Direct primary care: Being different is the biggest asset of all

“The road to success isn’t productivity, it’s differentiation.”
– Tony Crabbe

That statement is invaluably true — especially for direct primary care (DPC) professionals. Your patients aren’t coming to you because you’re the same as everybody else. In fact, they’ve chosen you for the exact opposite reason. You’re gloriously different. The other guys force patients into the mold they’ve created: restrained by long waits, life-sucking insurance battles, and reduction to nothing more than a chart to be shuffled in and out the door as fast as possible.

But you, you’re different. You have something completely unique to offer. You understand the value of putting a patient’s health care back in their hands. You put emphasis on actual quality health care instead of getting all tangled up in quality metrics. But you already know why you’re doing what you do. So how can you continue to delivery the different? Let’s look at a few ideas.

Communicate consistently. There’s something to be said for giving your patients freedom and space, but they want and need to hear from you. Sometimes that can be your office, but other times it needs to be from you. An email, a phone call, a text, and even a video chat. The sort of personal communication that says over and over again how much you truly care. That you’ll go above and beyond for them. That they can rely on you to have their best interest at heart. This kind of communication isn’t always easy, but it’s different from what they’re used to, and it will set their expectations very high. Which is exactly what you want.

Let your patients get to know you. You want to do everything you can to not feel like a traditional doc’s office, right? So where a bigger establishment might shake a finger at letting your personality shine, DPC says go for it. Lay out that travel magazine in your lobby. Hang your favorite local artist’s work on the wall. Display that Super Bowl champ’s autograph with pride. Still floating on air from your recent vacation to Hawaii? You’ll probably make a few patients smile by wearing your lei. The point is that all these things let your patients know you’re game for a real relationship with them. They see you giving; they’ll give back and before you know it, you’ve established that little thing called trust.

The little things matter. Like any good relationship, the small details mean a great deal. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, promotions. And you probably have something in place to help you remember them. But what about the more personal milestones? The health-related ones. The weight goal reached. The successful marathon completed. The illness tackled? Might be nice to recognize those, too, you know – just to show you care.

You’re insurance-free. Explain. Patients are not wired to understand health care without the noose of insurance looming in the background. So they’ll need to be trained on what freedom from insurance feels like. And if they’re normal, they’ll need you to explain it to them multiple times, from multiple angles. So be patient, and help them embrace all the many ways they’ll be better off without the insurance security blanket. (In the end, their “security blanket” is one of those electric ones with a frayed wire that shocks them every time they get cozy and comfortable.)

Always go the extra mile. To recap, your goal is to be continually different from the norms traditional health care has built. You can do that by being personal in your daily interactions, personable in your office setup, patient in your explanations, and thoughtful in your celebrations. Traditional health care has caused your patients to want something better. For that reason, being different is your biggest asset of all.

Josh Umbehr is founder, Atlas.md.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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