A few years ago, I sat in a coding lecture for urgent care providers given by a very entrepreneurial physician assistant. An emergency room doctor, who had recently established his own private clinic, put up his hand to ask a question. He seemed puzzled.
“I can see your point about coding at a higher level for a sore throat when I was younger,” he said. “I used to take longer to figure out what was wrong. But now that I’m faster and more experienced, I don’t think I should be using the higher codes.”
Needless to say, the physician assistant was dumbfounded.
Fast forward to today’s practice environment. Oligopolies of third-party insurance companies post billions of dollars for shareholders every quarter for shuffling claims, creating roadblocks to delivering healthcare services, skyrocketing patient premiums and seriously compromising a physician’s value. Physicians thought they were playing the game, somehow believing that it wasn’t about the money, but about doing a damn good job. What happened instead is they devalued their own sense of worth and became willing to accept pennies on the dollar.
There’s a difference between monetary value and perceived value. The actual numerical number assigned to a service, let’s says $120.00 for a physician visit, is actually meaningless. It’s our perceived value of that physician and his or her services which give us the feeling as clients (patients) that we’ve actually received value for those same services. That same physician could set his or her charges at $1,500.00 for the same technical visit, and if a client believed that he was worth every penny, the client would pay it without question. The amount a client (patient) is willing to pay depends exclusively on the perceived value of the physician.
Doctors have allowed themselves to be perceived as “free” in the transaction of healthcare. They have been significantly devalued by government programs such as Medicare which have set fees at the price of a cup of coffee (the crap stuff). Along with this numerical drop, has come a severe decrease in physician’s perceived value. The bureaucracy of these oligarchies has simply followed our own sense of declining self-worth; in other words, doctors can now be had on the cheap.
So how can you, doctor, increase your perceived value to your clients in today’s practice environment? This sinking trillion dollar industry has equated your value to a nickel-and-dime store cost for years of dedicated medical training, acceptance of high risk (a patient’s life is in your hands) and tireless commitment to your profession.
The answer lies in copying the business habits of our competitors; the very health insurance companies and government programs under whose hands we suffer. Here are 3 easy steps you can take to begin to reclaim your sense of self-worth and also your monetary value:
1. Become a cash-based practice. Drop all of your current health insurance plans. Opt immediately out of Medicare and Medicaid. Create a cash-based, tiered program (bronze, silver and gold memberships) which does not use ICD-10 coding. Yes, you heard right. Do NOT use ICD-10 coding systems. This classification, if you are cash-based, is completely useless and only ties you to government regulation such as HIPAA. By using a customized cash-pay fee schedule which has been created outside of current bureaucratic requirements, you begin to think “out of the box” you have put yourself inside, and begin to control your own destiny.
2. Double your prices. Yes, you heard right. Once you have created your customized program for clients (no longer to be called patients), you double your prices. If you don’t, your clients will downgrade your value. They will not perceive you as being worth a higher price.
3. Cultivate a polite, giving, caring but exclusive attitude. Yes, you are worth every cent of the prices you charge. Carry yourself proudly. You went through years and years of training. You hold someone’s life in your hands. You are a doctor; you’ve committed your energy, money and passion to becoming what you are and yes, you are worth it! Stop acting like some high-school drop-out who’s willing to let the bully down the block collect a rental fee to keep him from giving you a black eye!
Concierge medicine is on the rapid rise. If you haven’t already taken the first step and gone cash, you’re already behind the pack. Steps 2 and 3 will take some gumption, risk and willingness to invest in yourself first, and then your practice.
I guarantee the first few months will be gut wrenching.
But once you get used to reclaiming your personal perceived value, your bank account will begin to show you exactly how much you believe you’re worth, doctor.
Natasha Deonarain is the founder of The Health Conscious Movement. She is the author of The 7 Principles of Health and can be reached on Twitter @HealthMovement.