Five reasons you need to focus on self pay patients no matter what…

Five reasons you need to focus on self pay patients no matter what specialty you are in.

1. Focusing on self-pay patients will help your insured patients.

If you focus on the self-pay market then you will realise the importance of producing information and providing clear pathways to nurture patients from their initial enquiry through to having their procedure and beyond.

If you produce this information then this will help you to develop a more informative website and processes around your website. This information and advice will also be useful and relevant to insured patients and so will improve the experience that your insured patients receive when they visit your website.

2. Treat people the way you think they should be treated.

When you are working in the self-pay market, you can deliver the service that you want to deliver. You have a lot more control over the number of follow-up appointments you can give and the length of your appointments.

If you think that MRI is better than ultrasound, then you can go straight for this investigation.

If the gold standard is to use a certain type of implant, or a particular drug, then you can offer this.

You decide on the investigations and treatments that you perform and you do not need to take in to account budgets or rationing. There are endless opportunities when you are in the self-pay market and you just need to think about what is best for your patients and how you can deliver value.

You can deliver the level of service that you want to deliver as long as you can demonstrate the value to your patients.

3. Insured patients can be self-pay

Insured patients are the same as self-pay patients, they just happen to have insurance.

You can deliver a perfectly good and effective service to your insured patients but there may be areas where you could do more.
For instance, insurance companies will often only pay for one follow up appointment. This might be appropriate and most patients may not need more than one follow up appointment, but there may be situations where patients would like to be followed up.

Cardiology and neurology are two obvious examples where patients can be very worried about their symptoms, even though from a medical point of view there may be no cause for concern.

It might be helpful to explain to patients that you offer a service in your private practice where you can follow them up for a consultation fee.

I think we are often blinkered by the concept of discharging patients who do not need to be followed up which is standard practice in the NHS, that we don’t realise that some patients may want to be followed up.

It is about coming to realise what we are doing as doctors and getting away from the notion that if you are a cardiologist, your job is to diagnose ischaemic heart disease when in fact your job is to allay fears and worries about dying of a heart attack.

It is perfectly reasonable to offer follow-up appointments to patients who are concerned and this can be done in a completely ethical way by being transparent and open about the fact that there may be no medical grounds for concern yet you offer a service where you can keep an eye on them in your clinic.

In some situations discharging patients is not helpful because if they continue to have symptoms, they won’t know where to go to and will often go back to the GP and may feel lost.

4. Control over your patients 

When you start to develop the mindset of encouraging self pay patients, then you start to take control over the flow of patients into your practice.

You need to think about reasons that patients should choose you rather than one of your colleagues and this will strengthen your position and give you a much more sustainable private practice.

Unfortunately it is not uncommon for hospitals to suspend doctors and it can be for seemingly minor transgressions while things are investigated.

If you are relying on the hospital for your flow of patients then this can significantly affect your practice.

Furthermore insurance companies will often require you to be fee assured and this allows them to set their fees and gives you very little leeway if they choose to change their fee structure.

When dealing with self pay patients who are coming to see you, then you can control which hospitals you treat them in and how much you charge. You will have a much more sustainable practice that will stand the test of time and give you much more autonomy.

This is the first step to developing your own personal brand and making your private practice a business rather than just a job.

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