What Independent Physicians Can Learn from Hospital Systems

Recent conversations in the healthcare world have suggested that practices either need to go big or go home in regards to their associations in the future.  The highly controversial trend towards ACOs and large practices or hospitals buying out smaller, independent practices suggests that those small groups had better join forces if they want to survive. This could not be farther from the truth, and there is something to be said about the preservation of the “independent physician.” The fact is that independence equates to sovereignty, whether you’re talking about states or practices.

In our experience with many talented and notable physicians over the years we have come to realize that doctors are by nature, autonomous.  Of course there are instances where this is untrue, but it seems to be a general concern, that physicians who have worked so hard to build their own, independent practice are not going to want to throw away their dedication to join a large system. Those big fish usually like their little sea. So we have dedicated time to find ways in aiding these providers to find success without giving away their independence.

                                          independent practice

From a patient perspective, there are pros and cons to both types of physicians but let’s focus on the important part of patient care. CARE. When something is wrong or you have been diagnosed with an unfortunate condition, do you want to be a number, or do you want to be Ms. Jane Doe with a name and a face to go with your medical chart.  As a patient, it is important to me to feel confident in my physician and there is something about an independent facility that make me feel more comfortable.

From the perspective of the independent practice, competing with larger scaled practices can be daunting. It is important for those facilities to play up their strengths and learn from the expansive marketing campaigns that have been successful for large hospitals like The Mayo Clinic. While the process based off of a grander scale, hospital-based practices and independent facilities do share the same intrinsic end goal and that is wellness, convenience and quality care for patients. A number of social media practices implemented by hospitals like The Mayo Clinic could easily be put into action at a smaller level, such as:

-       becoming a resource for medical information through social media by encouraging your doctors to get involved

-       sharing knowledge through blogging, ex: testimonials, success stories and things healthcare professionals have learned through their experience in the field

-       using real-time communication and updates through Twitter, some hospitals have done this in correlation with The American Red Cross or with the participation of families with a relative in surgery for live updates

-       Fundraising for events or local charities

-       Communicating with current, previous and potential patients from a customer service aspect

-       Connecting patient or patient family followers to helpful community resources and deals. Ex: Sending out a coupon for a local floral shop

-       Patient highlights and involvement to promote an encouraging environment

There are many ways to implement these processes, but the fact is that no matter if your practice is located in Downtown Manhattan or in Norfolk, Nebraska, these social media campaigns can be personalized and successful.

If these social media marketing initiatives are used correctly, a practice of any size can gain leverage in the industry. Author Richard Reece points out that a practice’s capacity for success is dependent upon the way leverage is managed however.  He comments saying, “Leverage is a fragile, malleable thing. It depends on public trust.”  In order to balance your practice’s leverage, no matter the size, one must focus on; management, chains of command, administrative abilities and the implementation of leadership practice values.