wonder we’ve become more cynical and distrustful when confronted with any sales pitch.
With this in mind, physicians walk a delicate line when dispensing therapeutic products in their practice. Given the combination of dwindling reimbursement levels and escalating malpractice insurance premiums, no one can blame DPMs for considering other revenue streams for their practice. When you consider that time is the most precious commodity of all, I would guess that most patients would appreciate the convenience of getting a therapeutic product or medication right at the doctor’s office. Still, there is that built-in cynicism that one has to be careful about.
There are two interesting articles on the subject in this month’s issue. In our “Practice Builders” column, Jonathan Moore, DPM, MS and Kimberly Moore, OTR, discuss “How To Establish And Maintain A Diabetic Shoe Program” (see page 20). In a feature article, “Taking A Closer Look At In-Office Dispensing” (see page 60), Contributing Editor Robert Smith talks to DPMs who have made this a successful part of their practice.
After reading these articles and talking to a couple of other DPMs who have succeeded with in-office dispensing, a few key points emerge for those who are interested in developing this in their own practices.
• Limit products to a few at first. Don’t take on too much inventory before you know what sells. One practice management expert points out that many companies are willing to provide a “modest” number of products at no cost upfront as long as the practitioner agrees to pay them back once the products are sold. “There are quite a few companies willing to do that (in order) to establish themselves with new practices,” he notes.
• Be careful about information overload. Be especially sensitive with newcomers to your practice. If a new patient appears to be processing a lot of information with your diagnosis, diving right in with the product solution may create an erroneous perception of you as being more of a salesperson than a doctor. Take the time to ensure their understanding of your diagnosis before you offer your treatment recommendation.
• Get your staff on board. Having a staff that is knowledgeable about the use of certain products can help bolster patient acceptance. Some even use small incentives to encourage staff, but if you opt to use this approach, a word or two of caution about being too enthusiastic may be in order.
Being practical and considerate of patient needs should ensure solid footing for those who would like to dispense products in the office. Building trust is certainly the foundation for success.

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