Six Ways To Achieve Practice Excellence

By Brian McCurdy, Associate Editor

Do enough people know about your practice? Do enough primary care doctors know about your practice? Are you getting enough referrals or are most of them going to the DPM two blocks over? Several DPMs and a podiatric assistant say you have to be skilled in patient empathy, excel at staff relations and be a savvy marketer, among other things, if you want to build and sustain a thriving podiatric practice.
1. Emphasize empathy and pay close attention to patient needs. Jim Ritchlin, DPM, takes notes on his patients’ lives, not just on their foot conditions, which he keeps in their medical charts. Before patients visit his office, he reviews the personal information so he can chat about their lives with them.
“They perk right up when I know who they are. They’re not just a number,” says Dr. Ritchlin, who has been in practice for 37 years. “I’m picking their brains. I like to know what makes them tick.”
Dr. Ritchlin sees 40 to 50 patients a day. He sees five or six new patients a day and notes the number of patients he sees has increased by 15 percent in the last year.
“I’m on stage all day. I love to schmooze people,” explains Dr. Ritchlin. “To me, practicing is fun.”
Patients are first and foremost for William McCann, DPM, the President-Elect of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management.
“They hire you, literally, and you’re working for them,” says Dr. McCann. “You really need to have their best interests at heart at all times.”

Combine Honesty With Empathy
Renee Silva, DPM, agrees. She has been in practice for five years, half of it as part of a group and now on her own. Dr. Silva says part of the secret to being successful is truly listening to your patients and presenting medical options to them as opposed to dictating courses of treatment. She says you should avoid giving patients a short-term fix to make them happy. Instead, Dr. Silva advises DPMs to tell patients what may happen as a result of certain treatment options and even suggest getting second opinions in certain cases.
“Really be honest with them,” urges Dr. Silva. “Don’t sell them podiatry. Tell them what really works.”
While seeing dozens of patients a day may foster a sense of tunnel vision, successful DPMs say it’s essential to be aware of the whole patient instead of just zeroing in on their feet.
“We treat our patients well as people. I always try to remember there’s a person attached to that foot,” notes Peter Brieloff, DPM, who has been in practice for 15 years and runs the five offices of Brieloff Foot Centers in Cumberland, Md.
“We have to treat the patient comprehensively,” agrees Hal Ornstein, the President of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management. “We, as podiatrists, have to do comprehensive care.”

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