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Be different or begone: Finding your unique value proposition


A medical practice must distinguish between its practice and that of the competitor.

different | © masterzphotofo - stock.adobe.com

© masterzphotofo - stock.adobe.com

In 1960, two Monahan brothers started a pizza store like other pizza venues in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Monahan created a unique value proposition (UVP) by advertising in the college community.

Their differentiator was, "You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it's free." Their primitive research determined that college students were looking for fast delivery service and for the pizza to be hot when it arrived at their front door. Dominos answered all the questions and concerns of its consumers by creating a simple, unique selling proposition, showing the value behind ordering Domino's over competitors. Today, there are 6898 Domino's Pizza, with sales in 2022 of $8.7 billion in the U.S. and nearly $8.8 billion internationally. What can we learn from Domino Pizza that applies to our medical practices?

Every physician who graduates from medical school can take a history, perform a medical examination, order tests, and initiate a treatment plan. So, what makes your ability to do what every doctor can do more attractive to motivate patients to become part of your practice? As physicians, we are not comfortable tooting our own horn. However, offering the same as everyone else will not make your practice unique and special and will not be a magnet for attracting more patients. The reason for standing out in the crowd is the most critical thing you must focus on in your practice.

A medical practice must distinguish between its practice and that of the competitor. This blog will discuss ethical methods to differentiate your practice and make it stand out from other practices.

What does your practice provide that makes you unique and stands out from your competitors? You will have created your UVP if you answer this question clearly and precisely. A UVP is the force that drives your practice and your success. It is similar to the mission statement. However, the UVP has greater width and breadth. It is to be shared with others, including existing patients, potential new patients, referring doctors, and the public.

What problems can you solve for the target market you would like to reach? What services do you provide that add value to your patients that your competitors don't? With a UVP, you are addressing a medical problem and providing a solution to why they should become patients in your practice. Remember, people don't buy things; they buy a solution, result, or benefit. You need to identify the one thing that you want your target market to think of and remember about you and your practice. That one thing needs to matter to those you are trying to attract in deciding whether to choose you or a competitor. Your UVP must be relevant to those you want to attract.

Before creating your own UVP:

  1. Research how your competitors market and promote their practices.
  2. Analyze what your competitors do and say in their marketing materials.
  3. Analyze their websites and marketing messages to see what they do and how you can better solve their medical issues.

Identifying your uniqueness

Don't be afraid to be different – the key is to stand out from your competitors. The UVPs that stick out the most are short and memorable and have created a differentiation from competitors. Develop a UVP that creates a sense of desire and urgency for potential patients to become patients in your practice.

Key areas that will help create your UVP

  1. Answer why patients should become patients in your practice over a competitor
  2. Research what messages your competitors are offering compared to what value their services offer
  3. Identify your target audience
  4. Know what drives your target audience and what questions or concerns they may have about your services.
  5. Differentiate yourself from your competitors by being unique

There are two methods to differentiate your service:

  1. Delight your patients or make it easy for them to be your patients. Examples include online scheduling, payment online, contactless payment options, telemedicine, and early morning and late afternoon appointments. Practices that differentiate themselves on the ease of access by providing patients with access to care and a hassle-free experience will become attractive to patients.
  2. Differentiating on the patient experience provides an experience that exceeds their expectations. These include personalization of care, exceeding expectations, and being proactive. It requires consistent efforts from both the doctor and their staff to make service differentiation work. Finding experienced and dedicated staff and updating their training needs can be challenging.

There is no shortcut to maintaining and improving your quality standards. Few competitors focus on quality, so most cannot replicate your offering. Differentiating on quality usually comes with a higher price tag, which may exclude patients who make decisions based solely on price. Focusing on higher-quality care means fewer but more profitable patients, which gives you more time to concentrate on improving and growing your practice. Patients will be willing to pay the premium price only if you can explain the extra value they are getting by choosing your services. However, it is essential to remember that selling quality is not restricted to just the quality of your services. Most of the successful practices do not merely promote services. They offer how their services make their patients feel about themselves. Price Differentiation in a crowded healthcare market space will not be a sustainable UVP. Remember that plenty of patients will pay a premium for outstanding care, especially if they are convinced they will receive more incredible value. So, do not always rush to lower your prices. You can stand out from your competitors by raising your prices or, in subtle words, refusing to play the price war game. You can make your medical practice unique by pricing your services in contrast to your competition. This pricing proposition does not mean you should strive to be the cheapest, although that can be temporarily profitable. However, raising your prices will never work if your patients cannot understand the difference between your competitor’s and your offer.

Examples of UVP in healthcare

There are multiple opportunities for a medical practice to identify and promote its UVP.

For example, a practice can offer enhanced access to the practice. Improved access can be accomplished by early morning, late afternoon, and weekend hours. Currently, gaining access to a medical practice is becoming more difficult. Consequently, some retail clinics (Target, Walgreens, CVS) offer same-day appointments, including walk-in appointments, with minimal waiting to see a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or physician.

Another option is to develop a reputation as an on-time physician. The current attitude among patients is that they will have long waits not only to make an appointment but also once they are in the office. One of the most common complaints patients have is the waiting to see the doctor. Patients often wait an hour to see the doctor. When I started my practice, my community's largest urology practice instructed patients to come at 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. This approach stacked up patients who waited 1-2 hours to see the physician. I capitalized on this opportunity by scheduling appointments for patients at specific times. I even promoted being on time, stating there would be no charge if the patient wasn't seen within fifteen minutes of their appointment. I know the approach was effective when I introduced myself at a social event, and the patient said, "Dr. Baum, I've heard of you. You are the doctor who doesn't charge a patient who has to wait." On rare occasions, I had to write off an office visit, but that was worth the publicity of creating a reputation of offering to see patients promptly.

Today, it might be in vogue to offer telemedicine to care for many non-emergency medical conditions. As a result of the pandemic, it was necessary to see patients out of the brick-and-mortar office. We learned that we could provide good medical care without having to be eyeball-to-eyeball with the patient.

Offer healthcare services to diverse populations and offer language-specific services. This can serve as a unique value proposition in areas with a culturally diverse population.

If you ask a physician about the cost of an office visit, a lab test, or an imaging study, they will appear like a deer peering into the headlights. Providing transparent pricing and cost estimates for medical procedures can differentiate a healthcare provider in an industry where pricing is often complex and opaque.

Another USP is concierge medicine. These doctors are decreasing their patient population and offer longer appointments and availability 24\7 for an annual fee. This concept is attractive to patients who can pay the yearly fee and want more attention from their physicians.

Finally, healthcare has begun to pivot from treating illness to offering wellness advice. This area of medicine is generating enthusiasm from millennials to baby boomers. Many patients want to stay well and out of the doctor's office. Emphasizing preventive healthcare measures and wellness programs can set a physician apart by promoting a proactive approach to health.

Bottom Line: Identifying what sets your practice apart is crucial for growth, profitability, and long-term survival. To differentiate yourself and to become memorable, it is essential to leverage the qualities that make you unique and memorable than your competitors. The times are a-changing (thanks Bob Dylan), and your patients are more educated and demanding than ever, so innovation must be at the forefront of your healthcare branding efforts. My take-home message is to identify your target patients, find what makes you unique, and promote that in your messaging to existing and potential patients.

Neil Baum, MD, a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Baum is the author of several books, including the best-selling book, Marketing Your Medical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, which has sold over 225,000 copies and has been translated into Spanish.

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