Expanding a practice through niche services

Edition: October 2005 - Vol 13 Number 10
Article#: 2245
Author: Susannah Rockman

The downward spiral of managed care, Medicare and commercial insurance payments is no new topic in this industry. Watching our physician office customers scrutinize over which products they can afford is looking to be a standard practice in the coming years. To help recoup these lost dollars, physicians are looking into niche services to add supplemental income to their practices, such as cosmetic laser procedures.

Elective self-pay services, such as laser wrinkle removal, permanent hair removal and varicose vein treatment are slowly finding a place in general practice offices. Patients walking into their physicians’ offices nowadays might get more than they expected and might be pleasantly surprised. Not surprising, however, is the fact that patients feel much more comfortable having their own physicians perform these services, rather than individuals at other facilities that have no medical directors on staff. This leaves great opportunities for physicians to add self-pay services to reduce income lost elsewhere.



Help physicians offer a new service

Equipment:
Manufacturers offer a full line of lasers. Some larger lasers can perform most cosmetic procedures, while smaller, less-expensive lasers can offer a specific service.

Cosmetic indications for laser use are:

• Acne vulgaris

• Collagen stimulation

• Pigmented lesions

• Hyperpigmentation

• Hair removal

• Vascular lesions

• Variable depth resurfacing

• Wrinkles

• Acne scars.

Leasing offers an opportunity for physicians to have lasers in their offices without spending the full amount on the lasers all at once. Leases often offer a maintenance plan that can ease some physician worries. In addition, physicians may have an easier time making a decision to upgrade or bring an additional laser into the office, if they don’t invest thousands initially to make the purchase. Your customer can easily make up the cost of the lease with just a few procedures each month.

Purchasing a laser certainly requires more money initially, but encourage your customer to look beyond the cost of the equipment, as most lasers are long lasting and rarely become obsolete. In addition, some of the more costly lasers can perform multiple procedures, allowing the physicians to have a variety of options for recouping the cost over time.



Training:

Many companies offer free or inexpensive courses to promote and demonstrate their lasers. Once a physician chooses which laser is right for his practice, the manufacturer provides a clinical specialist that will come to the office to train the staff members. After the staff is trained, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) offers an annual dermatology course, and additional training can come from local colleagues who offer similar procedures.



Handling objections

Objection: “I don’t have a customer base for these procedures, and I wouldn’t know how to market these services.”

How to handle: Start with the existing customer base. These are the patients who know and trust the physicians. They feel most comfortable with their doctors. Once customers know their physicians as both a go-to for traditional medical services as well as cosmetic procedures, they will refer their friends and family.



Objection: “I’m way too busy.”

How to handle:. Many states allow nurses to perform the procedure under the physician’s supervision. With a minimum of six to 12 treatments per month, the physician could easily make a profit, which may be worth a time investment.



Objection: “My office isn’t right for these procedures.”

How to handle: Assess the needs of the current patient population as well as local competition. This will help the physician decide what procedures are right for the office as well as what self-pay opportunities he can bring to the practice.

It may be the case that the actual office needs changes to help market the services. These issues may be more challenging for the sales rep to communicate.

The next time you call on your general, family or internal medicine practices, ask these opening questions:

• Have you ever thought about growing your practice by offering aesthetic medicine?

• Would you like to add a new source of revenue to your practice?

Offering your physician total practice solutions in addition to products will ensure continued revenue-generating opportunities for both you and your customer.



About the author: Susannah Rockman is director of product development for Education OnLine, a division of MDSI.

She can be reached at (770) 263-5258 or srockman@mdsi.org.