Building your patient base: tips and tricks for young GPs
This content has been produced by ADG in association with Healius.
Expert advice on how to make your mark
Creating your personal brand within a corporate clinic makes good business sense but where to start?
Amanda Davey talks to GP trainer Dr Sneha Wadhwani* who explains how it’s done.
Q: Is it a case of every person for themselves in a corporate clinic?
A: No, far from it. At the end of the day the reason we are here is for the patients. If we put them at the centre of everything we do then patients will automatically gravitate towards us. So, it’s not really one person or one position over another. It’s about working cohesively and delivering a high-quality service. If you try and compete it can disrupt the dynamic in the team.
Q: But isn’t there a risk that individual doctors get lost in the mix?
A: It’s important to understand your assets and know what you’re good at. Play to those strengths and think about what you can deliver that others can’t or what is missing from the complement of services that are offered from the clinic.
Q: Should GPs be active on social media?
A: This is a tricky one. I do have a Facebook page for my doctor persona but I’m very particular about what I put on it. A lot of the content is educational and evidence-based. I don’t post a lot of opinion. But really, patients are your biggest promoter and most of the time your following is driven by word of mouth. If you really want to use social media and you practice from a corporate clinic, consider posting on the clinic’s page. For example, at Healius they have provided a Facebook page that all of us can use. I post my women’s health podcast and radio interviews on that and it works well.
Q: What about online reviews? Should GPs encourage them?
A: I think reviews are happening whether we like it or not. I prefer word of mouth.
Q: Do you email your patients?
A: I prefer not to because I can’t be sure about security and data protection. I personally don’t send test results on email and I don’t engage in a consultation online but if it’s a straightforward patient query such as ‘I saw you yesterday and I now need a sick note’, then that’s something I’m happy to do.
Q: Is it possible to build a patient base from walk-ins?
A: Some doctors thrive on the see-and-treat model so it depends on what kind of medicine you want to practice. If your aim is to manage and prevent chronic disease then the walk-in model isn’t ideal for continuity of care but if your patient demographic has low prevalence of chronic disease then it’s certainly plausible to provide a good service to walk-ins. I have a regular patient base which I developed by providing holistic care. Another simple thing you can do is to hand out business cards and encourage follow-up. I think you should treat every contact as if they are your regular patient.
Q: Any advice on how to reengage past patients?
A: Set up recalls in the system and reminders for check-ups. Also, when patients have to return to get their test results, tell them to make the appointment to see you. Another simple thing that I do is to say hello to people in the waiting room even if they are not waiting for me. That makes patients remember me and feel cared for.
Q: Do you think that providing after-hours care boosts your profile?
A: I think it really depends on what your driver is. Is it because you like working at night? Is it for more income? Or are you doing it to meet patient demand in your clinic? Whatever the reason, work-life balance is really important and working after-hours can be a driver for burnout which defeats the purpose.
Q: How does mentoring and supervising registrars help your brand?
A: I need to be up to date and at the top of my game if I’m going to supervise other people. It makes me a better doctor. And if that also has a positive effect on my brand, then that’s a bonus.
Q: What about specialisation in primary care?
A: I’m a GP so I do desire to keep that generalist side of what I do but developing a special interest improves job satisfaction, and for patients it allows delivery of accessible specialist services in a non-threatening and familiar environment. I think subspecialisation makes good medical sense.
*Dr Sneha Wadhwani is a practising GP/supervisor working from a Healius centre, a hospital specialist in urogynaecology, and conjoint lecturer at UNSW medical school.