Running a concierge or boutique style medicine practice successfully depends on a number of factors, not least ensuring that you provide the right service at the right level for your patient panel. Physicians in this arena have to act like successful businessmen and create a product that the market values over and above other alternatives.
This also demands a more focused marketing approach which means you can’t promote your business on the hoof with cut cost options that don’t make the grade.
What is Concierge Medicine?
The direct-pay business model where care offered by a physician or medical practice is not just a right but a service goes by many names including boutique practice, premier medical services, platinum practice and retainer medical practice. All require you to go that little bit further and run your practice as a luxury service that provides something more than the average clinic.
· Patients become important customers, not faceless commodities on an examining table.
· Patients feel they are highly valued as they are getting a service which provides peace of mind combined with exceptional care.
The concierge medicine model was initially marketed to those affluent patients who could afford it, typically paying in the region of $10,000 to $20,000 a year to have their physician on call pretty much all the time. Over the years, the model has developed for middle-income patients who are looking for a higher level of care that is more responsive to their needs. They typically pay between $1,000 and $3,000 per year for this service.
For physicians it is a way of getting direct pay business and build a strong, sustainable practice. To be a success requires an entrepreneurial mindset that many find alien and includes having a robust business model and a well thought out marketing strategy that attracts the right patients. There are plenty of potential patients who are willing to pay extra for a better, quicker service which can be accessed when and if they need it rather than one which sees them sitting in a waiting room for hours to see a doctor for just a couple of minutes.
The Big Issues in Concierge Medicine Marketing
Success in boutique practice depends on a number of factors being addressed and handled in an entrepreneurial style.
The bottom line is that you need to get enough patients through the door to make the practice pay. We can further fine tune this to say you need to get the right kind of patients to enroll in your practice and for this you need three main components in place:
· Competitive Unfair Advantage: Concierge medicine is a competitive arena, as with any other industry. It’s not simply a case of deciding to go for the direct-pay model, you have to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition. In other words, you have to offer an exceptional experience that sets you apart.
· The Right Pricing: This can often be the most difficult aspect of running a direct-pay model, deciding on the ideal value-based profitable price. It’s about giving your customers exceptional value for money but also making sure that your profits are maximized.
· Retaining Patients: Your practice may be great at attracting patients but if you can’t keep them then your business will quickly develop problems. That means being responsive to ongoing and evolving patient needs and developing retention strategies rather than remaining static in the market place. As the saying goes, there’s always a faster gun riding into town, you have to make sure you stay ahead of it.
To get all this right practices need to put in the hours to design an exceptional practice and put in place the effective and ethical marketing strategies that bring profitable patients through the door. For this you also need to have the right talent in place. Most physicians aren’t taught business at college and whilst you may be a natural, it pays to get professional input. Who you choose to manage your business strategy and marketing is as important as the service you are intending to offer.
Concierge Medicine Example Program Offering
Many concierge medical practices that offer a number of different membership plans for its patients to take advantage of. For example:
· Silver: For those with traditional medical insurance but who want access to a more responsive practice setting (Cost $100 per month).
· Gold: For patients who have health insurance that comes with high deductions, but is backed by Healthcare Savings Accounts, and those who have no insurance in place (Cost $150 per month).
· Platinum: For patients who want a more personal and higher level of care, including benefits such as 24/7 telephone access to a physician (Cost $200 per month).
While a business model can be competitively matched and mirrored, an exceptional patient experience is something that is unique to the brand of each individual practice. Make sure the experience you design and deliver for your patients, your esteemed guests, are so remarkable that it has the market remarking about to others. “Remarkability” is the holy grail of attraction, retention and referral business development strategies because it delivers the highest satisfaction and optimal profitability.
Creating an Entrepreneurial Mind Set
It might not be second nature to most physicians but to succeed at concierge medicine you need to become marketing savvy. Your practice is a brand and you have to position it well within the marketplace to get the best response. That means hiring the people who can market your practice and give you a good ROI. If you are expecting patients to invest in your business and are hoping for them to put in $50,000 over a lifetime, then a small investment on your part of around $500-$1,000 per patient is worth it.
If you think marketing is a simple case of getting your teenage son or daughter to throw out a few tweets and articles on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, then you are missing the point. Most doctors don’t know how to market themselves properly – they flail around in the darkness, without knowing whether their strategy is working or not. Others spend far too much money on lazy, misdirected marketing initiatives that simply don’t work.
If you want to succeed then you need to invest in high-quality people who have a proven track record of delivering results.
Managing Patient Expectations
One area that practices have to be careful with is managing patient expectations when they set up a direct pay business model. If you are offering 24/7 access then you need to make sure that patients are aware of the boundaries – does it mean for every little bug or for problems that require immediate attention? Direct-pay practices have more leeway than those that are at the mercy of insurance company rules so patients don’t need to attend the clinic for everything – they can Skype, phone or even email for a response to a medical problem. But you do need to make your patients aware of what they can expect.
There is, of course, another challenge that comes with operating a concierge medicine practice with the possible overlap that happens under a patient’s existing insurance plan. This can lead to physicians being charged with fraud if they are not careful – for example, opting out of some parts of Medicare or getting the patient to sign a waiver agreeing not to seek reimbursement for services given by the concierge doctor.
Concierge medicine marketing requires the practice to drill down a lot deeper than perhaps other brands and products. Providing a luxury service requires the identification of a specific market, differentiating yourself from the competition, developing social proof and coming up with potent USPs.
It’s not necessarily about growing a large patient panel but one that can be catered for within the terms of the advantage, providing consistent high returns. For that you need a marketing expert who knows what they are doing, who can help plug profit leaks such as patients who don’t return, and who will work with you to find ways to create high satisfaction levels and even higher profits.
Valery is the Founder of MDbyDesign, a patient-centric experiential marketing company that designs exceptional patient experiences to deliver premium profits to the physician. In the higher tier business model of concierge medicine, a sound understanding of the retail experience, including designed experience and sales principles, is needed to succeed and achieve a rewarding experience for physicians and their patients.To find out more please visit