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Doctor, What Makes You Remarkable?


The quickest way to grow your practice is to get people talking about you. People talk about remarkable things. What makes you remarkable?

While we have never met, I know something about you with absolute certainty. You are remarkable.

You have a unique way of improving patients’ condition based on your unique gifts and passions and life experiences.

Why is being remarkable important?

The quickest way to grow your practice is to get people talking about you. People talk about remarkable things.

You may not agree with Donald Trump, but he is remarkable. People talk about him.

No one talks about normal day-to-day activities like car maintenance and shopping. However, I've told these stories:

• I took my car to a new gas station to get an oil change. When I picked it up, they had vacuumed the car. Remarkable.

• My son needed new dress pants for an event the next day. We arrived at Nordstrom 15 minutes before closing. We walked out with hemmed pants. Remarkable.

• I was flying back home from delivering a keynote on Alaska Airlines when a passenger went into cardiac arrest. The flight attendants conducted themselves with the level of professionalism of an ER staff. Remarkable.

When patients value the thing that puts you in a class of your own, they talk about you.

Why is remarkable a smarter choice than average?

Logic suggests that the safest way to grow your practice is to treat any patient who finds you.

Once you say, “I work with women with heart disease” you exclude half the patient population. It seems like a risky choice.

Paradoxically, this exclusivity accelerates practice growth. What percentage of cardiologists have a special interest in woman with heart disease? You set yourself apart and become remarkable in the eyes of your patients and referring physicians.

How do physicians become remarkable?

Medical organizations and individual physicians have found many ways to be remarkable.

• If you are a patient at Group Health, your doctor does not hand you a prescription. It’s entered into the computer, and you stop by the pharmacy on your way to your car and pick it up. Remarkable.

• Virginia Mason Medical Center offers a surgical warranty for hip and knee replacements. Remarkable.

• A dentist works with phobic patients. Remarkable.

You can become remarkable with something as simple as smiling and greeting each person who crosses your path.

What puts you in a class of one?

There is something remarkable about you and the way you deliver medical care. Chances are good it falls right in your sweet spot where passion, purpose, and profit meet.

Do you have a unique way of treating a medical condition? Do you deliver an over-the-top patient experience? Do you offer rock-bottom prices?

Here are some questions to help you identify your unique offering.

Do you create extraordinary outcomes in a specific disease process?

Think about the last time you went to your favorite restaurant. Chances are good that they are known for a signature dish.

Would you go to a restaurant that offers an assortment of Italian and Mexican and Thai dishes? You might think this restaurant has an identity crisis.

What’s your signature dish? Can you focus on treating a specific medical condition which then leads to better medical outcomes? Here are a few examples:

• The Shouldice Clinic performs one procedure: a hernia repair. They get such extraordinary results that patients fly in from around the world to be treated there. Remarkable.

• Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, points out that 117 centers in the US treat cystic fibrosis. The mean lifespan for all centers is 33 years; however, a clinic in Minnesota boasts a 47 year survival. Remarkable.

• An OB/GYN helps women make a gracious transition through menopause. Remarkable.

Sometimes a practice focus evolves organically. When I set up my general surgical practice, I performed all of the “bread and butter” surgical cases. Very quickly my calendar filled with women with breast concerns.

In the pre-Google era we quipped, “The whole world is pre-op.” This is now quite literally the case. Last year an estimated 750,000 Americans went abroad to get their healthcare. Could you become a destination for patients from around the world seeking your remarkable results?

Do you offer a unique experience?

You know exactly what kind of experience you will get at McDonald’s. Every time.

What is your patients’ experience at your practice? Is it uniform and consistent? Is it remarkable?

I once referred a patient to an outstanding neurologist. My patient game back and told me that she would never return. The front office staff was downright rude to a patient in the waiting room.

The medical care you deliver is like a plane ride transporting your patients from point A to point B. You have metrics to measure how safely and effectively you get patients to their health destination.

What level of comfort, convenience, and kindness do they experience along the way? Does your medical practice duplicate the level of service of a private jet, business class on a commercial airline or a no-frills, low-cost option. There’s a place for all of them.

How can you make your experience remarkable? Do you leverage technology in new and innovative ways? Can you anticipate and fill an unmet need? Can you bring your passion into your office?

• I spent a month joining a surgical team in Thailand. Before the induction of anesthesia, the patient, physicians and staff all held hands, and the surgeon would offer a prayer, “God please guide my hands.” Would you like to integrate prayer or complimentary interventions into your treatment protocol?

• Could you create educational videos for your referring physicians to facilitate the transfer of care from your facility to the patient’s home?

• If you offer nail care for diabetic patients, you know that they cannot get a pampered pedicure. Could you invest in luxurious massage chairs and offer a spa-like pedicure experience at your office? You can call it your “medic-cure” service.

Listen carefully when patients say, "I wish someone would fix this problem!" That someone could be you!

Do you understand your patients’ personal goals?

You work diligently to achieve medical outcomes.

How well do you understand why patients want the desired medical outcomes? Behind each medical goal is a personal goal that inspires patients to take action. This is what drives compliance.

A patient may not give up smoking to prevent lung cancer; however, they may be highly motivated to model healthy behaviors for their children. Being a good parent trumps cancer prevention.

Your ability to understand why patients make the choices they do contributes to remarkable outcomes.

Do you offer an extraordinary relationship?

The doctor-patient relationship forms the foundation of the health care system. How would you characterize the relationship you create with your patients?

I have asked thousands of patients, “What do you want in a doctor?” Here’s what they tell me:

• “I want a doctor who cares about me as a person.”

• “I want a doctor who listens.”

• “I want a doctor who treats me respectfully.”

• “I want a doctor who cares what I think.”

• “I want a doctor who works with lots of patients just like me.”

• “I want a doctor who will tell me the truth—kindly.”

• “I want a doctor who will be there for me.”

• “I want a doctor who does not judge me.”

• “I want a doctor who understand that I am watching my pennies.”

Patients want physicians who are authentic and present. Dr. Ed Hallowell, a child psychiatrist who treats kids with ADD, openly talks about his struggles and triumphs living with an ADD-wired brain. In so doing, he becomes real and credible in a new way.

Offering an extraordinary relationship is one of the most effective ways of being remarkable. Characterize that ideal relationship. Create this as the standard for every relationship in your practice, whether it's between staff members or between staff and patients.

What makes YOU remarkable?

Most successful businesses—whether restaurants or stores or hotels—do not try to be all things to all customers; they focus and do something very, very well.

Think about the difference between Nordstrom and Target. Or Costco and Whole Foods. Or the Ritz Carlton and Motel 6.

What makes you one of a kind? What is your signature dish? What is the experience you offer? What is the nature of your relationships with patients, colleagues and staff?

Your ability to communicate the ways in which you are remarkable contributes to your rate of practice growth.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Rackner's upcoming book The New Medical Mindset: How Physicians Can Think Differently, Reinvent Themselves and Thrive in the Post-Google Era.

Vicki Rackner MD is an author, speaker and consultant who offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. She helps businesses acquire physician clients, and she helps physicians run more successful practices. Contact her at (425) 451-3777.

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