medicine as a business

The ethical take on medicine as a business

As you set up a private practice, do you consider yourself an entrepreneur? A businessperson? Or are you mainly a doctor who chooses a different setup beyond work in the public sector? Let’s unpack what it means to put your business hat on and remain ethical and compliant.

medicine as a business

The ethical take on medicine as a business

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

July 27, 2022

The challenge about wearing a business hat

doctor in business

Are you a doctor in business? If you are doing anything other than a role in the public service, you are already wearing that business hat. The challenge is that most doctors have spent their entire career pathway building medical expertise. Not business skills. 

There is an even bigger challenge. Health is constantly on everyone’s radar. It’s on the news. It’s part of debates and it’s all over the political scene. Because it touches on our most precious essence as humans, you can’t ‘hide’ if you work in the health industry.

The challenge is that a private setup is still a business and unlike a furniture store, a coffee shop or a builder, you can’t just run around yelling how much better you are than the others.

The typical restrictions applicable to healthcare show up in marketing and advertising more than in any other aspect of running a business. So let’s look at what it means to be an ethical doctor, specialist, surgeon or allied health professional, with a clear view of your business performance and one of the essential pillars of any business: marketing.

The power of communicating your values

business values

Forget the framework of AHPRA regulations and restrictions for a second. As humans, we sometimes focus too much on what when we communicate what we do. Check out 5 brochures published by doctors and they will be factual. Logical. Left brain. You are trained to be scientific, and perhaps that is your autopilot mode when you communicate. 

The untapped potential of your private practice is about you. Patients review people, not procedures. Patients write Google reviews about the experience, not the steps in theatre.
This is where it becomes extremely useful to define or develop your business values.

So how do you communicate about yourself as a doctor? A typical example I often read sounds like this.

Dr John Johnson [any resemblance with real people is coincidental] is a father of three and loves spending his weekends on the water. He owns a Spaniel Cocker and loves contributing to the community and gardening.

Sounds familiar? What happens here is that we communicate about our attributes. Not about our essence. 

Let’s look at what it means to define business values and really use them to our benefit when we promote your practice.

The one value every patient values

empathy as a doctor

Don’t worry. We understand. Working with leading specialists around the country and creating their online experience, we know the private practice realities inside out. 

Being an insider and at the same time seeing many practices from the outside, what we keep seeing is the patient’s perspective on your business. Few people come and see you just for fun. If there is no medical urgency, even the most attractive elective procedure contains risks, discomfort and some anxiety about outcomes.

So what is it that patients value most? Where can you make a difference?

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Presence is what we see as one of the biggest qualities in the leading doctors we work with. Being present in your surgical mission is one thing. But how present are you when you listen to a patient? When you walk past your reception team? When you explain a treatment?"

The funny thing about presence is this. It’s such as simple term. And yet, in daily life, we often come across people who are not fully present. It shines through and it affects the experience. 

Empathy as a doctor means you are present when the patient expresses concern, the fear they may experience or the pain their condition causes. Once you have sharpened the sword in this department, you will have a whole range of topics to talk about in your marketing content, without ever being at risk of breaching the AHPRA Advertising Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals.

medicine as a business

The ethical way to say how good you are

promoting doctors

Promoting doctors – or promoting yourself as a doctor – is a bit of a minefield. Things to think about:

  • AHPRA regulations
  • College guidelines applicable per specialty
  • Rules and regulations issued by the hospital you are associated with
  • State and Federal legislation
  • Consumer protection regulation
  • Peer pressure and personal reputation

If you are a doctor who has given up on promoting your practice in recent years because you felt there were too many restrictions, bear with me.

Talking about your values can be done in different ways. You can make statements along the lines of:

Dr John Johnson (Sorry John) is an empathic and patient specialist who listens to your concerns and takes the time to assess your medical history. He is known to show genuine care for his patients before, during and after surgery. 

Not bad but…is it authentic? 

Show your value (empathy, being present, genuine care) by talking about specific situations.

When you expect a baby, you may have new questions every day. I understand that sometimes, you want answers sooner rather than later. That’s why you can call me after hours, and when possible I will call or text you back as soon as I can. 

There are many ways you can convey your message so it talks about what you do, not about what you believe should be done. Promoting doctors shouldn’t be about qualifications and achievements on the doctor’s side. It should be about what’s in it for me as a patient. 

How it all fits together in medical marketing

content marketing

Content marketing is a buzzword and it is often explained as the use of journalism-style content to raise awareness, inform and educate. The reason this works is that it deviates from advertising. Instead of pushing noisy messages to the consumer, we are putting content in place that shows up when they need it. 

As we have covered extensively, this definition of Content Marketing refers to using keywords and building content around those most common Google Searches. SEO and Content Marketing for doctors then becomes an ongoing activity to drive traffic to your practice and is probably the most ethical take on medicine as a business you will ever come across.

The other component of medical content marketing is story. The story of your inspiration, motivation and personality. Why you are doing it. How you decided to be a doctor. Your migration story. The vision for your practice. The benefit you see for the patient. Your academic ambitions. Your joy linked to the achievements in your resume. Your passion for medicine is inspiring and patients want to hear about it.

We love bringing it all together in content marketing strategies that hook the visitor and convey trust and rapport. We look forward to hearing more about your practice!

Let's meet

Let’s talk about your business

medicine and business

No matter how clear you currently are about your private practice as a business, we will help you reconcile your ambitions in medicine and business. In your free 1:1 Strategy Session, we can discuss your business goals, and the available market research we have to underpin and support your ethical, AHPRA-compliant marketing strategy. Book your meeting now, and let’s talk with our business hats on! 

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