Three Secrets For A Successful Podiatry Practice

William Fishco DPM FACFAS

I would like to share with you my business secrets for a successful podiatry practice.

Unfortunately, no one teaches us how to run a business in podiatry school. When you get up in the morning and head to the office, you may not consider yourself a businessman/woman but you are. You basically have two hats to wear.

When I talk to my friends and colleagues, the conversation will generally lead to questions like “What are you doing for TPD these days?” or “How are you fixating your bunions?” Then the conversation ultimately shifts to practice management or business-related topics such as how to bill for a particular procedure or how to make more money in your practice. Sometimes it may be providing a new service or perhaps streamlining how you run your office.

While everyone may have helpful advice to pass along, I am always skeptical when I am offered advice from a colleague in regard to coding tips or how to generate more money. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is probably in the “gray area.” When it comes to creative billing or coding tips, just remember what Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s Mad Money, says when it comes to buying stocks: “Tips are for waiters.”

So how do you get patients to make appointments to obtain care in your office? Networking with primary care physicians and becoming involved in your medical community does not cost anything, it just requires time. Likewise, getting involved in your community through civic organizations or religious organizations through churches and temples can also be helpful.

Advertising is a large part of running a business. When you are well established in a community for 20 to 30 years, you probably do not need to do much advertising. For younger practitioners or those who are new to an area, advertising is necessary. There are many types of media to choose from for advertising. You may elect to use television, radio, newspapers, Internet, the phone book or direct mail. Certainly, one has to have a budget for advertising. Television and radio are the most expensive. Be sure to do the requisite due diligence in order to maximize the advertising dollars carefully.

If you have a lot of money to spend on advertising, you can hire a marketing agency to make you look like the world’s greatest podiatrist, who serves the rich and famous, and elite athletes. Do not get me wrong, I understand the role of marketing in business but there may be some trickery involved. Remember that you always have to “walk the walk and talk the talk.” At the end of the day, everything boils down to your name and reputation in your community.

I do have the pleasure of having podiatry students and residents spend time with me in my office for extended periods of time, usually a month. At some point after the month is winding down, we have the “conversation” about business. Are you ready for my secrets? In the movie City Slickers, Curly said, “There is one thing.” Well, I am going to tell you there are three things.

First and foremost, you need to provide exceptional care. If you do not satisfy your patients’ needs, they will not come back and will not recommend you to co-workers, friends and family.

Secondly, you need to be nice to people. When you open the door and walk into the treatment room, it is like you are going on stage for a performance. It is not that you are “acting” or trying to be something you are not. You are simply trying to make a real connection with your patient. You want the patient to have a positive experience. When I walk into the room and meet my patient, I walk up to the patient and shake his or her hand. This is a genuine element of the encounter that shows respect and sincerity. After all, the patient is paying money to see you. No one has forced the patient to pick up the phone to make an appointment. I cannot tell you how many times my patients remark, “I cannot believe you are actually looking at me and listening to me” or say something along the lines of “My primary care doctor does not even look at me because he is too busy talking into a recorder or typing on a computer.”

The final thing is you have to really care about your patients and do the best you can to get them better. You want your patients to know “we” are in this together.

All of my students reading this will remember their “conversation” with me. At the end of the day, your name means everything. The last thing that you want to do is undermine your good name and reputation. If you follow these three rules, patients will be beating your door down to see you. Now all the advertising and marketing does not seem so important.

The next time that you are chit chatting with your colleagues and they discuss things like “capturing market share,” “economies of scale,” “return on investment,” or “maximizing profit per encounter,” you can just smile. You already know the three things that will make your practice grow and become more profitable than any other “technique.”

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