Small or independent clinics can find it difficult to effectively compete with retail clinics or medical giants; with fewer resources to hand and less brand recognition, it can feel like an uphill struggle. Fortunately there are certain advantages to working on a smaller scale that a smart medical practice can use in order to compete with the medical big boys.
The ability of a smaller medical practice to adapt and change in order to fit your patients’ needs is a huge advantage over larger facilities and medical chains – two basic ways being providing same-day appointments and extending office hours. While this does require extra commitment from physicians and staff, and can be initially challenging to implement, it offers a smaller clinic a serious competitive advantage over larger chains.
Keeping 10%-30% of appointment slots open in order to accommodate walk-ins and same-day appointments will be enough to offer a greater level of patient satisfaction – often with all the appointments completely booked by the end of the day. This allows smaller clinics to get patients in earlier and – in addition to treating their pressing medical condition – treat them for additional or potential problems in advance.
The ability to fit patients in for emergencies can build a strong level of loyalty, especially with parents of small children. Affording them the opportunity to see a doctor without an appointment will be a big relief to them if their child is ill, making them much more likely to return for check ups and to refer your practice to others.
As mentioned above, the smaller clinic’s ability to offer a more personalised treatment is a sure-fire way to ensure patient loyalty and more referrals. The very nature of a smaller medical practice means that patients will be more familiar with your physicians and your staff, making them feel more comfortable and welcome. In order to maintain and cultivate strong patient relationships, offer personalised follow-up calls and appointment reminders. Having your physicians keep a patient diary will help them remember details about the patients lives that won’t always be included in their medical records, meaning their next visits will be much more personalised than if they went to a larger clinic or chain.
The old phrase, “if you can’t beat them, join them” is important when it comes to competing with larger clinics and hospitals. Developing a collaborative and professional relationship with larger medical centres, especially local hospitals, will mean that both your practices can benefit. It allows you to offer specialised services to a larger catchment of patients, while helping to alleviate some of their patient backlog.
In order for this to work, your clinic may have to offer extended office hours and same-day appointments in order to accommodate referrals from the hospital. If this isn’t practical or sustainable, you might want to consider focusing on a niche market – providing a service to hospital patients that they at the time cannot.