Starting a private practice is both exciting and scary! For one, you finally get to have the autonomy you've always dreamed of. Work your own hours, be your own boss, and treat patients with the values that you think are most important. However, the beginning can be quite scary due to the unknowns. Will I get patients to pay me, will I make enough money to pay myself, will patients even be able to find out about me? There are many guides out there about being part of networks so that other doctors in your network will refer patients to you. When you move to a direct care model, you no longer have these "networks" to rely on. This guide will tell you how to get your first patient and keep growing from there.
Bringing over established patients from your existing employer
If you are coming from an established employer and can bring your patients with you to your private practice, great! That is a huge advantage to getting started. Make sure your existing contract allows for this though. Keep in mind though, it is not as simple as mailing a letter to your patients that you're moving and they can move with you. At the end of the day, this is sales. You are selling your services to patients. The number one rule of sales, follow up. Follow up past when it has gotten uncomfortable. The most important thing is that you get to yes or no. Maybe is where new businesses go to die. Speaking of following up, try to get a better contact than their mailing address. Email or phone is the best way to contact people. There is nothing actionable from physical mail. With an email, you can attach a link to your new website with a discount code and its free to send as many as you want. If you have their phone number, even better. How many times do patients actually get to hear from their doctor on the phone? Many would be grateful to speak with you and you can get to yes or no within a few minutes. In short, follow up, and get a contact method other than mailing address.
Starting from scratch
What about for doctors who just completed their residency or have a clause in their contract that doesn't allow "poaching" patients. This is ok! Most businesses start this way. The best way to get patient #1 is to go to your own network. Ask your friends and ask them to ask their friends. Spread the word that you're opening up. Everyone needs a doctor. This isn't some service that only a few people need or want. While it may be uncomfortable to treat friends, often times your friends will trust your medical advice more than a doctor who they have no relationship with. Your friends are likely to suggest you to their friends as well. Don't be shy about marketing yourself. Speak loud and proud. This is your opportunity to start something great.
Now that you've exhausted your network and your existing patient panel, it's time to explore other marketing channels, marketing being the key word. Create a website with a simple website builder and make sure it is mobile friendly (over half of all internet traffic today is mobile). Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and Wordpress are some of the more popular choices. Now, getting back to being outside your comfort zone and speaking loud and proud, ask your existing patients to review you on sites like Google and Yelp. Like it or not, an increasing number of people search for reviews of doctors using search terms such as "best primary care doctor near me" before choosing one. Positive reviews are crucial, and negative reviews are terrible. Make sure you ask the patients you know will give you good reviews :)
Establish a brand by creating a logo, a brochure, and going to community events where you can be seen and pass out your brochure. People will appreciate getting to talk to a doctor as a person who understands them as a whole being, not just a medical issue.
Reduce Friction - Close the sale
This step is incredibly important. The marketing and speaking with friends in your network are only the prospecting phase of a sales funnel. You still need to close the deal. That means, get patients to book an appointment with you. Do not leave this step up to chance. If the only way to book an appointment is to call your practice, then you already are introducing extra friction into the funnel. Even if you have time to answer the phone, a patient may be on your website after business hours or while you are eating or with another patient. Allow patients to close the sale themselves at the moment they are most wanting your services. Add appointment booking to your website with a tool like Akute Health. By allowing patients to book appointments on your website, you remove any added friction for you to close the sale. Patients will be very impressed at how easy it is to book appointments and find times that work for them. Not convinced? Try it out for yourself and book a demo with me using this same tool! This not only will get that patient into your practice, but they will likely tell their friends about how great the experience was and get those friends to book appointments as well. Don't leave the close to chance. Use software to make this step seamless.
Stay focused and don't wait! Reach out to 10 people today! Email me at email@example.com and let me know how it goes. Keep up the hard work and stay positive.