Doctors: Keep your medical practice about medicine

There’s certainly a lot of buzz surrounding the word “holistic” in the field of medicine lately.  For the purposes of what I am talking about in this article, I assume that all, or at least most, doctors take a holistic approach to medicine.  Meaning that they can think across many of the body’s systems, understanding how one condition or component affects the others, and considering each aspect of a patient’s body in relation to how it influences his or her overall health.

What I am referring to in this article, however, when answering the question of whether your practice need to be “holistic,” is whether you need to offer a variety of different services within your practice, or if you should instead remain more specialized in what you offer.

The most successful practices I see are often very specialized, meaning that they don’t offer every service possible.  They only focus on offering the services that they do really, really well.  Very often, practices that try to be “holistic” are watered down or confusing.  Patients sometimes don’t seem to know whether they are in a medical practice or a spa any more.

My recommendation is that doctors keep their medical practices about medicine.  Strip out what is non-medical in your practice and get rid of it.  Offering massage, selling a variety of supplements, or providing alternative medicine tends to only water down the doctor’s portion of the practice.  It makes the patients confused about what your expertise is and what they can count on you to do for them.  And what do you really get out of it anyway?

Generally, all you’re getting from the arrangement is a small rent payment from a massage therapist or an acupuncturist, or maybe you’re getting a minor “cut” of any products being sold.  But what you’re really doing is watering down your brand for the consideration of a relatively small rent payment or fee.  On top of that, you are providing advertising for those other services and sending your patients to that provider, but you generally don’t see business coming to you in the other direction.

While I definitely believe that doctors should practice holistically, offering a whole body approach to diagnosis and treatment as it relates to medicine, I don’t think there is really any advantage to building a “holistic” practice – one offering a variety of different services to meet different needs of patients.  I think it’s better to do that one thing that you do really, really well.  Build your brand and have people know that when they need the type of services you offer, you can do it well.  Let them know what they can count on you to be able to do – and not do as well.

You need to only look at today’s retail stores to better understand what I am proposing.  It’s fairly obvious that the most successful stores only offer a limited scope of products.  In fact, “holistic” retail stores, ones that offer a wide range of products and services to meet the varying needs of their customers, are becoming relatively obsolete or are at least really struggling to stay afloat.  Look at the likes of JC Penney and Sears and you’ll see what I mean.  In contrast, have you ever seen an Apple Store that wasn’t loaded with customers?

Consumers are demanding more highly specialized stores that are good at only offering a few things.  People want name brand purses, want to get their outdoor clothes only from certain manufacturers, buy their electronics from companies that only focus on specific types of products, or only want to “spend” their calories at the best ice cream shop in town.

I challenge doctors to run their practices like a specialized retail store – a place that customers head to because they know what is being offered and can understand the value that comes from pursuing a product (or service in this case) that is better than the competition.  Places like that may not offer everything for everyone.  But what they do offer is sought after because of the easy-to-realize value of knowing that when people or companies put all of their effort into doing just one or two things, they have the advantage of offering a better product because they remain focused on doing what they do best.

Adam Banks is CEO, NY SportsMed, and consults on practice development, management and marketing. He can be reached on Twitter @adamabanks.

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