Medical series: Building better doctor-patient relations

“Could it be strep throat?” I asked as I shifted from side to side, not feeling well, on one of those exam beds in a doctor’s office which some designer tried to make look like a lounge chair, but ends up looking like a sanitary torture device. “No, it’s not strep” said the doctor, not looking up and continuing to write.  I realized at this point that I had to be a little more aggressive, even though I was  not feeling well. “Then what is it?” I asked.

This was a game this particular doctor and I played a lot. She was by far one of the best doctors I had ever had, but her one weakness was how she answered questions. She answered exactly the question that was asked. Nothing more and nothing else.

Building Better Doctor-Patient Relations

I know it’s been said a million times already in seminars, blogs, books, and schools across the country, but this is yet another reminder for doctors out there: listen for what your patients are really asking instead of what they do ask. In my case above, my real question was “What’s wrong with me?” but because I had already been trying to sort it out in my head on my own, it came out much differently.

Sometimes the patients are passive-aggressive and that’s why they ask the question the way they do. Or, the patient could be more like me and be very logical in nature. Logical patients are going to try to figure it out on their own, get as far as they can down the road of a conclusion and then ask the question.

Regardless of why they do it, some patients won’t ask what they really want to ask or say what they really need to say. That’s why it’s so critical for doctors to slow down, and really think about what the patient is saying and then have a conversation from there.

More patients = More money?

With rising healthcare costs, rising office costs, etc., doctors feel pressure to serve a significant amount of patients every day to make money. The calculation, to many doctors, seems simple. More patients = more money. On the other hand, there are doctors offering concierge services where, for an annual fee, they agree to take fewer patients and devote as much time to you as you need. Their formula looks more like: less patients paying more money each = more money. Both of these formulas are at the extreme and both are riddled with issues, which we won’t go into in this post.

The point is, as with many things, the correct answer lies somewhere between the two and is the same as with any business; take on only as many customers as you can treat well. Any more than that, you’ll get unhappy customers and that will reduce your marketing effectiveness and your ability to recruit new patients.

How to Listen

So we’ve established a business reason for taking time to listen to patients and I’m hoping anyone that reads this understands the personal reasons for doing so, but how do you do it? Luckily, you already know how, it’s just taking the time to do it and having someone like me remind you:

  • Slow down and really take the time to listen to the patient.
  • Ask yourself not only what the patient asked, but what may be their underlying question or concern.
  • Ask probing questions and encourage the patient to talk.
  • Even though you think information may be irrelevant, still take time to listen to it. There might be something hidden in that information that can help you diagnose or treat the patient.

Now go forth and really listen! 🙂

Asking for referrals: Congrats to Minges Creek Chiropractic!

Thank you card
Photo from Flickr: qmnonic

Asking for referrals and then thanking those customers that did refer new customers to you is something that we’ve all heard a lot from marketing experts, at conferences, and in any advice books about how to increase business. My experience, however, is that most businesses don’t ask for referrals and even fewer follow-up by thanking the person that referred business to them.

Asking for referrals is not easy and the whole process seems time-consuming, but I fully agree with most experts that it is an essential piece of the marketing and sales mix for many business categories. So, with that in mind, I’d like to congratulate Minges Creek Chiropractic in Battle Creek for not only asking for referrals, but following up with a thank you.

A few weeks ago, someone new to the Battle Creek area posted on the Battle Creek Area Young Professionals Facebook page that she was looking for chiropractor recommendations in the area. I sent her a message referring her to Minges Creek Chiropractic. Soon after, I received a  thank you card in the mail hand-written by Dr. Gordon thanking me for referring her as a new patient to them. Along with the card, there was another piece of paper letting me know that the office had applied a credit (not too much, not too little) to my account as a thank you for the referral.

So, again, congrats to Minges Creek Chiropractic for following sound marketing advice for patient referrals. I will definitely refer you again!

Medical Series: Guerrilla Marketing Idea for Dentists, Chiropractors, and Other Doctors

I’m a huge fan of guerrilla marketing campaigns and this is one of my favorites  because it’s so inexpensive, it could be very effective, and it could be modified for dentists, chiropractors, and other doctors.

A paper mouth wrapped around a tree. You can tear off a tooth and it has the dentist's name and contact information on it.
This could be modified for other types of doctors or other businesses.

For Dentists, Chiropractors, and Other Doctors

This campaign could easily be modified to work with other types of doctors. For example, for a chiropractor, the wrap-around could be a spine. My two cautions here are:

  • Make sure you take a look at what the display will look like after some of the flyers are gone. Will it still look ok? Will people still understand?
  • Make sure the placement of the ad is positive for your business. This is a common  mistake in outdoor advertising and a mistake in this area can land you on Failblog or another site.  Make sure that you look at the businesses, landscape, and other advertisements around yours to make sure there isn’t a contradiction or other issue with your placement. For example, placing an advertisement for a restaurant serving unique meat selections next to an animal hospital would be a very poor choice in outdoor placement.

In addition to doctors, this idea could be used for a wide variety of businesses. For a nursery, for example, you could have a wrap-around of trees.

Expense Considerations

Although there will be some design and printing costs (please don’t skimp on these!) the majority of your expenses for this project are going to come in the form of time that you spend working on this.  Here are some expense considerations:

  • You will need to apply for permits or talk to various city leaders to get approval to put these up. This is a crucial step to maintaining positive community relations, avoiding fines, and not having your stuff taken down the minute you put it up.
  • Not only will you need to put these up, but you will need to monitor them and replace ones that are vandalized or used up with new ones.  You should do this at least once daily, but you might have to more than daily as well.
  • You need to pay for extras and have them on hand when the above happens.
  • Weather could also affect your ads, so pay for weatherproof materials and monitor the displays for weather issues.  It would probably be well worth the extra money to pay for more weather-proof printing methods.

So even if something like this isn’t perfect for your business, hopefully it will spur some creative ideas of your own.  What are you doing that’s unusual to promote your business?

Medical Series: New Revenue Generation Idea for Dermatologists

A few years ago, I went to my dermatologist to figure out which of my beauty products was ticking off my skin.  At the point of absolute frustration, I walked into his office with a bag full of every skin care item I own. By the time he reached the room, my products were all laid out on a table for him to see. Like I said, I was determined.

Photo of a jar of face cream
Photo by sunshinecity on Flickr

The dermatologist came in and, in less than five minutes, identified the problem. But then, on the way out, paused, turned back around, and went over to the row of beauty products again. “And by the way, you don’t need hardly any of this crap. It’s not doing anything for you. All you really need is this and this,” he said pulling two items off the table and handing them back to me.

He walked out and I went over to the table and scanned what he had left. There laid hundreds and hundreds of dollars of beauty lotions and creams, which I now knew did nothing for me.  I gathered them up, threw them in the trash, and walked out.

Years later, as a professional marketer, I look back at that experience and think of it as an opportunity for dermatologists as a new form of revenue generation.  What if they offered a new service where, for the price of an office visit, they would conduct an analysis of skin care products for a patient?


There are two main benefits/positions for marketing this:

It eliminates the stress and anxiety of women when it comes to skin care.
If you haven’t walked down a skin care aisle in a store recently, it will only take a few minutes doing so and you’ll know what I mean. The amount of options and differing brand/product positions is dizzying. One cream firms your skin, one is for sensitive skin, one has all natural ingredients, etc.  And none of them have the perfect combination of everything that a particular woman is looking for.

So, we all end up with bottles and tubes of almost everything so we can be assured that somewhere in there, is the right one. Having a dermatologist pick out the right ones for us eliminates this issue and the stress and anxiety that accompany the process for most women.

It saves women money.
In the three months following my trip to the dermatologist, I saved above and beyond the cost of the office visit in the skin care products I didn’t buy.  And, my skin looks better than it did then. If a dermatologist offered this same opportunity to other women, I can’t think of a single one who wouldn’t jump at the idea of reducing their skin care budget. Basically, it’s a win-win, the patient saves money, and the dermatologist generates more revenue for his or her practice.


Here’s my recommendation: Mimic the insurance companies and create a campaign showing how much money real people saved. Find a couple of loyal patients and give the service to them for free in exchange for analyzing how much money they saved and rights to market their savings.

Then, put together your marketing campaign touting the reduced stress/anxiety benefit along with chart comparisons showing how much money real women in the community saved after the analysis of their products.

So there you have it, a new revenue generation idea for a doctor practicing in dermatology. If you try it, please send me feedback on your experiences.