Everyone wants to deal with an expert.
But what is an expert?
To the patient, an expert is someone who readily understands the problem, the importance to you of getting it sorted out right away, any particular concerns you might have, and clearly knows exactly what they are talking about. Someone who inspires confidence in their ability to deal with the condition. Someone who will do their best to get things fixed up right away.
This patient -centred, practical definition is not the same as what you and I as experienced clinicans might call ‘an expert’.
This is a vital distinction for you to make, because in the final analysis what you and I think doesn’t really matter. What matters is what the private patient, as your paying customer thinks. We all know of colleagues who are highly experienced, with numerous international publications who are quite rightly considered nataional if not international experts in their fields. And others who are perfectly competent but in no way experts according to those same criteria. Yet the latter frequently have far busier private practices.
Now I appreciate there are a whole raft of confounding variable in the comparision above, but this is great news for you. Great because it gives you freedom.
You don’t have to be a recognised expert to be seen as one in your patients’ eyes.
It all comes down to positioning and serving your patients needs.
Compare it with having a problem with your car. You know when you speak to an expert mechanic on the phone because he clearly understands exactly the problem you’re having and knows the likely cause. He empathises when you say you need it fixed right away because of your work commitments and books you in for repair in the next day or two. Not only that but he offers to collect and return your car once the work is done. And during the day he is working on it he keeps you posted as to progress and costs as he goes. I know the analogy sounds too far fetched but I had exactly this experience recently when my car developed a fault. Despite the fact that I knew more about the car than the mechanic did (after all I used to design and build racing cars myself), to me he was STILL an expert. An expert in solving my PROBLEM.
And that is the position you want to try to achieve.
So how do you do it? If reams of publications in prestigious journals plus a personal Chair at a well-known teaching hospital won’t do it, what will?
On the assumption you know your subject very well and are a ‘good’ clinician, the answer is surprisingly, shockingly, simple.
You need to be omnipresent. When potential patients look for a doctor to solve their ‘problem’, it is your name and your practice that must leap out at them. Wherever they look for information on their problem, it must be your name and practice that is pre-eminent.
It’s that simple.
And where do patients look for information in the 21st century?
They go to the internet.
The question is, if you are a gastroenterologist and they type in Crohn’s disease, will your name and website come up? Or someone elses?
By Dev Lall FRCS