I’m not done. That is to say, I’m not writing this implying that I have a thriving practice and my patient recruitment is complete. My intent is to share my methods and experience in my first 10 months of practice. For those just getting started, those looking to increase patient traffic or those making a practice move, the following may help.
Understanding how to grow a practice must be rooted in an understanding of what type of practice you desire. How you determine what type of practice you prefer depends on your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. I am going to quote two entirely different opinions I’ve heard from podiatric colleagues.
1) “I don’t trim nails. Patients don’t want the doctor who trims their nails to put in their total ankle.”
2) “I love my routine care day. It allows a great break in the week and allows me to see more patients for the week. My patients don’t seem to mind having me trim nails one day and implant a total ankle replacement the next.”
You should convey this contrast in desired patient pathology when promoting yourself and your abilities. My personal primary interests are elective and trauma reconstruction. To target these types of patients, I went after the gatekeepers and let them know the types of patients I was after.
I talked with all the primary care groups associated with my local hospital. I gave them an “update on foot and ankle surgery” lecture at their monthly hospital meeting and in each individual office (to become familiar with their staff and build relationships). They were receptive and interested. The key is to show confidence, knowledge and illustrate your training/experience. I found most to be surprised and impressed with some of my treatment options. I focused on the pathology I wanted to treat and this group has been the steadiest resource of new patients.
I talked with the emergency room physicians. I lectured at their monthly meeting, tailoring the talk to the audience and giving examples of the types of pathology I was ready to treat. I made sure to appear available and actually make myself available when those calls come. This has resulted in a few late night trips into the ER but mostly, it has led to some great surgical trauma wrapped up and sent to my office.
I talked with the staffs at local urgent cares facilities. I used a very similar lecture as I had for the ER talks. Again, tailor this to the types of patients you are interested in treating. The referrals have been steady from this source as well.
I talked with occupational health physicians. The team of docs referring out their patients must have confidence they are sending patients to the correct foot and ankle specialist in town. Prove that by returning patient notes and call and let them know how successful or unsuccessful you have been in treating “their” patient. Once you gain trust, the resource can continue to pay dividends.
I presented lectures to the numerous physical therapy groups around my area. I found the physical therapists to have an interest in an “update on foot and ankle surgery.” They were more than willing to bring their multiple offices staff together to listen and ask questions. I found it helpful to come equipped with rehab protocols and guidelines for certain foot and ankle conditions. I also gained a bit of knowledge for myself on which groups to trust with my patients.
The key is getting out and being visible. If you practice or are setting up in a competitive foot and ankle market, and you want a piece of the pie, then offer something. If you have a skill set and you want to treat a certain type of patient, then go prove that to the gatekeepers of those patients in your area. Be the expert and show others you are the expert while appearing to remain humble. Confidence outshines cockiness in these presentations.
Remember, whether you are targeting nails or end-stage ankle arthritis, get visible and then get busy treating the patients you want to treat.