Being a successful physician means caring for both your patients and your practice. Both are important and necessary to meeting the goal of good patient care.
I recently read a quote online from a physician that said, "I went to medical school to be a doctor. If I had wanted to be a marketer … I would have gone to business school, I guess. My experience as a doctor and as a patient leads me to believe that doctors who are engaged in marketing their practices are generally not that good at the 'doctoring' part of their work."
Personally and professionally, I am saddened and more than a touch fired up that this particular physician's experience has been poor as a patient, and as a witness to his colleague's marketing tactics. Perhaps his experiences were in practices that marketed their services with the "come on down to Doc Sue's half-priced healthcare" approach? If I had the opportunity to sit down with this doc and any of you that feel the same way, I would offer him some advice:
Being a physician is a profession, one that deserves to be rewarded financially, alongside the reward of helping people achieve wellness. It is hard and payers make it harder. You are fighting with insurance companies to get paid, chasing down payment from patients, and fighting a government that wants to pay you less and less for your services each year, when most employed people get at least a cost-of-living raise.
On the flip side, being an independent physician means that you own a business. A medical practice is a business and must be treated as such in order to maintain profit. When a single revenue stream isn't working in a business, you add additional streams, diversify your offerings, and move with the flow of the marketplace, in order to generate more profit.
The "P" word may feel slimy to some healthcare providers, but the reality is that profit is what allows you to keep seeing more patients, updating your technology, donating to charity, serving your community, and employing your staff (which accounts for feeding and sheltering their families too.)
The road to more profit, no matter where you derive it from, begins and ends with marketing your practice. Marketing your practice is providing a service to your patients; in a very real sense marketing helps your serve your patients' medical needs. Everything you do to build a trusting, expert relationship supports the medical care that you provide. When marketing your practice is done the right way, in an authentic and serving way, it feels good, not slimy. And moreover, it works.
Many physicians sit stuck in their traditions and refuse to move forward with the world of information that is available through the Internet and mobile technology; they risk becoming irrelevant as technology use grows around them. Ignoring the fact that patients can turn to social media and Google for information, and not just their local independent physician, means that your practice will soon face the same fate as those empty telephone booths scattering the landscape.
Stop wondering how you are going to convert your medical degree into a marketing degree. There are programs, plans, experts (myself and my team included) that will help you develop marketing plans and even execute those plans, or train someone in your office to execute those plans effectively. The same information that is available to your patients regarding every diagnosis, symptom, and procedure, is a tool for you to use to increase your presence, build your community, and grow your practice to serve more people.