Note from the editor: Specific clinical examples have been supplemented by Dr. Alison Chen, ND
Want to be the most popular (and therefore busiest) Naturopathic doctor in your neighborhood?
Want a turnkey clinic?
Unfortunately both of these things have less to do with your clinical expertise than they should. Yes, your medical knowledge and clinical skills must be more than adequate and, of course, you have to be able to get your patients results. Once you reach a certain level of technical skill (ie. passing NPLEX-2), learning more isn’t going to make you busier, help you get more patients, or enable you to remove the operational stress of your business and have patients approach you ready to book in.
If you really want to set yourself apart you need to connect with a lot of people on a personal level. If you’re like me and don’t have a memory that gets invitational letters from MENSA then I suggest you put these 3 Naturopathic doctor systems in place to help you.
The following 3 Naturopathic doctor systems will take all of 20 minutes to start and maintenance takes minutes a day. They don’t cost anything. I suggest you incorporate every one of them into your business immediately.
Before long you will find yourself as the go-to practitioner with a turnkey Naturopathic business. Life’s pretty good when that happens. Cold calling sucks about as much as a shot of Black Walnut extract for the parasite you caught while in Thailand, do these 3 and you shouldn’t ever have to make one again.
1. The Reminder System
Open your Calendar system on your computer and write down all the important dates in your patient’s life: birthday, anniversary, kid’s birthday, and anything else that you can think of. Create a reminder system on your phone or with your receptionist’s booking software.
Enter in all the important dates for your patients that you already know. If you can’t remember any, start using a sticky note in the front of your patient’s file to write down these important dates (This is also very hand for small talk as you’re walking your patient into your office. Remembering that they just came back from a vacation in Mexico or their son turns 5 next week builds rapport that goes above and beyond all expectations). Whenever a patient mentions an important date add it to their sticky note during the visit and enter it into your calendar at the end of the day, setting an alarm for each.
When your phone or program beeps, send the patient a quick email, text, or phone call wishing them a happy birthday, anniversary, or asking how the cake decorating is going for her son’s party.
Better yet, set the reminder for 5 days in advance and buy a stack of birthday cards to send hand-written cards in the mail.
It’s a tiny bit of effort that goes a long way.
2. The Referral Spreadsheet
Many of you are already meeting and networking with local merchants and mavens to build your referral team. However, a lot of you are missing the most important step – which is to follow up.
For example, whenever you meet a yoga instructor or a chiropractor and speak with them about a referral exchange or if you decide to give a commission to the local barista for sending you clients, add their name and email to a spreadsheet. Once every two weeks, take an hour and send everybody on your spreadsheet an individual email saying hello and asking how they are.
There’s generally a lot of excitement with very little follow-through when networking. Trying to get referrals later on down the road almost never happens and the relationship falls flat. Staying in touch like this keeps you at the top of their mind and helps to cement the relationship. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t answer. Just keep sending an email every two weeks. Only stop if they ask you. Don’t ask for anything in these emails, just give them a nice hello.
3. My Files
In my final internship year at Naturopathic school, I was known as the “Handout Queen”. I had a super thick binder with almost every handout, survey, intake form and reference sheet I could think of. It took me all year to refine and mold it just right. If a patient came to me and required a handout I didn’t have, then my trusty USB key was the answer. I organized all my research and handouts by physiologic systems then conditions so that it was really easy to find and print off on the spot.
My files are organized as research papers summary sheets, journal articles, blog posts, and protocol handouts. My categories (and yours may vary) are:
- Intake and questionnaires
- Meditations and mindfulness
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Cold and flu
- Detox and weight loss
- Diet and lifestyle
- Female conditions
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue
- Gastrointestinal conditions
- Genitourinary conditions
- Male conditions
- Neurological conditions
- Sleep and stress
I carried this system over when I was in private practice (using online files) and I recommend you do the same. Coding handouts and articles or having your receptionist trained in knowing where to find particular resources is key. It will save you time and cabinet space if your receptionist can print them off and email them to your patients while they are checking out.
Ensure proper instructions are written out at the top of each handout so your receptionist can explain the protocols thoroughly. I personally like walking my patients through a protocol handout so that they can visually see and plan out in their minds what steps are needed to be successful. This way they can jot down notes and I can highlight key steps specifically for them.
In my desk, I also kept paper clips and business cards. Whenever a patient, 15-minute consultation or prospective patient had a question or wanted more information on a subject I was able to quickly sift through my files and give them a great takeaway (with my business card clipped to it). Depending on the person, I gave different levels of resources. For example, if the person was a physician I might give them a research paper. If they were a college student, I’d give them a blog post.
I came across this system by necessity in my internship year. I didn’t have the time to be running around the clinic trying to print off a resource, so I carried it with me. In private practice you have the luxury of having a receptionist or a personal printer at your disposal.
You should already have your resources, it’s just a matter of taking an extra minute to categorize the content and file it away for later use. Develop your categories and file all of the articles you think are helpful. Whenever a patient has a question over email or in person, it takes two seconds to gibe them great information. Ensure your staff is trained to efficiently find and explain the info to the patient.
This system works wonders for getting new patients. Whenever a patient tells you about a friend of theirs that has a question about a condition you’ll be able to give them information to pass on or email an article with your clinic information attached.
If you work in a multi-disciplinary clinic, why not take the initiative to set up a filing system and have everybody add to it?
Keeping a patient is much easier and cheaper than continually finding new ones.
Take some time this week to institute these systems and pass on this article to your colleagues. These systems take a tiny investment in time and have huge rewards. You’re different and you’re better – now show it.