Authors:  Neil Baum, MD and Gretchen Henkel

Publisher: Jones and Bartlett – 574 pages

Book Review by:  Nano Khilnani

This is the 4th edition of a book that was first published 16 years ago. That it has been around for so long and that it has been updated three times gives you an idea how valuable and useful it is to you, the doctor or manager of a medical practice.

This is no doubt a comprehensive work, covering many aspects of a physician practice, from “Giving Your Practice a Checkup” thru surveys of your patients and peers to “Identifying Your Moments of Truth” (positive, negative or neutral patients’ impressions of your practice) to “Marketing On 10 Minutes a Day” by doing more than expected for key patients to “Need More Patients? Brochures Are the Cure.” And these four names of chapters are only in the first part or “Pillar” of the book.  There’s much, much more.

This book has been written for you the doctor (or his-her office manager) by a practicing physician to help you retain patients, keep them happy and satisfied, and acquire new ones.  It can be read and easily understood by any non-doctor, such as the wife of a doctor or a manager who handles the non-medical, particularly the business aspects, of a practice.  It does not contain medical terminology.

More than a quarter of the book – the first 157 pages that comprise the first of five parts of this book – deal with keeping patients you have. It is Pillar I, entitled “Love the Ones You’re With: Keeping the Patients You Already Have.”

Retaining patients, I would say, should be a key first priority for you the physician who wants to grow your revenues and profits. What is the point of trying to get more patients if some of your valuable (or even key) patients have left? I left my primary doctor years ago when the only appointment times I could get were during my prime, valuable business hours. On top of that, this doctor would make me wait an hour after that appointment time. “Goodbye” was my only option after her numerous offenses.

If you are one such doctor who makes patients wait beyond their appointment time with you, you must read chapter 3, “Don’t Be Late For a Very Important Date” which points to a survey which found that 24 percent of patients said that they waited 30 minutes or longer for their doctor. This chapter mentions that if you ask your patients what they most dislike about the healthcare experience, nearly all will respond “waiting for the doctor.’

The amount of material covered in this book is very large and its range wide, so that the physician and-or the person managing his-her practice need not, I believe, need not have to refer to other books covering other aspects of marketing a physician’s practice.

The book contains 57 chapters. That many numbers of chapters in this almost 600-page book can be either overwhelming or useful. Overwhelming for you who tries to read it like a regular book, turning page after page after page.

It is very useful and much easier to digest the information for you who uses this book as a reference source, browsing the contents from time to time and turning to those chapters that are most important to you.  Of course, you may wish to read it like a regular book, turning the pages, but I doubt if the average person can retain much information this way.

There are five “pillars” that hold the 57 chapters together on the single issue of marketing a medical practice with the primary objectives of maximizing revenue and profitability and providing outstanding value to your patients.

Pillar I deals with all that you need to do to improve your practice to keep your patients including first, giving your practice a “checkup” and everything else after that. This consists of the first 18 chapters that cover the various aspects of your practice with the objective of helping you improve your patients’ experience in your office, from physical improvements to your reception area and elsewhere, to interactions with patients and family members, to learning more about them to keeping their medical records updated, and various other large and small things that matter.

Pillar II entitled “External Marketing: Attracting New Patients to Your Practice” has chapters 19 through 31 that detail the initiatives you can undertake to grow your business.

It discusses how to widen your network of connections, getting help from support groups, marketing to special groups such as ethnic communities, boomers, Gen-Xers, seniors; and promoting yourself by writing articles, starting a newsletter, advertising, speaking in public, writing a book, and more.

Pillar III, covering chapters 32 to 37, deals with doing all the things to motivate your staff to make your medical practice function at its best. It discusses how to write a mission statement, create a policy manual, and set mutually agreed-upon goals; how to have positive, productive staff meetings, use your phone system to your advantage, hire good employees and create a functional office space.

Pillar IV, through chapters 38 to 42, touches upon communicating with colleagues and other professionals to generate a steady stream of referrals. It discusses how to cultivate these and other non-traditional referral sources, including how to leverage your relationship with your hospital to make it your marketing ally.

Pillar V discusses the use of consultants and technology and provides tips on how to ensure success in your marketing. From chapters 43 to 57, you learn how to utilize these and resources to your best advantage. In chapter 43 for example, you learn the great value of building alliances because in today’s world, you achieve more with allies than alone.

In other chapters you discover what technologies there are out there and how they can save you time and money and simplify your work; how to avoid malpractice suits; how to market and promote your clinical research, your expertise and your expert-witness profile. Other chapters answer your questions on whether you need to hire a marketing consultant to help you in this area, or an architect to enhance your patients’ physical experience when they visit you and how to get best value, if you hire them.

This book also has some chapters that are examples of “out-of-the-box-thinking.” For example, chapter 8 discusses in-office dispensing of medications as a way to provide extra value to patients by saving them effort, money and time.  This chapter was authored by Dr. Patricia Harris who has incorporated medication dispensing as part of her practice for about 20 years.

“Break Bread and Break the Ice: Start a Lunch-and-Learn Program – Referrals Will Follow,” the title of chapter 35, is another example of such unusual thinking. Doctors do not normally take initiatives such as these meetings to acquire new patients, but why not do this to increase your income? The chapter shows you how to have such business-building sessions to make your practice grow in terms of patients and dollar volume.

Dr. Neil Baum has a long-time, highly distinguished career in medicine.  He is the author of six books. He is on the faculties of the medical schools of Louisiana State University and Tulane University. He has had a private practice in New Orleans for over 30 years. He has written over 1,000 articles and speaks often to groups of doctors, hospital medical and nursing staffs, medical office managers and other healthcare professionals.

He espouses his “going the extra mile” philosophy and believes that patients must have a positive experience when they visit a doctor’s office or be treated by him anywhere else.

He emphasizes that this creative, positive attitude of thought and action leads to happier patients, better employees, increased productivity, lower costs and higher profitability – a true win-win for all concerned.

Gretchen Henkel has written on health and medical subjects for three decades. Among other organizations and publications, she has written for the American Cancer Society, ENToday, Health for Women Today, the Hospitalist, the Los Angeles Times, the Rheumatologist and the UCLA Medical Center.

More than a dozen people contributed their expertise to this book to enhance its value.