New Approaches to Traditional Marketing
Physician referral is one aspect of ENT and audiology marketing where change is rare. The basic principles are timeless: Build strong relationships with primary care physicians and other referring providers in your area. If their patients are happy with your care, your reward is an ongoing flow of new patient referrals that costs very little to maintain.A newer trend in practice structure stands to amplify the investment and rewards of physician referral for audiologists. That trend is concierge medicine. This month’s Ask Fuel First question is: How can marketing to concierge physicians benefit my practice?
What Is Concierge Medicine?
Concierge medicine is a growing segment of membership-based private practices focused on decreasing stress on providers and improving the patient experience. Membership fees can range from $1,200 to $10,000 per year, with the average cost coming in between $1,500 and $3,000 (Smith, 2023).
The benefits for patients are many. While a traditional provider may see as many as 40 patients per day, concierge providers typically cap their patient panel at around 600 patients, resulting in only six to ten patient encounters per day. This allows them to spend more time with each patient and offer same- or next-day appointments, with 24/7 access to care. In case that’s not enough convenience, many concierge physicians offer home visits in addition to telehealth, office visits and travel support, significantly reducing the barriers to care for patients (Robinson-Walker, 2023).
A Win-Win Situation
The opportunity for audiologists is significant. Paul Pessis, Au.D., owner and founder of North Shore Audio-Vestibular Lab (NSAVL), started getting referrals from concierge providers in his area several years ago. “These providers want to work with the best of the best,” he says. “They reached out to me because our practice has a strong reputation in our community. Their patients have been rewarding to work with.”
Dr. Pessis’ practice is located in Chicagoland. He estimates that the area has 20–30 concierge practices ranging from the standard models described above to one higher-end boutique model that charges $10,000 a year and caps its patient panel at 50. Patients from these practices can be demanding, but they are also highly loyal to their providers and have a much higher compliance rate for treatment than the average patient.
“I had a concierge provider call me the other day to make a referral. He said, ‘My patient wants to come in today at 1:00.’” Paul laughs. “Obviously, we can’t always accommodate the exact time their patients want, but we do try to get them in quickly and keep them happy.”
Nationwide, the concierge industry was estimated to be worth $6.1 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow 10.32% by 2030 (Grand View Research, 2023). While primary care accounts for a significant share of that market at 25.6%, internal medicine, oncology and pediatrics are other common specialties with strong referral potential for audiology.
Concierge Provider Referrals Differ From Traditional Referrals
For audiologists wanting to take advantage of the growing concierge market, there are two things that differentiate their role in the partnership from traditional physician referral. First, concierge providers are selective. They maintain a close eye on their referral partners, tending to pick a provider with a strong reputation and remain loyal to them. To build these partnerships, an audiology practice needs to have a quality reputation in the community and exceptional online reviews. Securing the partnership will require a concerted effort by the audiologist to offer stellar audiology services and devote extra time to build and maintain the partnership. The good news is that once that relationship is built, concierge providers tend to stick with their trusted partners.
The second and more impactful point is that practices need to be prepared for the level of service that concierge providers and their patients expect. This goes far beyond same-day appointment requests and friendly front office staff. Concierge patients expect a holistic medical experience with providers who are prepared to kindly and thoroughly address their questions and concerns.
North Shore Audio-Vestibular Lab was well-positioned to accommodate this approach. When Dr. Pessis founded the practice in 1984, he prioritized keeping the medical model front and center. “Each system in the body interacts with and impacts the other systems,” he says. “Learning about a patient’s cancer, for example, alerts us to the fact that they may have damage from ototoxic medications. Patients with a history of neurologic issues, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, stroke, etc., may have related hearing problems. Autoimmune disease may also affect auditory function. Additionally, when I perform my examination of the ears, I look for sun damage, skin cancers or melanomas, which can pose significant health risks to patients.”
As Dr. Pessis has expanded the specialists within his referral network, his knowledge of medicine and medical terminology has also increased. “I have to understand the patients’ labs and blood workups,” he explains. “Sometimes patients have questions about a CT scan or an MRI/MRA that their provider recommended, and they didn’t get everything answered during their physician appointment. I’ve built a lot of trust with patients by taking the time to sit with them and answer their questions.” That level of expertise not only impresses patients; it helps cement Dr. Pessis as a referring partner of choice for concierge physicians in his area.
The Benefits of Working With Concierge Providers
This medical model approach offers audiologists some of the same benefits that their concierge counterparts are after. Kristie Trester joined North Shore Audio-Vestibular Lab right after she completed her Au.D. “I knew I wanted to work somewhere with a strong culture and where I would get to do in-depth, quality work with patients,” she recalls. Eleven years later, she has no regrets. “Every day is a little different. I encounter a wide variety of medical issues requiring varied in-depth testing. Our audiologists are trusted experts who address and fulfill their patients’ and referring providers’ needs. Hiring for expertise is a priority for our practice; no one micromanages me.”
In an era where increasing cost pressures often lead to streamlined appointments and less time with patients, it’s easy to see why this approach is attractive. “I’m the newest audiologist on our team,” Kristie says. “Our other audiologists have been here at NSAVL anywhere from 12 to 20 years, and we recently had an audiologist retire after 30 years with the practice. It’s a great working environment.”
Marketing to Concierge Providers
For practices looking to build partnerships with concierge physicians, here are some ways to get started:
- Review your digital presence.
Do you have strong online reviews? Is your website professional and easy to find? Do your “About Us” and “Bio” pages provide specific and compelling information about your expertise and background?
- Evaluate your scope of practice.
Do you work with tinnitus patients? Do you offer VNG and electrophysiology? Are you open to more pediatric referrals? Can you partner with cochlear implant providers? Do you need to expand any of your testing or treatment options to differentiate your practice?
- Revisit your standard of patient care.
Do audiologists have adequate time to fully answer patient questions? Do you have a protocol in place for scheduling urgent and time-sensitive patient appointments? Do you track referral sources and follow up with all referring providers with relevant information about their patients’ appointments?
- Identify your referral targets.
Who are you targeting? Potential referral sources include ENTs, internists, family practice doctors, pediatricians, physical therapists, speech therapists, oncologists, cardiologists, geriatricians, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners.
- Learn the relevant medical lingo.
Do you have a high-level understanding of CT, MRI and MRA scans? Can you evaluate lab workups to understand medical etiology? Do you recognize how common medications may impact hearing, balance and tinnitus? Are there syndromes or conditions that you know your patients often have questions about? Does your front office staff have a basic understanding of the tests you perform and the conditions that you treat?
Taking the Next Step
Once these steps are in place, you’re ready to reach out to providers. Start by meeting with existing concierge providers, but keep an eye out for new practices, as well. Concierge medicine is projected to grow; new practices are most likely to be in need of referral partners.
Fuel Medical is here to support your practice. If you’re ready to explore concierge physician referral partnerships, our professional development team can help you prep your front office team for the change. Our marketing team can support improving your online reviews and updating physician referral collateral. And our recruiting team is here when it’s time to bring on new team members who understand your vision.
Contact your regional team to get started today.
Smith, Zack. (27 April 2023) “Concierge Medicine Costs, Factors and Consideration.” Partner MD. https://www.partnermd.com/blog/concierge-medicine-costs-factors-considerations.
Robinson-Walker, Dawnielle. (18 May 2023). “What is Concierge Medicine and Is it Worth the Price Tag?” Forbes Health. https://www.forbes.com/health/healthy-aging/concierge-medicine/.
Grand View Research. (2023). “U.S. Concierge Medicine: Market Estimates & Trends Analysis from 2023 to 2030.” https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/us-concierge-medicine-market-report.