Growing Your Dermatology Practice
Here’s how technology and strategic business acumen can help promote practice growth and sustainability
As with any business, you would want to position your dermatology practice in a place where it can continue to grow as the industry shifts and patient demands and needs change. Growth indicates getting larger and having more, and there are many strategic ways in which a dermatology practice may accomplish this based on both its short- and long-term goals.
By identifying your business objectives, you can help decide which approach to take to help grow and continue to add value to your dermatology practice and, in turn, your patients. This approach may vary from practice to practice, but in this post, I’ll expand on six methods that may help to build on your practice’s current successes.
Those strategies include:
- Building a strong marketing plan
- Adding new employees to your staff
- Starting a new office location
- Building out your current office
- Enhancing your menu of cosmetic offerings
- Selling or merging your practice
As your dermatology practice grows, challenges can also grow exponentially. A “tiny” issue at a small practice can become a much more sizable challenge as the business grows. This makes it that much more important for your practice to have a solid foundation, which includes your practice’s technology.
At the end of the day, your growth strategies should help increase patient volume, bringing more business and growing your practice’s clinical, operational and financial success.
Increase Your Dermatology Marketing Initiatives
Maintaining your current patient base is crucial to business success, as is continuing to grow your base with new patients. That’s where dermatology marketing can come into play.
Multiple facets go into a strong marketing presence and your dermatology practice’s overall brand. As a dermatologist, you know how important an individual’s image is, and that same mentality should ring true for your practice.
Your marketing efforts can convey the image that both current and your potential future patients see, both on- and offline. With information overload and consumption of media via many different outlets, you want to make your practice stand out from the competition.
Here are some key components to consider.
Online Marketing Components
- Dermatology website: Do you have one? If so, is it updated with key contact information, staff bios, accepted insurance, areas of focus, treatment options, specials and helpful information for patients?
- Local business listings: If people searched for “local dermatology practices” or “local dermatologist,” would your practice populate with key contact information like address, phone number and website?
- Social media: Would current and potential patients find your social media accounts with updated and engaging information? Are you using social media to continue to build your brand equity and visibility? Have you done any local advertising on the platform?
- Digital advertising: With the Internet in the palm of virtually everyone’s hand, are you reaching potential patients through digital ads based on location and search history?
- Email marketing: Do you stay top of mind with current patients and communicate with them on a regular basis? Do you send personalized birthday and anniversary notes and promotions? What about follow-up reminders for annual skin checks?
Offline Marketing Components
- In-office communications: Do you have signage posted about specials and new products? Does your staff educate patients on the availability of products and ask if they’re interested?
- Printed ads in local publications: Do you purchase ads in well-read area newspapers and magazines to further reach your local pool of patients?
- Community engagement and sponsorships: How do you instill goodwill and demonstrate corporate responsibility in the area in which you live and work? Do you sponsor recreational sports programs? Or donate services to area nonprofits for fundraisers?
- Public relations: Does the local or national media see you as a go-to source when writing articles? Do you look for speaking and networking opportunities at both a local and a national level?
Marketing your practice well can certainly turn into a full-time job. You may need to consider working with an external agency or having a dedicated staff member aid in executing a robust and integrated marketing program.
Additionally, dermatology software, such as practice management, an analytics platform and inventory management can aid in certain aspects of marketing your practice.
If you are starting your dermatology practice from the ground up, you’ll have to take a variety of factors (marketing just being one) into account to help get your new business off the ground and thriving.
Increasing Your Employee Numbers With New Providers, Physician Extenders and Staff
The addition of new providers, physician extenders and other staff can help add to the growth at your practice as well. At the foundation is implementing consistent training and processes so that current and future staff function as efficiently as possible. The patient demand should be there to warrant new additions.
Before you add any new staff, you would want to make sure the physical space exists to accommodate your new team member(s) and that your office can accommodate adding more patients to the schedule. Adding a specialist or an aesthetician who works selected days and hours can help attract and diversify your patient base while adding new revenue streams and ultimately providing the care that your patients seek.
Expand Your Office Locations
Do you have patients traveling from great distances to your current location? Maybe your current office is at full capacity and you can’t accept new patients? Perhaps you want to focus on specific procedures and offerings all at one location and different ones at another?
Your practice can potentially grow by physically adding a new location to your already established business if there is a demand and return on investment in the new location. However, it’s a decision that takes time and capital to determine if it’s the best way to continue to grow your dermatology business.
Building Out Your Current Office
There may be less wiggle room with this option, as it’s dependent upon your current office. Expansion could include leasing new space in your location or physically building an addition if it’s a free-standing facility.
Part of it could entail converting under-utilized space into a new exam room to increase the number of patients that can be seen.
Perhaps the build-out also includes building in dermatology software to the mix like an electronic health record (EHR). Expanding and enhancing current technologies can help you make the space you have more usable. For example, if you are still using paper charts and housing rows and rows of files, transitioning to the digital age of electronic health records (EHR) can save you physical space and offer much more than that, too.
Office aesthetics contribute to your overall brand image, just as marketing can. Modern technology can help keep your office looking and feeling sleek and state-of-the-art, while illustrating to patients that they are being treated in a forward-thinking office and even helping enhance staff and provider productivity.
Enhancing Services Offered, Including Cosmetic and Aesthetic Procedures
Give the people what they want. What I mean by that is if patients are seeking more cosmetic options, consider enhancing and expanding on current aesthetic offerings and adding them to the mix of available services. Before investing in the newest laser treatment machine, consider leasing certain equipment as a more economical option to make sure the demand is there.
Additionally, consider focusing efforts on the male aesthetic market. Marketing such services based on their wants and needs can help drive business growth among both current and future patients.
When and if you do add new services, this can be an ideal time to kick the marketing meter up a few notches to help get the word out there to current and future patients alike. How can someone know to ask about a service if they don’t know it exists in the first place? Training staff and providing a “talk track” around important updates to share with patients can help keep a consistent message.
Sell? Merge? Consolidate? Acquire? Stay Independent?
Regardless of what side of the fence you may be on when it comes to consolidation in the dermatology market (and other medical specialties, too), there’s no doubt it’s happening, and the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Let’s paint a bit of a picture around the rapid growth of the dermatology field.
- Dermatology makes up a $13B market
- It is expected to grow at 5.8 percent to over $16B through 2019
- It is the second-fastest growing provider specialty behind physical therapy
- More than 30 transactions over 24 months with acquisitions in this space
(Source: Provident Healthcare Partners)
Burnout and dermatologists having to work on non-dermatology-related issues like staffing and administrative burden have contributed to some physicians wanting out of running their own private group and instead are favoring joining a large dermatology practice.
What else is driving this consolidation in the industry and leading to some of the largest dermatology practices in the nation? According to the Provident Healthcare Partners website, dermatology practices are keen investments due to:
- Volume-based growth trends
- Favorable reimbursement structure
- Fragmentation in the sector
The article “Pulling Back The Curtain on Private Equity” by Emily Margosian in Dermatology World illustrates much of the what and the why behind the growth of private equity driving the size of some of the largest dermatology practices.
- Physicians approaching retirement may be considering next steps for the future of their practice.
- For dermatologists right out of residency, the financial burden of school debt and starting one’s own private practice can be challenging from a monetary standpoint, and this option can help eliminate that issue.
- Non-dermatology-related activities like managing staff and payroll have contributed to physician burnout.
- Increasing brand equity and recognition in the market has become a time-consuming task in addition to practicing medicine.
- Some of the largest dermatology groups offer compliance and contracting departments to assist when it comes to tracking and staying compliant with ongoing legislative changes.
So how do you know if it’s right for you? You need to weigh your options and determine what’s best based on your business model and goals, part of which involves how to value your dermatology practice.
Say you decide the time has come to sell your practice to one of the largest dermatology practices. You need to make sure you navigate the sale strategically and ask the right questions. Some tips include:
- Engage legal counsel and business advisors to navigate the sale or merger.
- Get assistance on how to value your dermatology practice for the appraisal process. Get more than one appraisal.
- Don’t rush; approach cautiously.
- Understand who owns the group—is it a fellow physician? This may influence your decision.
- Ask about non-compete clauses as well as the process for exiting and going back to your own private practice in the future.
- Find out about the duration of your contract.
- Do your research to understand the group’s reputation and founding principles.
Joining one of the largest dermatology practices in the country may or may not be the right decision for you, both professionally and personally. As with any decision, you have to weigh the pros and cons. At a high level, pros could include initial payout, elimination of administrative tasks and financial support for continued expansion. On the flipside, cons often cited include loss of autonomy and conflicts of interest.
Embrace Dermatology Software and Technology to Help Grow Your Practice
There’s lots of compounding factors to steady and continued growth, and one part of that large equation is embracing dermatology software, such as EHR, practice management and analytics solutions.
Technology can help you and your staff increase efficiency and streamline clinical, financial and business operations. The benefits of time savings and efficiencies are compounded as your practice grows in size. Whether you’re a one-provider group, a practice of five providers or one that boasts hundreds of physicians across the nation, a strong dermatology software foundation starts by opting for an established technology vendor. Find a health IT vendor that has a track record of success and dermatology clients—both small and large practices—that can speak to how they’ve experienced the benefits of the dermatology software in their businesses.
At the end of the day, your practice is a business, and there are different paths that can all lead to business growth and success. Whether you want to continue to operate as a private practice or decide to join one of the largest dermatology practices in the country, the choice is yours. You will simply have to take time to evaluate the pros and cons based on your business objectives.
Jordan Miller, MD
Senior Medical Director of Dermatology
Dr. Jordan Miller is the Senior Medical Director of Dermatology. As one of Modernizing Medicine’s first clients, he quickly became a “super-user.” Today, as a practicing dermatologist, Dr. Miller leads development of the dermatology-specific electronic health record system and works with clients to create specialty-specific software.