Physicians as Business Owners—And the Content They Crave
Medicine is a noble profession. Doctors work selflessly for the good of the patients. Let’s face it–most of us think doctors aren’t interested in money. But the reality is that doctors have to constantly think about money. Hospitals are dealing with huge increases in uncompensated care from economically-impacted patients; the economic downturn also contributes to fewer elective procedures, typically big moneymakers. Hospitals are in financial trouble and reducing staff and service. Doctors are selling their practices, or starting ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) or specialty hospitals. Physicians earning MBA degrees are at an all-time high, and today’s medical students take finance courses. Boston physicians Pamela Hartzband and Jerome Groopman wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine that “price tags are being applied to every aspect of a doctor’s day.”
Physician business owners face a steep learning curve. A few know basic business, while most have no business training whatsoever. Even if they hire a business manager, doctors stay deeply involved in the business because they are typically the primary investors.
So how do content developers help physicians market their businesses or find crucial products and services?
Here are a few categories to consider:
Technology: We are all familiar with technology directly used for patient care. We all want to go to the office that has the latest MRI or breast imaging device. But physicians increasingly rely on a different kind of technology—that which makes a businesses more profitable. Transition from paper records to an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system is a daunting task. Doctors need content that tells them the best EMR for their practice, or that compares EMR software packages or features. Many EMR packages have built-in patient portals, whereby patients can log in to view their own medical records, ask questions, and make appointments; content about system security and patient confidentiality is crucial.
Millions of previously uninsured patients have entered the US healthcare system due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and doctors are heavily burdened to see all the patients. None of us like to be at an appointment where we wait for an hour, only to see the doctor for 5 minutes. Workflow efficiency software is a key element of many modern medical practices; it is used to manage patient flow for maximum efficiency and patient care. Sometimes it is part of the EMR software and sometimes it is purchased separately, but the same ideals apply—physicians want to know what’s out there in the marketplace, how to get it, and how it stands up against competing products.
Computers, smartphones, and tablets are being used at unprecedented levels as well, so product reviews, and content on relevance to practices is desired. A recent survey of medical students indicated that 44% are using smartphones, tablets and PCs, and 82% would recommend a health related app to their patients. In fact, many physicians are encouraging patients to use apps at home, since health depends largely on daily decisions the patient makes. Content on wellness apps, such as eating well, medication reminders, or exercise trackers is in high demand.
People and Patient Care: A new surgical center staff must run like a well-oiled machine in order to be profitable. One challenge physicians face is the age-old question that many businesses have: How do I find good people? Content regarding proper staffing and how to find credentialed staff is great. Use of physician assistants (PA) for traditional doctor-performed tasks is an ongoing trend, so content on necessary skill sets, and the best PA schools and specialization programs is all good. Functions like HR and payroll are commonly outsourced in these ventures, so any content on how to choose a good firm and what services are available is beneficial.
Ways in which doctors get new patients have totally changed, too. In the past, doctors relied on word of mouth from other patients, but now, savvy physicians actively find patients by utilizing social media, SEO optimization, and direct marketing techniques. Because this is a foreign world to most physicians, any content of this nature is very helpful. Patient care has also changed; in the past, doctors primarily discussed patient cases with peers, and while they still do, doctors today rely much more on the Internet for answers. Content on reliable sources of clinical information is therefore invaluable.
Finance: The overarching pain-in-the-backside for practically any physician is navigation of the complex government regulations of the ACA. Business viability depends heavily on negotiation of reimbursement rates. Cost control is crucial because reimbursement rates are dropping. Physicians seeking a higher reimbursement rate than the typical Medicare rate must know the requirements and comparable benchmarks, and must have patient outcome data on infection rates, surgery revision rates, and patient satisfaction surveys. Financial content in all of these areas will make or break a new medical venture.
Marketing: Developing a marketing plan for a new medical business can be daunting. Content on how to choose the best marketing firm for a doctor’s needs is excellent content to have. Theyneed to know the best bang-for-the-buck forms of advertisement, whether it be television ads, infomercials, or print ads, and how to build effective Websites and use SEO to their advantage.
Managed care has changed the medical world. More takers at the table require feeding, and as such, doctors have turned from the traditional ways of patient care to a more businesslike approach. Use these suggestions to help doctors survive the brave new world that is today’s healthcare system.
5-Star Writer Jacqueline H is a freelance journalist and political blogger. She also specializes in grant proposals, white papers, scientific journal articles, medicine and healthcare, technical presentations, and technical writing in general. Previously, Jacqueline served as the technical lead for the Life Sciences Data Archive, a data repository of NASA’s space life sciences research data.