By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief
We first wrote a version of this story back in February of 2016. Wow, how time has flown by.
It’s now November of 2021.
So what’s changed?
How have you changed?
How has the practice and delivery of medicine changed?
Moreover, how have YOU changed?
Over the years now and literally hundreds of Physician interviews and chats later about this topic, we have all learned that a Physician’s first 100 days in subscription-based and membership medicine (eg. Concierge Medicine, Private Direct Medicine, Telehealth/mobile subscription programs and even Direct Primary Care) are really important. However one common thread holds it’s weight. These first 100 days for a Physician are often unplanned, over committed, overlooked and eventually Physicians find themselves focused on working in the practice, not on it.
There’s a lot of “t’s” to cross and “i’s” to dot, right? It can seem daunting to decide where to start. And usually the urgent gets your attention first. From the first Patient walking in the door with high expectations to staffing to equipment and even the exam room paper and paint color choices … and even contractors doing one thing and saying another, it can be easy to slip into a frantic pace and forget your plan until weeks later when those urgent action items are finally in the rear view mirror.
Add to that a Pandemic and it’s a recipe for stressful first few weeks.
However, it can be done and I’m here to encourage you that can do this. You can find a sustainable pace and as we say a lot around here, ‘find joy in the practice of medicine, again.’
10 Tips To Make Your Concierge Medicine Office (or Program) Grand Opening Event A Success
1) Don’t Take a Leap. Build A Runway. The Real Problem With Books and Overly Enthusiastic Conferences.
Many of you know me as a writer and an medical conference host so it may seem strange that I’m writing about ‘The real problem with books and conferences’, right?
Having operated in this healthcare space as an author, a speaker, a coach, a cheerleader and an event planner I’ve seen first-hand where books and medical conferences get it wrong.
For example, like me you’ve probably heard your fair share of boring talks and a few enthusiastic and maybe memorable speakers at a conference. They’ve motivated, inspired and re-ignited an idea that you in the audience want to take action on, right?!
More often than not you’ll hear them say things like “You need to go all in!” or “Take the leap!”
Fast-forward now to a few weeks later. Where are you? What are you doing? How long are you spending each week doing what they said?
You’ve now got more questions than answers once you unpack their ideas and combine it with your own idea. And moreover, you’ve got no one worth their salt to bounce your ideas off of and you feel disconnected. And if you do, you’ve typically got a cheerleader, not an experienced advisor.
Maybe a few weeks after that you find or learn about a book or a podcast. You listen to or buy it. You read it, you earmark, highlight, underline and circle phrases that resonate with you on certain pages.
Three to four months later you occasionally reference one or two things and the rest is usually forgotten. Not always, but let’s get real.
Most books these days are written from singular accounts and one individuals perspective. Once again, you can easily identify these singular perspectives when they write on the pages things like “You need to go all in!” or “Take the leap!” While these manuscripts are for a short time informative and factual, as an author myself I find they fail to capture a broader scope of issues, challenges and opportunities on one particular topic.
One of my favorite quotes from the book Don’t Keep Your Day Job by Cathy Heller notes “The phrase ‘day job’ is a synonym for the system that’s told us to stay in line. Most people spend their lives building someone else’s dream. I want you to build your dream.”
I want you to build your dream, not someone else’s. I want to give you a permission slip to question the status quo. I want you to take the lanterns you’ve collected on all of those dark nights and share these treasures with the world and with your Patients. I want you to not take a leap. I want you to be serving in your community years from now because you had the time, the courage and the foresight to build a runway.
This is the opposite of a lot of entrepreneurial and Physician’s advice you might have heard. Well, this isn’t how gravity or how successful business get built or work either. You don’t grow wings as you’re falling do you?
Of course not. Time is going to pass anyway and your life, like mine, will at times go sideways. I want you to be happy. I want more Physicians with your passion on every street corner doing what you do.
“Please do not go it alone….seek advice/guidance with those of us that have experience. Make sure you understand the medical legal aspects of this that might be very specific for your state.”
~ Dr. J.B., MD, FACP, Omaha, NE | Concierge Doctor & DPC CEO
Heller also write “You don’t know what lies ahead unless you go looking. You don’t know who you are until you start asking … patience is massively underrated when it comes to launching a successful business. Far too many people think that all it takes is a good idea, but good ideas become great when you have actual data informing the refinement stage.”
Clarity follows the actions of the wise and the brave. Don’t take a leap. Build a runway.
2) Plan Your Work. Then, Work Your Plan. (Do Not SKIP This Step)
There’s an old adage, “plan your work, then work your plan.”
Over the years here at CMT and having coached, encouraged, written and even laughed and at times, teared up with Doctors entering this space one discovery rings true for those that are still having success with their program(s). That is, Physicians that do the heavy lifting of asking themselves the tough questions before they start, wrestling with difficult decisions early or questioning themselves until the tension is gone often tend to have the most longevity in this space. They also followed the advice of the proven experts they’ve purposefully surrounded themselves with before, during and after their entry.
Therein lies the wisdom of step number two. Over the near past two decades now we find many young, DIY-types, particularly those in Direct Primary Care (DPC) can and do often struggle with and typically rely only on their colleagues and peers in medicine only who’ve had singular experiences not unlike your own, but tend to evangelize a DIY DPC practice is the only way that you should go. Furthermore, entry into a subscription based model is rushed, untamed and that surrounding yourself with business and medical experts in finance, business planning and legal assistance is necessary, but ‘you really don’t need all that.’
“Somebody is already working on a uniquely better approach, a uniquely better product, a uniquely better environment, a uniquely better model. Someone out there is already messing with the rules with the prevailing model. The goal isn’t necessarily to be the first or the pioneers of uniquely better but people should be in a position organizationally and
personally to recognize it when it comes along.”
~A.S., Leadership Podcast; Uniquely Better, Part 2; Dec. 1, 2017
Personally after having seen Physician’s open only to close months or a couple of years later or reach a plateau they just can’t get off of … or worse yet, undervalue their medical expertise as a Physician in our community, it saddens me that we have Physicians who undervalue their talent, their insights and their expertise. Being a Physician today and making no money to me is not a badge of honor. We simply cannot afford to lose more Physicians in our communities due to lack of business acumen or evangelistic hurriedness that overly simplifies a financial model meant to free Physicians from a culture in healthcare that puts treatment plans and UM or preauthorizations and coverage ahead of the Patient. Enthusiasm and excitement to move forward with your idea is one thing but being too eager and possibly careless can lead to a plateaued membership and an undervalued Patient-Physician relationship very quickly.
And so, it all starts with you addressing the tension in the room.
I want you to be excited about the idea you have. But I also want you to go in with eyes wide open about the pitfalls, the missteps, the hurdles, the opportunity and the challenges you will face in the months and years ahead. Can you predict and plan for everything? No. Of course not. I want you to understand what you’re getting yourself into, completely. You’ve taken enough risk in your life and in your profession as a Physician and the danger of having one or three conversations with over enthusiastic and singular experiences are never identical is a true risk and story that’s often never told. Committing resources to your capital improvements and new purchases such as computers, software or even buildings is never an easy decision for budget-conscious small practice Physician owners such as yourself. Planning and wrestling with as many questions as you can before you take the risk can bring the necessary clarity to the process of whether to buy or lease an office and help determine the optimal amount allocated to those assets.
A good amount of business, financial and legal planning now can help you also decide if it’s feasible to opt out of Medicare, decide which plans you will or will not take, do you need to take on additional office, retail or work space, etc.
As they they say in the business world, I want you to ‘scale it’ or ‘take it from idea to income’ but it doesn’t happen simply because you read one book, went to a conference and talked to three people at your table who said you can do this.
There’s planning involved and if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
Is that counter-intuitive to some in the DIY community? Absolutely.
Make no bones about it, you can do this. I simply want you to know what you’re getting into and why so that you can take your ‘idea to income’, love what you do and have no regrets decades from now.
“You can take an MD and make that person skilled in the business of arts and science. But you can’t take an MBA and train them to be Physicians … unless they go through a hell of a lot of school. I largely think that there is a growing population of Physicians and Physician scientists who are becoming skilled in micro and macro economics whether its through boots on the ground, trial by fire or more sort of formal executive MBA programs. But I think it’s existential to the future of our healthcare system that we have Physicians Physician Scientists who have some financial or economic training. As you know in our country we spend 17% of GDP on our healthcare system. One trillion of that is waste. I believe there is no downside to having more and more Physicians who are increasingly a part of the business framework.”
~Dr. D.K., October 2018, CEO-MD.
As with most new ideas, particularly those that try to infiltrate and make appositive difference in healthcare, there will be naysayers and critics. They’ll stand at the back of the room, listen to a few statements and leave. They’ll judge and criticize something they don’t understand and have not fully explored. That’s okay. That’s life. There will most likely always be younger doctors who come out of medical school doubting the ethics and question Concierge Medicine, in part because of what we’ve observed and have been told by Physicians that their professors have taught them at universities and medical schools.
“While sad, it’s true. Today, most young Doctors will quietly hold their nose and accept their [employed] fate [after residency],” says a northeastern United States Physician who wishes to remain anonymous whom we reached out to for comment at the writing of this book. “There is a strong focus in medical school by professors on the social benefits of medicine and being an employed Physician. Additionally, there is a shift in medical school towards urban healthcare and Team-based Primary Care. A lot more young Doctors are also becoming more content with socialized medicine as the status-quo and are willing to adopt and accept the teachings they receive from their medical school professors.”
So, make sure to start asking yourself and others around you all the tough questions, early. Over the years of doing what it is we do here, we have seen first-hand that those Physicians who are confident, satisfied and at completely peace with the decisions and the challenges they’ve faced … will be the ones that call me years from now and share their colorful journey about how much they love their Patients and exactly how and why they now practice medicine the way it could be and should be.
That’s what I want for YOU!
3) Get Into Rotary and Get Into Your Community.
Don’t underestimate the power of networking, getting involved in your local Rotary and Chamber of Commerce or offering a free breakfast or lunch to your city or town council members. This can be a great way to introduce your practice to some of the people who hold the political future of your practice. Plan ahead. Don’t simply sign-up or become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary as an after-thought to simply “catch-up” on marketing yourself, your brand or your practice.
4) Partner With A Local Charity And Ask Others To Bring In Items
Everyone loves a cheerful giver!
Good will and charity goes a long way with everyone. Consider donating a portion of your profits to a local charity for additional positive press and asking in your promotional materials and/or emails for your guests to bring in canned food items to donate, new blankets, toothpaste and other essential items most charities need. People love to help out and this is a great way to get MORE involved in your local community.
5) Start Small With A Soft Opening.
If you’re planning to open a new office as a new tenant combined with some subscription programming and financial planning around your membership(s) then planning a ‘grand opening event’ is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to your local community. It allows you to invite your local commercial ‘business’ neighbors (maybe above you or across from your office), former patients from months gone by and even current patients who will (or are) hopefully soon to become regular subscribers into your new office.
But in a Pandemic these event might feel more muted.
You might not want to wait or have several dozen people in close quarters.
How do you overcome that?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines and uses a term called soft opening. A soft opening is like a trial-run for opening a restaurant or other customer-facing business. Don’t forget, that’s what you are as well. You are a customer-facing business. And smart businesses often use soft openings to prepare their staff, themselves and customer expectations before officially opening to the general public. This is an opportunity for you to invite friends, family and even local neighbors to get feedback and their insight on what being a customer is like at your practice in the future. A soft opening is a great alternative in a COVID skeptical community. It can also be used as a real barometer of how well your subscription-based medical practice and programs will fare in the months ahead. It is not the only indicator or form of measurement that you should use, but if you’ve planned ahead, you think about your Patient-Customer needs ahead of time, you’ll already be aware of how the local community of individuals, business owners around you, homeowners, families and the general public will react … and it won’t surprise you!
6) A Grand Opening Can Be Longer Than One Day, Maybe a Week or a Month
Rather than a one-day event, a grand opening week or month might be more appropriate. There’s nothing worse than the decline of enthusiasm from your staff, your patients and your spouse a day or two after your big event and thinking there is nothing else exciting around the corner. So, extend the time to enable you to target different potential audiences on different days (I.e. media, your online followers, your colleagues at the hospital, your specialist referral network, visit your home bound patients, local business and restaurants, etc.). The opportunities to reach different audiences during a longer Grand Opening period will help with TOMA (top of mind awareness) and extend the amount of interest in your program/office.
Planning your grand opening at least two to three months (if not longer) and set a date. It’s best if once you set the date, you also don’t move it, at all! You will need to account for teacher holidays, national holidays or local upcoming events. You should also schedule your grand opening accordingly with your colleagues and support staff to ensure they’ll be there to help you create a great turnout. After all, your new patients and any former patients will want to meet your new staff or perhaps rekindle a friendship with your staff after months or years of not visiting your practice.
Consider planning your Concierge Medicine grand opening event for a couple of weeks after your program or practice actually opens its membership — so as to give you and your staff time to work out any billing kinks, FAQs you need to research, calls you need to make, paperwork that needs to be distributed to new patients or those “thinking about it” patients. You’ll want to be sure to establish a solid process for handling new members, how to handle those that don’t want to continue under your care, and even account for any positive and yes, (it happens), negative feedback you may get from your first subscribers. Remember, plan your work. Then, work your plan. There is a reason why this old adage is as supportive to leaders in business as it is true.
7) Promoting Your Grand Opening
It may a bit too early to start with paid advertising, but if your marketing budget is large enough, a mix of paid and social media advertising work best. Sometimes, local county blog sites, small county media newspapers and even Mommy Blogs are an effective and thrifty way to promote your practice. You may even want to consider setting up a booth at a local community festival or farmers market where you can greet members of the community, hand out stress balls or lollipops and your business cards (we recommend Moo.com by the way!) and spread the word about your new practice or programs.
8) Get A Lot Of Photos
Hiring a student photographer, having your staff equipped with a selfie-stick can provide you with a lot of fun photos. You can then use them on your social media channels and on your website, with each persons permission, of course. This will free you (specifically) from playing photographer (as you’ll be busy shaking hands and having great conversation with current and former patients!).
9) Follow Up, Within 4-Days!
If you have planned accordingly and you are collecting interested individuals email addresses and/or contact information to follow up with them, do so in an immediate, personal way. Most people don’t receive handwritten cards with personal notes anymore through the mail. This is an incredibly effective way to spread your positive message. It’s best to be sure your first email goes out shortly after the event; ideally within a few days.
Do you have any additional local marketing tips for new Concierge Doctors? We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can share your ideas in the comment section below or on social media.
10) Have REALLY Good Toys For Kids!
This one might seem a little silly. I’m a parent. I’m also a Patient and our family is no stranger to the pediatrician’s or dentists office either. So I see where most medical offices get it wrong is by ignoring the kids in the room. You don’t have to be a pediatric or family medicine office to have a toy box with modern toys in it to implement this idea. If you want a parent, a single Dad, or a mom to keep coming back to your practice, help them out by giving them a toy that they can take with them. Budget for this expense. And no, I’m not talking about dollar store bargains that kids can spot as ridiculous and pass over. My daughter for example went to our dentist once a few years ago and got a plush toy and to this day that “stuffie” as she calls it, has a name and a place on her bed. If you’re a parent, you know it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a kid happy. To this day, my wife Kelly and I are still going to that dentist.
Don’t believe me, I’ll let our daughter tell you her story …
First Published Date: February 3, 2016
Last Updated: November 3, 2021
This book, articles, web site(s), programs and all other associated reference guides and materials are designed to provide accurate and authoritative information with regard to the subject matter covered. The information is given with the understanding that the authors, publishers, distributors and its related affiliated or subsidiary companies are not engaging in or rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. The authors, publishers, distributors and its related, affiliated or subsidiary companies, stress that since the details of an individual’s personal situation are fact-dependent, you should seek the additional services of a competent professional for legal, accounting and business advice for your individual practice. It is your responsibility to evaluate the accuracy, completeness and usefulness of any opinions, advice, services or other information provided as it pertains to your practice. All information contained is distributed with the understanding that the authors, publishers, distributors and its related, affiliated or subsidiary companies, are not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters, and accordingly assume no liability whatsoever in connection with its use. Consult your own legal or tax advisor with respect to your personal situation. In no event shall the authors, publishers, distributors and its related, affiliated or subsidiary companies, be liable for any direct, indirect, special, incidental or consequential damages arising out of the use of the information herein.
This information is published for some, but not all the residents of the United States. This work is not intended for use outside of the United States of America.
PLEASE BE AWARE
While we make every effort to ensure that at the date of this book and its publication that the contact information below is up-to-date and accurate, we do recognize that the contact information, names, etc., are subject to change at any time. In addition to the resources, contacts, individuals and doctors mentioned in this book, we have provided you with a list of trusted physicians, resources, attorneys and businesses that you are welcome to reach out to at www.ConciergeMedicineToday.com or www.DirectPrimaryCare.com. Remember, this book, articles, web site(s), programs and all other associated reference guides and materials are a result of what we’ve observed. We’ve made no effort to make a list of checklist of things you must do in order for this to work. We’re not expecting you to do what everybody else is doing. We’re not expecting this book to be a DIY-Guide either. It’s not. It’s simply an educational resource meant to explain and expose you to what might be and could be expected of you should you choose to put an invitation to reenter a relationship with a Physician and Patient built on trust verses reaction. Since the early days Physicians who’ve been successful in this unique space sought help, guidance and advice from trusted experts. You may want to do the same and we encourage those discussions. In fact, we’ve included resources at the end of our book to help you with that.