Physicians are challenged with the changing economic climate, shrinking reimbursements and increasing costs of doing business. Practice growth is becoming more challenging as patients have many options for their health needs—can a successful, growing practice be achieved in the competitive medical field? The good news is yes! Successful practices realize that they must differentiate themselves from their competition to continue to attract the patients they need experience growth. This differentiation means what makes your practice and the services you provide clearly better than the practice down the road? What advantage or inherent quality do you have that others lack?
There are simple, yet effective strategies you can implement to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. Here are a few suggestions to ponder:
1. You must provide excellent customer service. Generally any doctor worth his/her salt will be able to adequately take care of patients’ health needs, but that’s not enough for differentiation. You need to provide that care in a better way and with more value added. Patient satisfaction is no longer enough to set yourself apart and grow your practice. A practice must strive for outstanding patient service and it starts with the phone call to the office through the follow-up after a patient’s appointment.
2. You need to make sure you are exceeding patients’ expected quality. Quality is a difficult thing to grasp. You may be able to measure your quality against the national average or local average but how does it match up with the patients’ perceived quality? No matter what your “numbers” are or what your research has shown you, if your patients are giving you low quality marks then something has to change. So you must know what your patients expect and then you must exceed those expectations.
3. You need to make sure you can provide this better service and quality of care across the board. If you as a physician or practice manager are providing superior service but the person answering the phones is horrible, or the person checking in patients is gruff then those things completely overshadow and negate the superior service. You must ensure practice wide compliance with quality objectives and goals.
4. If you are providing care in a better way or giving care with additional value added, how will potential patients know this? How will they take this into account when choosing their doctor? Medical practices must provide this information in a carefully designed way to reach their targeted patient population. To convey the experiences you provide to your patients, you must carefully craft your marketing message and then broadcast that message to your potential patients. This same message can be conveyed through word-of-mouth marketing from your current patients and result in increased referrals for your practice.
How does a program help a practice differentiate themselves from their competitors? A custom designed medical mystery shopping program allows trained secret patients to visit the practice and interact with the staff, providing the practice with their valuable feedback on areas of excellence and areas that need improvement. This feedback is provided from the patient’s perspective, which is very important when identifying areas of opportunity for differentiation from the competition. With this feedback, you are able to make improvements to the experience you are providing your patients that will set you apart and foster growth in patient volume.
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