The list of running a private medical practice ranges from marketing, location, supplies, loans, staffing, time with patients and finding a balance of all of the above. Once you figured it all out though, how do you keep your practice growing? More importantly, how do you retain patients?
We sat down with Dr. Hassan Galadari, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the United Arab Emirates University in Dubai and co-founder of Galadari Derma Clinic in Dubai to discuss ways solo practices can focus on internal growth so their practice can thrive.
How do you keep your practice running efficient? Are there certain programs and/or guidelines you enforce to spend quality time with your patients and still maximize your availability throughout the day?
It all starts with the front desk. They are the face of the practice and how it well it runs. If the front desk is welcoming, it sets the tone for the rest the visit. Then you have the nursing staff who welcome the patients and bring them to the rooms.
I would say the ability of the nursing staff to accommodate patients plays through with the bulk of what the visit is about. They counsel patients after the doctor is finished with the consultation. They make sure that post procedure instructions are clear. They assist when performing procedures.
If all goes as planned, all the doctor has to do is just show up.
What is important in terms of patient communication? How are you marketing to existing customers? Follow-up emails? Satisfaction surveys? What works for your practice?
The thing that works is social media outlets. Patients have become quite savvy in using them and engagement utilizing them has become one of our key principles.
The clinic has an active Facebook and Instagram accounts. The former puts out activities that our doctors attend and what procedures they perform, highlighting strengths.
Facebook also allows our patients to schedule appointments as well as ask simple inqueries pertaining to specific services. Instagram is more visual, so there are a lot of before and after photos that are placed there.
Let’s talk follow-up appointments. As dermatologists and skin care experts, how important is it to sell products in the office to try and purchase, like a skin care line?
We do not usually endorse just one line. This alienates other companies that may have very good products out there.
Our doctors generally pick and choose what they know would work based on their clinical experience and the quality of the skin product itself.
Don’t be surprised if you ever visit the clinic and leave with a cleanser from one company and a sunblock from another. The mix and match works, because it truly caters to a patient’s individual needs without undermining clinical relevance.
What are methods you use to ensure patients come back for follow-up appointments or new treatments?
Call patients back. We flag certain patients who have had a procedure to follow up with them and make sure that they are content and they have no adverse events.
We try to answer Facebook and Instagram inqueries as general as possible and always tell our patients to visit the clinic for a proper consultation.
How important is your team and culture? Does this translate to patient satisfaction?
Teamwork is important. As mentioned before, from the front desk, to the nurses and all the doctors working there. This translates into efficiency, which means patient overall satisfaction.
Is it important to be available to patients beyond appointments? Phone? Email? Text? How do you utilize technology to stay in touch with your patients?
We try not to do email. Phone is also discouraged as sometimes verbal instructions are misheard or misinterpreted. Facebook messages and Instagram are much more instant and allows all the doctors to actually pitch in, if needed. All our doctors have access to the Facebook account and may answer inqueries.
If an inquery remains unanswered for a certain number of hours, the admin replies indicating that a visit would be preferred. Patients do reach out to me also through my own Instagram account. While, I try to be as engaging as possible, it is important that a line is drawn as to not cross between issues of liability.
How important is balance in your practice? Work-life balance or delegating responsibilities to your team.
It is important. As a doctor, I would like to just come in and do what I do best; see patients. You do get caught up with certain issues such as inventory and other pertinent matters, but it is important to trust your team and allow them to do their job while you simply over see it.
When it comes to placing product orders, I am kept in the loop and I approve it, but it is my team that does all the checks and sends me a list for a simple signature.
Payment and pricing. Do you discuss these options with your patients? Is there a benefit to transparency?
Prices are shown right outside on a list at the front desk. Patients should know what they are paying and how much.
I do not discuss payments with them during the consultation, only when I think that they are asking for too much and I know the price may be exuberant. It is important that they know this before a procedure is performed to prevent any unwanted shock when they see the bill.
Are there ways you go the extra mile for your patients?
Most definitely. An extra mile could be just a smile. It can also be posing with a family member as they take a photo with you during their visit. Most importantly, it is to be genuine and that it is a big deal. Patients can tell when you are genuine.
Are there other factors that play an important role in keeping your patients coming back?
They know I like to keep things real and help patients feel good about themselves, I try to under promise and over deliver and that goes a long way.
When a patient comes, he knows he will not be subjected to any unnecessary procedures that they may not need or any unproven fads. The clinic values itself in that and I have turned away many because I believed their expectations were not going to be met.
Any other words of wisdom for dermatologists who are looking to grow their practice?
I always have a saying by Marcusi Aurelius in mind every morning before going off to work. It pertains to what a practice is about and the expectations that one may have in mind be it at work or in daily life.
The saying goes: “It is necessary to remember that the attention given to everything has its proper value and proportion. For you will not be dissatisfied if you apply yourself to smaller matters no further than is fit.” and that’s how I would like my clinical practice to be and aspire to.
Dr. Hassan Galadari, MD is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the United Arab Emirates University in Dubai. Galadari graduated from Boston University and Tufts University dermatology program and completed a cosmetic dermatology fellowship in the University of California, San Francisco. He is licensed by the medical board of California and runs a thriving cosmetic practice alongside his father, Galadari Derma Clinic in Dubai.