Sunday, July 15, 2007

Myth #6

Almost a year ago I wrote a post that dealt with some of solo vs group practice myths. That post had 5 myths regarding call issues, economies of scale, etc. Here is a sixth myth.

Myth #6: A specialist depends on professional referrals to grow.

If that was true, I'd be out of business. Professional referrals, while important, are no longer an essential for practice growth. Patients come from a variety of sources, and only one is the referring doctor. I recently analyzed from where my patients were coming. Here it is, not necessarily in order.
  • Internet insurance lists--this is the modern age equivalent of the insurance book, only it is on the internet. It accounts for ~35% in my practice. Recently patients have found me on Cigna's site, Aetna's site, and even Medicare's. I did not know Medicare's site even had a physician search feature. Live and learn.
  • Internet Search Engines--this has been a growing segment of my patient population, with the overwhelming majority coming from Google. Prospective patients type in any number of search terms, but "urologist smithtown" or "vasectomy doctor smithown" predominate. Male infertility patients will often find one of my other blogs, then hyperlink to Dr I always ask people what keywords they used and which search engine. ~15%, but growing. And I have not even really started to web-market!
  • Word of mouth: this is my one of my best sources of new patient business. And the best things about it is, one, it's free, and 2, WOM self-perpetuates. As the practice grows, more mouths talk, and more patients come to see me. Off course, so long as I remain a good urologist with good outcomes. About 30%, and growing.
  • Professional referrals: when I first opened in April 2006, I concentrated most of my efforts on the cultivation of a cadre' of doctors who would refer to me often. While I have done well in this regard and now have several docs that send repeat referral business, the truth is that referrals even from these docs come infrequently and sporadically at best, and if I had no other sources of new patients, I'd be up the creek sans paddle. I'd say that professional referrals account for about 15%. Interestingly, WOM is the best way to cultivate professional referrals. When your happy patient tells their primary about you, that has more positive impact than a brochure and a box of coffee for the staff. In addition, doctors talk also and a "I use Schoor for infertility" said to a colleague is worth thousands of dollars to me, not to mention the personal satisfaction of peer recognition.
  • Yellow Book and Yellow Pages: Less than 5%. Not even worth mentioning. Just get the free or cheapest listing, or better yet, none at all.
  • Print ads: 1 patient, and his check bounced, twice. Money spent on ads into the thousands. Worse than worthless.
  • In office free seminars: I held 2 on ED. 10 people came overall. I got one patient out of it, and he turned out to have a bogus Medicare card.
I have found enormous satisfaction from my success in the absence of a large professional referral base. It means that I am truly independent and beholden to no one for my next meal. It also portends well for me, since the professional referrals will come with time, and then imagine how busy I'll get. Until then, I'll focus my efforts on internet marketing and WOM referrals.

Thanks for listening, and send me some patients.

The IU.