When starting a new DPC practice, a focused business plan and an open mind are invaluable. And, like any business venture, several factors contribute to a flourishing practice. From the months leading up to opening day to sustainable day-to-day operations, below is what some successful DPC founders have said worked for them.
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Before the Doors Open: Strategies for Opening Day SuccessIn the months before the first patient is ever seen, a great deal of behind-the-scenes work needs to get done.
- Get a quality website up and running before opening day. Complete an informative and efficient website months before opening, allowing future members to learn about you and engage with the idea far ahead of time (Watch: From 0 to 60: DPC Practices Breaking the Growth Curve). This is also a plus for DPC employees who won’t have time to deal with website issues in the initial weeks after opening.
There are several free or inexpensive website builders out there. Many of them provide free templates and hosting, so you don’t have to deal with technical issues. Three popular options are Wix, Square Space, and GoDaddy Website Builder
- Hire the right people. Quality staff is invaluable. The DPC model functions differently than traditional medicine as it places a heavy priority on patient experience. Without the highly qualified, friendly staff, this experience may be compromised. Resist the temptation to save money by hiring those who may not meet the mark.
- Secure a location that fits your needs. Dr. Lockwood of Primary Health Partners noted that he wasn’t completely ready when his practice’s doors opened. The building he had planned to practice out of wasn’t ready on opening day, forcing him to practice out of a 12x12 room.
How to Identify Prospective DPC MembersIn Building Your Direct Care Marketing Plan, Jason Larsen, CEO of Assurance Healthcare & Counseling Center, reflected on the beginning of his own DPC practice. When their practice’s physician, Richard Edgerly, left traditional medicine, he asked the business manager at his office for the names and addresses of all of his approximately 4000 patients. Shockingly, the business manager freely gave them to him. This allowed Larsen and his team to reach out and invite them to experience their new venture.
While this is certainly not a common occurrence, there are still effective ways to reach out to new members. DPC teams should spend time coming up with a specific “ideal” member, giving the patient a name and a story so they can better market to him or her.
Also, flourishing DPCs need not neglect targeting local employers, and they should do so long before the clinic’s doors open. “There’s a long lead time to sign up a large employer,” Dr. Lockwood cautions, but there’s “a huge pay-off.”
From Onboarding to Retaining: Perfecting the Patient ExperiencePatient experience is critical to DPC growth and retention. Larsen says that every aspect of member experience must be perfected — from sign-ups to visits to phone calls and even to cancellations, this experience becomes the catalyst for your DPC’s growth. He recommends the following approach to patient experience:
- Clarify your message to patients. Offering to guide patients to their own success is a powerful marketing tool. Marketing should also be simple, clear, and straightforward. A good ad says “exactly what you do” without any jargon (Jason Larsen, Building Your Direct Care Marketing Plan).
- Design your membership (sales) funnel. The following steps bring members to your door and help you to retain them.
- Lead generation: When people hear about you for the first time, whether on social media, Facebook ads, newspaper ads, or radio, the message must be “absolutely clear,” says Larsen.
- Capturing leads: DPCs need to train front office staff on how to communicate effectively with these leads.
- Education: DPC practices should educate their prospective members on what this new care is all about. One DPC practice, for example, offers seminars every Friday and displays educational videos on their website.
- Membership: The sign-up process, as part of the member experience, must be perfected so that new members feel educated, understood, and cared for.
- Retention: Again, member experience is the key to retention. DPC clinics should “deliver on what [they] promise” so that members won’t want to look elsewhere (Larsen).