How to Meet New Patients and Develop Your Physician Brand

Every medical organization needs a steady stream of new patients. As you make your own plans for attracting new patients to your practice, here are three “buckets” you can dip into.

Family, Friends and Fans

I was at a family wedding when a 9-year-old budding journalist came to introduce herself to me. She said, “I hear you’re a doctor. What kind?”

I replied, “I’m a surgeon” 

She asked, “What kind of surgeon?”

I said, “I’m a general surgeon.” 

Her eyes got big as saucers and she said, “Oh. So you’re that person who puts the warning labels on the cigarette packs!”

The many people in your life who know, like and trust you—including your own patients and referring physicians— may know the specialty in which you are boarded. How well do they understand what you do?

There is something about the way you deliver care that puts you in a class of one. What is it? How well do you communicate it?

  • If you are a gynecologist, do your friends know that you welcome patients with a history of sexual assault who need a bit more time and compassion with the exam? 
  • If you are a cardiologist entrepreneur, do members of your church or golf club know that you developed a highly effective smoking cessation program? 
  • Do your patients know whom to send to you and the circumstances that would trigger an appropriate referral?

Create a positioning statement that communicates the problems you solve, the results you help patients get and/or the experience you deliver.

Power Partners

I worked with an orthodontist who wanted to grow his practice. When I asked him to describe his ideal patient, he said, “I like working with adults.” I asked, “What circumstances trigger an adult to invest in his or her smile?” He said, “Brides and people looking for new jobs.” We made a plan for him to reach out to job recruiters and wedding planners with special promotional offers.

To find your power partners, ask yourself these questions:

  • With whom do your ideal patients have relationships? 
  • What products or services do your ideal patients purchase?
  • What interventions have your patients tried before they seek your care?

The answers will lead you to power partners. Meet them. Consider ways you can help your power partners to be more successful by sharing your expertise.

Information Seekers

Thirty years ago, my surgical mentor quipped, “The whole world is pre-op.” Now this is literally the case. Patients from around the globe consult with Dr. Google to get answers to their questions. They join online communities. They listen to podcasts and read books.

Imagine if these information seekers found YOUR answers to their questions. This is how my own teenage son found the orthopedic surgeon who eliminated his shoulder impingement pain.

If you’ve ever purchased a new food at the grocery store after accepting a yummy sample, you know the power of a taste test. Technology now allows you to deliver a taste of your value to large groups of people 24/7 at virtually no cost. You can create videos with answers to patients’ frequently asked questions. You can offer little pearls of wisdom, like the best way to remove a bandage, or suggest questions patients can take to their own doctors.

To successfully engage information seekers, avoid questions you think patients should be asking; instead gather the intelligence that helps you see the world through your patients’ eyes. Ask patients who call your office:

  • What questions do you have about your symptoms or your medical condition?
  • What keywords did you enter into search engine?
  • Which online communities have you visited?  

You can also engage information seekers locally through radio interviews, TV appearances and local speaking appearances. 

Attracting new patients to your practice is critical to your clinical success. Fortunately, with the right strategies and tactics, it’s easier than ever.

Vicki Rackner MD is a speaker, author and coach who calls on her experience as a practicing surgeon, clinical faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine and serial entrepreneur to help physicians thrive.

Image: aelitta / gettyimages

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