By InLight EHR, Concierge Medicine Today Contributor
MAY 8, 2015 – The number one reason doctors give for not going into independent practice is their fear of not getting enough patients to sustain a comfortable livelihood. This blog will offer some ideas for recruiting patients for a Direct Primary Care (DPC) or Concierge Medicine practice.
Most U.S. doctors are employed by group practices, hospitals, or health systems, so the patients they see belong to their employers. The majority of today’s doctors in private practices either “purchased” or “inherited” their patient panels when older physicians retired and sold or simply gave their practices to younger colleagues.
Let’s assume you’re currently employed by a group practice or hospital, or just getting out of medical residency, and you’re looking to establish a DPC or Concierge Medicine practice. How are you going to find patients? How are you going to connect with your community?
Create a custom medical plan
You will first need to create a Custom Medical Plan to hand-out to potential patients. This document will explain your optional healthcare plan for individuals and/or employers that are willing to include a DPC or Concierge membership as a part of their benefits package for employees.
This document needs to compare your custom plan with a comparable standard plan (i.e., Blue Cross Blue Shield) in your state. Here’s a great example of a health plan comparison. Developing a Custom Medical Plan by yourself could pose a daunting challenge since there is some specialized knowledge required, so engaging a consultant might be a good idea. See more on consultants below.
Get to know your local community
Recruiting a patient panel takes hard work and patience. It starts with getting to know the local community and its needs, which will influence how you set-up and market your practice. For example, are you in a medically underserved area? If so, then opening a DPC or Concierge Medicine practice that offers low-cost primary care services may attract patients who have very high-deductible ACA healthcare plans.
Or maybe you are located in a relatively affluent area with many healthcare resources available to patients. In that environment, a Direct Pay “concierge” approach might attract patients looking for house calls, personalized diet and exercise advice, and other special high-touch services.
Talk to local employers
It is also critical that you research and get familiar with local businesses that have employees. Then approach these companies and try to strike a deal to provide primary care to all of their employees. By negotiating a direct relationship with the employer, you can potentially sign up patents in groups, rather than individually. Large employers in your area, with hundreds of employees, might even be interested in setting up an in-house clinic. This can be a real short-cut to success.
Conduct marketing campaigns
There are a wide variety of marketing “tactics” you can use to let individual patients in your area know about your new Direct Primary Care practice. You can create direct mail pieces, such as postcards, or participate in local weekly circulars. You can also run ads on local radio stations or in newspapers. But these tactics require a budget and some creativity.
Public relations (PR) can be a more cost-effective tactic for spreading the word about your new DPC or Concierge Medicine practice. Write a press release and then send it around to local media outlets. Direct primary care is a hot topic right now, and you can position your practice as an innovative new approach to health care in the community. You will increase your odds of success dramatically if you call editors and reporters on the phone to follow-up with them.
Get connected with social media
Free social media campaigns can be effective for attracting new patients. Get on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to start communicating about your practice. Very few people are familiar with the concept of DPC and Concierge Medicine, so you can use social media to educate potential patients with small snippets of information about the benefits of having a more direct relationship with a primary care physician.
Set-up town hall meetings
“Town Hall” style meetings are an opportunity for a large group of potential patients to meet you, ask questions, and sign up for your custom health plan. You can hold a Town Hall meeting in a free public space, such as a local library, city hall, or community center. You will need to start planning and publicizing the event months in advance. Serving light appetizers and non-alcoholic refreshments will always put people in a better mood.
A typical agenda might start with a welcome and brief presentation on Direct Primary Care and how it works. Then you can give details about your practice and Custom Health Plan. Next, you open the floor to questions. Finally, you ask people to sign up.
Engage a consultant
Since most physicians don’t feel comfortable—or even have the requisite skills and experience—to organize Town Hall meetings or write press releases, consultants can play a vital role. There are a handful of consultants who specialize in helping physicians start a Direct Primary Care practice.
Consultants can help with everything from legal to marketing. They can help create custom health plans. They have patient hand-out materials for education. They have templates for press releases, advertisements, social media campaigns, and Town Halls. By engaging a consultant to help you recruit patients for your DPC practice, you can potentially save a lot of time, money, and effort.
As you’re preparing to switch to the DPC or Concierge Medicine model, look for an EHR meets the needs of this type of practice. Pri-Med’s InLight EHR, DPC Edition, features membership management for managing your revenue stream and a problem-oriented documentation approach that lets you be more people-oriented. Click here for a FREE 60-day trial.