According to practice development consultant, Miriam Zacharias, successful integrative clinics—no matter their size, geographic location or clinical offerings– have five things in common.
Master these five core competencies, and your clinic is much more likely to thrive, regardless of the specific practice model you’ve embraced.
At Heal Thy Practice 2015, Zacharias will share insight she’s gained from working with hundreds of physicians, nutritionists and health coaches over the years. Her goal? To take the misery out of practice management!
The “Five Keys,” distilled out of feedback provided by hundreds of practitioners who participated in Zacharias’ recent Prosperous Practitioner Summit, provide a practical roadmap for improving the overall health of a practice.
1 – Success has its roots in your core beliefs: Whether you realize it or not, what happens in your practice reflects your deep belief systems. The more conscious you are of your core values, and the more you’re able to articulate them, the healthier and more “in synch” your practice will be.
“These days, it’s all-too-easy easy to allow the general environment, the patient’s demands and the trends to pull you in different directions. Be clear about what’s fundamentally important to you, and design your practice around that. Otherwise you burnout. If you’re not functioning well, you won’t be successful,” Zacharias told Holistic Primary Care. “Grounding in your values gets you through highs and lows, gives better work-life balance, and keeps you going long term.”
Remember, people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it! Practitioners who thrive do a good job of defining their “why.”
2 – Find a unique position in the market: This is a must, Zacharias says. “The practitioners who are most successful are focused on a particular niche, market segment, or conditions….something specific. They gain the most efficiency with their time, energy, and money by getting focused and not trying to be everything to everybody. That just doesn’t work in the marketplace.”
Some clinicians make the mistake of thinking “holistic” or “integrative” means you have to offer everything. “Reality is, you can’t know enough about everything, and you’ll burn out trying to research all the testing protocols, diets, etc. You can be much more effective if you focus. First build authority within one focused area. Then, you can move into other areas and diversify.”
Choose your niche carefully: it should be big enough to support a practice but specific enough so that prospective patients clearly recognize what you offer (ie, women between 40-65 with metabolic issues). Factor in your geography, other practitioners in the area, and regional socioeconomics.
3 – Power in partnership: Look at other clinicians and ancillary practitioners in your area as partners rather than competitors. “Think creatively. Look for natural affinities based on your interests,” said Zacharias, recalling the story of one highly athletic physician who was able to generate a strong referral stream from a cycling club she joined.
Patients are the best sources of other patients, and if you refer friends and family to the businesses of your patients, they will likely return the favor some day. Sending a friend to a patient who happens to be a good attorney or telling someone about your patient’s new restaurant can engender much goodwill that will come back around someday.
“The idea of partnership is about interconnecting people who think alike.”
Zacharias shared the story of a physician who found great success working with farmers’ markets. “She would do little talks at the farmers markets, not about disease prevention or holistic health, but about supporting local growers of sustainable foods. Guess what? The people in the booths began to refer to her like mad.”
4 – Connection is the fastest way to grow: In an environment where all of us are struggling withhtp logo info overload, the practitioners who are really winning are those who make deep personal connections with their communities. This requires three specific things: warmth, competence, and worthy intentions.
“This last one is very important. If I as a prospective patient go to your website, the first thing I need to feel is warmth, that you have my best interest at heart, and that you are the real deal, that you have value, values, and ethics,” says Zacharias. When it comes to marketing yourself, trust is the new black, she joked.
“Be the trusted authority. Be “other-centered” not self-centered. Don’t’ focus on “fixing the problem” but missing the human being who has problems and pains and worries.”
5 – Go way beyond patient expectations: “You need to create an extraordinary experience for your patients, one that goes way beyond what they’ve come to expect from conventional medicine,” says Zacharias. It’s a sad truth that insurance-based medicine has so debased the practitioner-patient relationship that peoples’ expectations are generally pretty low. It’s not very hard to exceed them.
The goal should be to create an atmosphere in your clinic that people actually want to visit. This is especially important if you’re in a cash-pay model. People will not willingly pay out of pocket for the same harried, unfriendly service they experience in insurance-based practices.
“Create an environment that’s serene,” Zacharias says. “Make sure your staffers are professional, attentive, genuinely caring, and knowledgeable about the practice.”
She suggested choosing office space in an executive suite building with a front desk receptionist and a nicer business ambiance–leather couches, hot tea and beverages—rather than the typical dreary, medical office suite with strange chemical smells and dingy furniture.
“It’s about signaling respect. If you don’t make me feel really good about coming there, and if your staff doesn’t make me feel welcome, I’m not going to stay with the practice. Loyalty is directly related to patient experience, the better the experience the more loyal the pts will be.”
Join Miriam for a deep dive into painless and prosperous practice development at Heal Thy Practice 2015.