Direct Care is a customer service industry. When average waiting times in a medical office is 30-40 minutes, there's room to improve. In fact, I don't even have a waiting room.
See how I answer phone calls about if I take insurance, new ways customers are interacting with businesses and the value of short form videos for your social media to get new patients, and long form to nurture existing audience like with emails.
Taking some stats from Hubspot on top marketing trends for 2023 https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/hubspot-blog-marketing-industry-trends-report
Tips on social media marketing https://www.thedirectcareway.com/1940570/12031142-tips-on-marketing-with-social-media
Dr. T 0:00
Owners of a direct care practice are more likely to experience higher job satisfaction than the insurance based practice. And it's no wonder why direct care is independent of insurance. Patients pay the doctor directly for their expertise, the doctor gets full autonomy in how they care for patients and how they get paid. They have chosen this path with a love of medicine. This is the direct care way.
Dr. T 0:24
By listening to this podcast, you may even start to believe that you too can have a successful direct care practice. Come listen with an open mind as I share my personal journey and how I pivoted from an insurance based practice to direct care right in the middle of the pandemic. And the valuable lessons along the way. This podcast may be the very thing you need to revitalize your medical practice. I'm your host, owner of a direct care podiatry practice Dr. Tea Nguyen.
Dr. T 0:52
Hey, there, I wanted to share a couple of new trends in customer service. But this is going to be the direct care edition. Direct care is a medical practice and we really stand out because we are very aware of what a great experience is like for patients, which I'm calling customers. Because the work we do it is a customer oriented practice, we are serving a lot of people. And if you just listen to people in general, what they're griping about in regards to going to their doctor's office, you can take that information and find where you can improve on it. So many instances, I've heard people complain online in person about what how long it takes for them to get somebody on the phone, or how long it takes to even be seen once they get into the waiting room.
Dr. T 1:46
A normal waiting time for patients is 30 to 40 minutes. And I find that to be really insane. How much can you get accomplished in 30 to 40 minutes of your own time. In indirect care, I generally see patients on time they park their car in front of my office, they wait in the car if they're early, because I don't really have a waiting room. And I try to shuffle people in and straight out. So it's a good feeling to see people on time into be on time with all of your patients all the time. So you can take the information on what people are currently complaining about in your market in your industry, and improve upon that. And then you can choose Do you want to choose to continue the status quo where you're maintaining a really busy practice, but people are behind or you're behind in seeing patients or in charting, or they're waiting on average 40 minutes to see you. That's the status quo. That was something that I know I didn't like I didn't appreciate. And I wanted to make sure my patients didn't experience that either.
Dr. T 2:51
When you do the status quo, you're giving the bare minimum of service, which comes at bare minimum pricing, right insurance, pricing insurance pricing is discount pricing, or what they call now is coupon pricing, it's not the price that you would normally charge. As far as reimbursement goes for your services, you can choose to help people help patients feel like they came to the right place, and that they want to spend money with you and that you give them comfort and security that you are the right doctor for them. That's the experience that I try to go with in my practice. And I hope that you try to create something similar for yourself as well. And this is not about going all out like a high end Valley service for the ultra wealthy. That's not what we do at all indirect care. And it's not being available to patients 24/7 either as specialist. We don't do those things if you don't want to. These are the two misconceptions that people have about direct care that we are for the ultra wealthy, and that we're available 24/7, and I do neither of those things. And you can choose to have that in your practice or not.
Dr. T 3:57
I choose to have a life outside of my practice and so I do not implement either of those things. But I do want to offer decency care, really good care, quality care. And I treat my patients the way I treat guests who come to my home. This is my private space that I invite people into and I want to make sure that they are cared for or feel cared for, and that they're seen on time. We're just simply raising the bar for people to have a positive experience at the medical office that is essentially free from bullshit. How often do you try to get on a phone at a medical office and you're stuck on a phone tree because they don't have the options you're looking for? Or you just need to speak directly to a human being or you get an operator who's not even involved in the practice doesn't know who is what they're and they're just as useless so you're wasting your time again, as a patient, as a consumer, as a client in these different facilities and so you can see how agitating that can be, and it makes you makes me feel at least like I'd rather pay for something I'm better. That's how I truly feel. And I do, I end up paying for things because I know where the baseline is, and I know what I want, and I value my time. And those are the people that I also tried to attract into my practice, we are very practical people who have a life outside of waiting for the doctor. And we deserve a dignified experience, one that pays attention to us and not treat us like a number in a slaughterhouse. I mean, I shouldn't say slaughterhouse, but like an assembly line. But you know, nonetheless, it feels very, the traditional way can feel like kind of messy like that. But anyway.
Dr. T 5:34
So what I aim to do is restore the patient physician relationship with personalized medicine. And as soon as the person calls my office, I want them to feel welcome. Immediately. The first thing I learned about in owning my practice, was how to answer the phone. If you don't already have a script for yourself or your staff, I'll share with you what I say and how I answered questions. It's not the only way. It's just the current way that I do it. And it's constantly evolving as well. I remember I had done this type of training with another consultant, a couple of different consultants, some that was insurance base, some that wasn't even a physician, and another through a direct care type of concierge practice. They all had their versions, but I felt like they were all way too long winded for my taste, I like to get straight to the point. And I don't try to convert the caller to see for them to see my value. I'm at a point where I trust what I do, I know that it's valuable. And if people want it, they will stay for it. And if they don't, they can move on to the neighbors next door. So I will definitely take the time to answer their questions. But I do kind of recognize when someone's a good fit and someone who isn't. And that just comes with time and practice.
Dr. T 6:48
So this is how I answer my phone. When I answer the phone, I'll say thank you for calling Pacific Point podiatry, this is Dr. T, how can I help you? Or my staff will answer in their name. People are often caught off guard when I answer my phone, in some will joke that business must be hard because I am doing the administrative work. And I kind of just laugh because my business could not be any easier. It's so easy that I am able to answer the phone. And it's fun for me because I know what I want to be said, on my practice side, you know, when I train my staff or when I answer it myself, and I like to hear from the patients because patients oftentimes just have a couple of questions for me, that doesn't require an appointment, and I can serve them easily that way, then the follow up question tends to be do you take insurance, so I need to set the expectation right away. But I also need to know what they want to be seen for before I answer their questions. So my staff is advised to not answer this question with yes or no.
Dr. T 7:49
The first thing they need to ask is what is it that you want to be seen for, because a lot of the things that I do isn't covered by insurance, but most people don't know that. So it's my opportunity to share something with them that they didn't know about. So I just had a patient call today asking about Leneva, it's a fat allograft injection that I do as a foot filler for conditions like Mediterr selja, or callus pain or even a diabetic foot ulcer, patients don't know that is not a covered product. So I will often invite the patient to do the consultation for an accurate price. Because I don't know if they need one injection, two injections, I don't even know if they need this product. A lot of people are self diagnosing, not realizing that's not the right product for them. So what I say in this instance, if somebody asks you to take insurance, I'll say we have some great options for this medical condition. And we're not contracted with insurance, which means we can see you right away. Would you like to proceed? Sometimes the caller needs a moment to process that you just said no, you don't bill insurance, and they're really concerned about the price of things.
Dr. T 8:56
They want to be financially prepared. They have the money, they just might not be spending it with you. So give them a moment to think about what you just said. And then they may say yes or no or they hesitate. When patients or potential patients hesitate. My staff is instructed to offer them a 15 minute conversation by phone, where I'll answer all their questions by phone and it's not really a paid appointment. I initially started this as a free consult. And then I've moved it into a low price console, which is just $50 to have that conversation. And then if they want to fully commit that $50 gets credited to their appointment. So once we offer that option to the patient, then it's up to me to educate the patient to let them know what their options are and then the patient can decide where they want to spend their money.
Dr. T 9:46
A lot of doctors are going to feel very compelled to say yes or no or just get past that discomfort of telling patients. No we don't bill insurance in this will be pretty normal in the first few states. is your direct care practice, but it's worth practicing so that you can start seeing patients who actually want to see you. If you're spending all of your time trying to convince somebody who does not value you at all, you're going to be wasting a lot of time, you're going to be missing out on people who want what you do, and are willing to pay for that. So it is my personal opinion, no, I'm not an expert at customer service by any means. But to really be able to tease out the patient's immediately is going to serve you the best. Now, that doesn't mean to immediately cut them off and say, No, we don't believe insurance, what we have nothing to do with that. And then you just hang up on them. No, because you haven't taken the chance to educate them. Maybe you do something that's very different that they don't know about, that isn't covered by insurance, or you know, the alternative options are really subpar. And so you are the person to serve them instead. These are things that you need to educate your patients on by spending time to answer the questions.
Dr. T 10:59
Now I'm gonna flip the script a little bit about what's new in customer service, so that we have customer service where we're answering the phone, answering basic questions, training our staff with a manual so that your staff is reading each sentence line by line, because you're going to get all of the same questions over and over again, there's not going to be very much variation at this point. So just make sure that you create a script that your staff can easily follow and then you update the script as you feel is appropriate. But what I really wanted to mention about what's new in customer service in this day and age and social media is something that I recently learned through HubSpot. So if you're marketing through social media, a place to give patients that feeling of personalized medicine is answering their questions when they send you a direct message on social media. It might be Instagram, it could be TikTok, Facebook, what's the other one that I don't use Twitter might be another option. These are opportunities for people to get a little bit more information about you about your practice. So you can either answer these direct questions yourself. As long as it's not pertaining to a medical problem. You're not trying to diagnose them over the internet. If it's a basic question, like what are your hours? What service do you have? Why should I use this product or you made a post about this thing? I have additional question, then you can start that conversation and be very general about them, you can say thank you for following thank you for your interest.
Dr. T 12:31
And then your next call to action in your direct message could be the best way to get evaluated is to schedule here. And then patients are able to directly set their appointments on their own time. So you're having to bypass. So now you can bypass the entire phone call process, you can do everything online, I heard that about 20 to 25% of Gen Z's and millennials are making buying decisions by contacting businesses on their social. So in the beginning, you can certainly create a frequently asked question that you are getting, put it on a sheet with the appropriate answer. You can even have quick phrases to enter if you're seeing the same question over and over again in your direct message. And you can do these quick phrases that are called thought phrases as well. If you have an iPhone, there's an option to do a keyboard shortcut where you just type a couple of letters, and a whole stream of sentences can follow. You can do that, or you can outsource it to either your staff member to answer or a chat box to answer these commonly asked questions. So that way you start connecting with your people, your potential people on social media, and they'll book an appointment with you.
Dr. T 13:51
It's been pretty nice to do that. Pretty essential to do that if you do have social media presence. And if you don't have social media presence, I invite you to listen to the episode where I talk about the importance of social media for your direct care practice. I'll put some of that information down in the show notes along with my resource. If you're interested in marketing trends for 2023, there's going to be a link down below in the show notes that you can look into and dive deeper into.
Dr. T 14:18
The last thing I wanted to mention about new trends and customer service really has more to do with being on social media and how to get new patients. So getting new patients attracting new people who don't already know you. You're going to do this through short form videos. So what does it mean to be on social media? You can be on social media, let's say Instagram, by posting a picture of your practice or your services or a quote that you want to share with your audience that people who are following you to level up. You can also create short form videos which are like 30 to 62nd videos or something you want to talk about in your business and you want to share with your audience short form videos or A nice way to attract new people, everyone has an attention span of a fly. And so this is one great way that you can just show up online and tell people what you do. And then the people who need your service will automatically be drawn to you. And they're going to start binging on your content. So hopefully, you've got enough content for them to binge on, and to look through to learn more about who you are, what you do, and how to contact you.
Dr. T 15:24
The long form version, long form content is stuff for people who already know what you do, but they want to learn more longer than a 62nd video. And this is for the audience of people who know you. So what I just said right now is you're working on getting people to know who you are. So new clients, but you're also nurturing people who know you but want to know more about what you do. So you're going to be nurturing people who know you through your blog, maybe a podcast, maybe an email or a YouTube channel, you have a website, you have articles to share, these are called long form. And the people who tend to be more engaged in your long form products are a little bit more serious about the content you put out. They want to learn about you. And they want to know how to deal with the problems that you can solve on their own before they even decide to make an appointment with you. And you're going to hear that it actually takes seven to eight touch points for a person to finally decide to make that decision to make an appointment with you. It's hardly ever the one touch point where they see your one post. And then they make the appointment, people are sitting in information, they're looking at their options, they're deciding on where they want to go. And that takes at least eight touch points. And those touch points can come from your social media post, maybe you're posting very frequently, if you're not, I invite you to start doing so now, it could be an email that you reinforced a particular topic of interest to them. It could be you are somewhere in the Community Media, you're on the radio, you're in the newspaper, you want an award, people are talking about you they're reviewing your Google reviews, these are all different touch points where people can see who you are, connect your name with the service that you provide, and really get to understand what you offer. And when the time is right, they will finally make that appointment. And sometimes you might have patients who are quick, I'm making that decision. And then there are people who I've seen I used to do this newspaper ads. And this one lady came in with a newspaper clipping she held on for like two years. So it some people just everyone's timeline is different, best thing that you can do for yourself is just to continue to put out marketing messages. So people are always going to hear about you.
Dr. T 17:45
Direct care practices have the freedom to use all of these free resources that I'm sharing with you. And they're all available at your fingertips, we used to have to pay a lot of money to get access to this type of audience that's now freely available. So you should take advantage of that. And then if you already have one, then you want to put fuel in the tank and push it a little bit further faster. Or faster. Further, you get what I'm saying. I want to emphasize that you don't have to be fancy to give great customer service, you don't have to do a ton of editing on your post or short form videos in order for it to be valuable. In fact, just make sure you show up completely normal, maybe a little messy even that version of you is what they're going to expect to see when they show up at your door in real life. And that's perfectly okay.
Dr. T 18:35
Customer service is not about making everybody happy. It's really about developing a business that you have clearly defined on who you serve, and what you do and a price point for that. It's about a relationship for a small business owners to have with the community. And that also means that you'll have to recognize that there are going to be some people who are not fit for your practice, and you just have to let them go. There will always be more people to help and that you don't have to scrap for every single person who has a wallet or a credit card. Because that's just going to make you miserable. If I wanted to add a little bit of glitter to the patient's experience, these are some of the things that I've done. I call it glitter, because it's just nice to add, but it's not necessary. You don't have to go full out fancy by all the things but here are some things that you can add if you wanted to. That works for every new patients, you might want to give them a welcome packet, maybe a mug with your logo on it. People tend to keep mugs a lot longer than they would keep a pen or a notepad for instance. So it's something that's useful and it has your name on it and every time they see it, they'll think about you for new patients. I do call patients the next day just to ask them if all of their questions were answered or if they need any clarification. Sometimes I do this by phone or texting or the portal patient portal messaging. And a lot of people are really appreciative of this follow up, you can also mail out a card a week after your new patients appointment, just to thank them for showing up.
Dr. T 20:08
This kind of adds that pizzazz. I don't know if you've had this experience in the past, but a lot of the patients who receive my handwritten thank you card, they're really thankful so much that they'll call the office and say I just wanted to let the doctor know, the card was really thoughtful. And it's been a long time since anybody's written to me. So a card goes a long way. And I've also received a card from a small business in my community. And I felt exactly the same way she sent me a card just to say I saw your ad in the newspaper and thought we should connect. And then she also gave me a packet of seeds to plant in the garden. You know, it's so small, it's the price of that is nominal, but the thought of it is just really thoughtful. And so I remember that card. Always, I always remember that business now. And you can do the same for your new patients, you could send out a birthday card, I do have patients who don't celebrate birthdays, and so might be nice to know if they celebrate a birthday or not before sending out the card. That's just an asterick. But most people will be okay with the birthday card. And then around the holidays, I will ask patients if they want to do a special order for a holiday pie with one of my local Baker's here, these these pies go quickly. And so if I can't get the special order, I'll just go to the grocery store and get one of those. I don't know it's like $5 $7 pies, and it feeds the whole family. They have a no sugar version, if you wanted an alternative option. But around the holidays, it's I have patients still coming to me who said I remember that one time you gave out pies that was so amazing. And you see a $5 pie can last years and so small thing that you can do around the holidays, if you're up for it, people appreciate it. And I think it's really sweet that patients still remember all the things I've done for them.
Dr. T 21:54
So don't forget, you're in a direct care practice, you are curating a business for you one that you love. So just be sure whatever it is that you do that you're having fun building it, this is the fun part, all these things, I don't know how it sounds to you, maybe it's intimidating, maybe you're doing some but not all, there's always going to be room for improvement. And because we are a customer service based service, there's a lot we can do to have fun and doing all this. So for me like the pie during the holidays, that's fun for me, that's a memory for me now. And it's been a memory for some of my patients. Now, that's not to say there won't be some parts that you don't love in your business. And that's okay, that's going to be normal. Hopefully, in your direct care practice, that percentage of things you don't love doing gets smaller and smaller with time. I know when I was in the insurance space practice, a lot of it was painful. A lot of the stuff that I had to do was very frustrating. I didn't love and it just took up so much of my time, my brain energy. I don't even know who I was back then. But now I know and recognize that when it comes to owning your business, when it comes to creating a practice that you want to have work for you for the rest of your career.
Dr. T 23:07
So be sure that you are intentional about who you serve what you do, and making sure they have a positive experience that they'll want to rave about to their friends and family. If after everything you've done for your patients, you gave them your best, you gave them top tier customer service, and they still managed to complain about you or your business or the fact that you don't take insurance, then you know they are not for you. And you can sleep well at night for being your authentic self. Let them write their negative reviews about how you don't take insurance. Let them talk about how unethical it is that you're no longer billing insurance like whatever, let them go, they can go next door and bother those people. So that's what's new in customer service for your direct care practice. If you have any questions or if I was unclear about something, feel free to reach out to me, email is down below. I look forward to connecting with you and I will see you next week.
Dr. T 24:03
Thank you so much for being here with me. If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, please like, share and subscribe so more people like you can have access to another way of practicing medicine, that direct care way. Let's connect find my info in the show notes and send me your questions. That might be the topic for future episodes.
Dr. T 24:22
And lastly, if you remember nothing else, remember this be the energy you want to attract. See you next time.