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Letter to doctor: Use market intelligence to sustain your practice

Todd Bennett Headshot
Todd Bennett, Director, Vertical Market, LexisNexis Health Care

Thank you for giving me the best possible care over the last 11 months. For the price I paid out of pocket plus with insurance, I cannot imagine how you keep the lights on. From everything I read, I’m spending less than most who have this kind of problem and getting a better outcome. During my treatment, you took time to carefully tailor my medications to account for my allergies and walk me through the emotional and physically strenuous steps of multiple surgeries and rehabilitation. With all of this and your great bedside manner, it’s no surprise that your patient satisfaction scores are so high. 

During my recent visits, I’ve noticed less cars in your parking lot and fewer patients in your waiting room. In my last visit, I saw a sign that your practice is moving in a few months. You told me that you and your partners would love to stay in the current location, but patient volume had dropped to a financially unsustainable low. Unfortunately, your new office will be too far for me, so I am extremely motivated to figure out how to help you stay put. 

Here’s the deal: I want to see if I can help you increase the volume of patients that are coming to your practice.  To do this, there are three big questions to answer. First, who do patients see if they don’t see you?  Second, who is referring those patients to your competition? And third, who is referring your current patients to you? 

Question 1: Identify competition. You know me; I always want to use data to answer questions, so I did some research. It turns out that you can get access to slices of a huge database of de-identified medical claims that represent commercial and government payers across every care setting. With this dataset, you can use diagnosis and treatment code combinations to identify practitioners in your area who treat the types of patients that you want to treat; this is your competition. This data shows you the competitive providers that your potential patients are choosing, which is an essential starting point. By researching those competitive practitioners, the data can help identify the upstream providers who refer patients to those competitors.

Question 2: Identify potential referral sources. Using this same dataset, you can analyze referral patterns so you can actually see a metric describing how strong the relationship is between your competitive practitioner and their referral partners. How does this help? 

When a primary care doctor or another specialist has a strong referral relationship with your competitor, you might use different marketing tactics than when there is a weak relationship. This insight also gives you the opportunity to tailor your messaging and marketing dollars to get the word out about your incredible practice and all the ways you go above and beyond to keep quality high and costs for patients low. This is the kind of insight that can help you peel away some of the volume from your competitors (and prevent you from moving!).

Question 3: Understanding existing referral relationships. The more I dive into this data, the more I realize its power. You might think you know who your best referral sources are, but the data can give you clear evidence. By comparing the total referrals coming from each practitioner with the actual referrals that each of them sends you, you can get a more complete picture of the strength of those relationships. Once you’ve identified the strength of each of the referral partners, you can really see who your tight knit alliances are. This understanding can help you recognize and maintain your strongest referral relationships and highlight which ones you need to build on.

Look, you know I’m a big fan of yours, but it seems like you’ve been so deep into doing the best for your patients that you might have forgotten that your medical practice is also a business.

Data is the fuel of great business decisions. Some of your competitors must have been using this data to take away patients that could have been yours. Now, it’s your turn. 

I really dove into this because you’re my favorite doc, and your practice flourishing means I get to keep seeing you. 

Your favorite patient,

John Doe