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An "Alternative" Revenue Source for Your Practice


Can retail supplement sales help your practice's bottom line? One physician thinks so and shares her tips for adding these products to your offering.

For years our patients have been utilizing many herbals without telling us what they are taking. It has been interesting to note how many mainstream, allopathic physicians and practitioners have started recommending herbal remedies to help patient symptoms. Perhaps they have tried some and found them helpful or they have noticed their patients doing well with this approach. At any rate, herbals are effective and usually low-risk additive treatments that patients readily accept.

This begs the question: Why are you not selling your favorite supplements in your office?

When I recommend various supplements, my patients want to know which brand and form of a supplement I recommend rather than stare at the rows of bottles at the health food store and guess. By having supplements for sale in your office, you can be sure your patients are getting the best quality products. Also, it is ultimately convenient for patients to purchase them at their office visit and they can get started right away.

Most of the supplements I recommend are available on Amazon. But they are also available for medical professionals to buy at wholesale prices. Your markup can be such that patients will get them for less than on Amazon. And your practice will still come out ahead financially.

I recently met a practitioner from Texas. When our conversation turned to supplements sales, she mentioned that her practice makes $20,000 profit per month with their supplements. All I could say was "holy mackerel!""

So how do you get started?

1: Think about what things you frequently recommend to patients? You need to identify which things you tell your patients to use. You've got to start somewhere, so having 3-5 products available in your office is a good place to begin.

2: Do further research into the products of interest. You need to find the best quality supplements as well as learning how they work.

For example: do you recommend melatonin for mild insomnia? Do you know the most useful one to recommend? This requires a bit of research and educating yourself. Most herbal specialists would tell you that regular over the counter melatonin doesn't work very well (it is water soluble and doesn't cross the blood brain barrier efficiently) and a liposomal preparation is much more effective. Additionally, it should be taken from 1-3 hours before going to bed in order to have the best effect for sleep initiation.

3: Find sources for wholesale purchasing. Medical meetings now have more venders that have herbal products and simply asking some questions as well as arranging a phone call with their medical experts can get you started. You can also ask your colleagues that practice integrative and functional medicine for their opinion. Most would be delighted to help you learn more about this form of medical practice. A good question to ask the vendors is the shelf life of their supplements so you will be able to gauge how much to order. Start with a few bottles of each one and order more if you run out. It is always better to have to reorder than throw out expired supplements.

4: Get a resale number from your state. This is quickly and easily done. If you already sell things in your office, you already have one of these. Remember, you will also need to collect sales tax for each sale.

5: You will need a protected locking cabinet or closet to store your supplements. It is idea if you have a nice display case but as long as you are able to secure your inventory, even a file cabinet with a key lock will do.

6: Make sure to purchase some nice bags to put the bottles in. These are easily obtained from a craft store and makes the purchase seem a bit nicer. Of course, you could always order bags printed with your logo, but when getting started, a simple plain paper bag works very well.

Remember to have some printed material to hand out with each supplement with instructions for the patient. They often don't remember the specifics you talked about.

Patients are actively seeking herbal supplements, probiotics and other natural products. If you can guide them by offering high quality effective products that you are currently recommending, it is a win-win situation: your patients are taking what you know is helpful and your bottom line will benefit as well.

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