One of the benefits of selecting and starting a specialty practice is watching your business grow.
By Marc H. Sencer
One way to stay ahead in today’s competitive practice environment is to find a niche in the marketplace and make it your own.
A niche practice can be based on a particular treatment you offer that is not generally available elsewhere, or it can be based on a condition you treat exclusively or for which you have developed a special treatment protocol.
Choose a niche specialty that you will enjoy and be passionate about, because you are going to be doing it day in and day out.
The niche has to have a potential to be profitable. This is one area doctors often overlook, believing that if they do a good job and have enough patients the profit will automatically be there.
For example: Consider the case of a DC who wanted to treat diabetes with an alternative medicine protocol he developed but he didn’t calculate what he could conceivably charge for a visit. Other than office visits, how would he generate income?
Of course there are profit centers in the treatment of diabetes — supplements, wound care, and durable medical equipment (DME) to name a few — but these should be identified and calculations done before going ahead with the plan.
Your specialty has to fit into the patient demographic in your area.
For example: You may have a dream of opening a med spa and doing anti- aging medicine. You will not be able to do this successfully if your potential patient base is made up of mostly blue collar workers and people who rely on Medicaid. They simply wouldn’t be able to afford your services.
Some doctors create and run multiple niche practices within their practice.
For example: A chiropractor who does regular chiropractic and musculoskeletal medicine, and in addition does alternative medicine with IV vitamins and other non- traditional techniques. This doctor might also have a cosmetic laser practice and a weight control program.
Almost all of the marketing for niche services is done through multiple websites. Patients coming for chiropractic feel they are in a chiropractic practice.
Patients coming for one of the specialties feel like they are in a specialty practice. The practice is able to maintain multiple strong identities.
Some niche practices are based on a new cutting-edge treatment. However, you must be careful. Today’s state-of- the-art treatment is tomorrow’s “ho hum.” Think of Botox, or mesotherapy. While these are both wonderful treatments, in the places where people can afford these cash-only treatments, everyone is doing them. You don’t want to spend a huge amount of money creating a niche only to find that your exclusivity has a very short life.
You can avoid this by doing your due diligence. Find out who is doing the same thing, what they are charging, and how big the competition is. Check to see how long the treatment has been around and what its status is in the country of origin, if not the U.S.
For cutting-edge treatments, review any legal issues with your healthcare attorney. You don’t want to cross the line that separates cutting-edge treatment from experimenting on your patients. One excellent way to avoid this and at the same time market the new technique is to do it in the form of a bona fide study. If you are affiliated with a hospital or university you definitely want to consider this option.
One of the nicest aspects of having a niche practice is the ease of marketing it. If you are doing something truly unique or focusing on a particular condition, once the word gets out people will be searching for you. There are several niche practices in particular that do no marketing other than an having an Internet presence and yet have waiting lists of people wanting to be seen.
A niche is a good way to jumpstart your practice and separate yourself from your competition. Many niche practices are cash-based, which gives you freedom from insurance hassles. This is a practice option every doctor should investigate.
Marc H. Sencer, MD, is the president of MDs for DCs, which provides intensive one-on-one training, medical staffing, and ongoing practice management support to chiropractic integrated practices. He can be reached at 800-916-1462 or through mdsfordcs.com.