There are many reasons why a medical practice might want to transform its patient base. Maybe you want to increase the profitability of your practice by attracting a different demographic or you want to enhance your offerings and expand your reach into the community. Perhaps you’ve become intrigued by a complementary specialty that appeals to a different audience than the one you’re currently serving.

Whatever your reasons, changing up your patient base can be a smart move, as long as it’s a forward step for your practice and not an “escape” from something you’re ignoring about your current practice. It can also be the result of practices trying to survive in the age of healthcare reform. MOT recently covered “New Services to Offer in 2013,” and new patients to go with those services may be needed.

“I believe that ongoing successful practice development in a ‘patient-centered medical home’ model will include offering clinical services that integrate the patient’s long-term care into a more seamless patient-physician relationship,” says Craig Pope, M.D., owner and manager of Dillon Plaza Family Medicine Group, LC in High Ridge, Mo. “The goal will be to offer services commonly needed at a primary-care level that may have been referred to ancillary centers in the past. The specific medical services offered will be a function of the provider’s expertise and interest. This model will expand the provider’s patient base as they attract new patients seeking the services they offer.” (Read MOT’s article, “ACOs: Creating the Medical Home”)

Transforming your patient base is serious business and should be approached logically and methodically as opposed to haphazardly or spontaneously. Here, some tips for transforming your patient base while maintaining a strong, solid practice.

1. Collaborate with another service provider. Pope says he was able to establish an allergy-testing and treatment center with the expertise of United Allergy Services. “They offered me a service that allowed me to address a common need without the requirement of an intensive investment of my time and resources.” If you find another practice or provider that complements what you do, you each gain the benefit of access to each other’s patient base and exposure to more potential patients. (Read MOT’s article, “Big Ways Medical Tourism Impacts Your Practice”)

2. Capitalize your practice. Specifically, finance the fixtures and/or equipment and invest your own time and expertise into learning and introducing a new service that attracts a different patient base. “An example of this would be the digital X-ray system I purchased to support my sports-medicine interest,” says Pope. (Read MOT’s article, “Common Misconceptions about Finding Financing for Medical Practices”)

3. Resist the temptation to be something to everyone. Even though the concept of a well-integrated medical home is important, it’s also important to bring services and patients into your practice that represent your own interests and expertise, says Pope. Otherwise, you may find that you’re in over your head or become quickly disinterested in your new venture, which isn’t fair to your patients or your staff.

4. Have a well-developed business plan that takes into consideration the resources of the practice. Know how much you can afford to invest in attracting new patients—in time, money and effort. Don’t overextend yourself or spread yourself too thin at the expense of your current practice.

5. Establish reasonable expectations and goals. “New services that attract different types of patients will build with time,” says Pope. “Be sure and use that time wisely to make sure that you are developing the practice in a direction that meets the needs of your target patient base.”

6. Allow yourself to make mistakes. “Fine-tuning the process to meet unexpected developments is inevitable,” says Pope. “A proactive approach in addressing and updating the business plan is an important part of that process.”

7. Get the word out. Advertising and marketing are crucial when trying to transform your patient base. A smart advertising plan targets the most likely places you will find the patients you want to attract, and putting your practice’s name in front of new faces will expose you to a wider range of potential patients. Think of speaking engagements, health fairs and other community-oriented programs that let a broad spectrum of people know who you are and what you offer. Also, let your patients know you’re looking to expand your offerings and bring in different types of patients—satisfied current patients can be your best resource for bringing in more. (Read MOT’s article, “Marketing Your Practice to Patients of Different Generations”


By Carrie Rossenfeld
February 20, 2013