Is This The Best Year For Urologists (or any doctor) To Be Independent?

November 19, 2019
Peter Griffith, President of Mentum LLC

Sadly, staff Urologists at hospitals no longer have the rock-solid job security they once enjoyed.

Best year for practices to remain independent

Crain’s Chicago published and article this week and it’s headline was bold: “M.D. is no prescription for job security at hospital chains.” But it gets bolder: “Physicians who become employees are just as susceptible as other workers when hospitals are under pressure to cut costs.””

There has been a surge of news lately centering around hospital closures, layoffs, relocations and firings. And while marketing isn’t the main source of these issues by any means, it can be a contributing factor – if not to the hospital in general, but the to specialists who work there.

In most cases, hospital marketing is great for the hospital, but not so great for urology.

Traditionally, most hospitals usually take a blanket approach to their marketing. They rarely draw attention to any of their specialties unless the hospital is built on a particular specialty. Instead, their message becomes something like “a patient’s one source for all their healthcare needs.” They choose broad attributes that cover everything and everyone. Words like “world-class,” “care,” or “better” sneak into their taglines.

The theory is that a rising tide lifts all boats. By promoting the hospital in general, everyone working in it will benefit. That’s often great for the hospital. (See a few we’ve done ourselves.) Of course, there are exceptions where hospitals push a few of their specialties. But only in rare circumstances is urology mentioned, let alone featured.

So why don’t hospitals market their urologists? That question deserves its own article altogether, but here’s a click-bait headline answer: It’s almost impossible to show love to certain doctors and ignore others.

Think about it. How would you choose or divide a hospital’s marketing budget? Evenly? Should the same amount of marketing be given to a specialty that generates 3% of total revenue as one that generates 60%? How about one that brings in 10 new patients a year vs. one that brings in a thousand? Should marketing promote those that are performing harder or shore up those that are underperforming? What about profit margins? Should a specialty get more marketing if it could dramatically increase its R.O.I.? These c-suite debates get heated when professions, departments, and people’s careers are on the line.

With most hospital marketing, urologists more often than not get the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, that takes a lot of incoming revenue off their department’s table, and weakens urologists’ job security.

Can urologists survive without marketing?

 

Survive? Well, sure. Thrive? Not so much.

How many men actually know what a prostate is, let alone where it is? Many people can’t tell you what a urologist even is and it’s silly to expect the primary care or ER physicians who refer patients to keep up with the latest urological developments and treatments. It’s no big revelation to state urology has services that aren’t well-known or understood.

When marketing any brand, using an overarching message for specific services that need a lot of explaining rarely proves to be effective. Don’t get us wrong. Are messages like “caring more,” “world-class quality,” and “striving to be better” important to urology patients? Absolutely. Will they convince people with OAB or BPH that don’t know they have it (let alone that it’s treatable) to make an appointment? Don’t bet on it.

Referrals were once the heart of a urologist’s revenue but those days are over. With all the mergers and large physician groups wanting to keep their patient in-house, referalls just don’t come as easy anymore, if at all. However, we’ve found referrals aren’t even needed for a practice to thrive. (A great example of ours) Solid marketing, even with the smallest budgets, can keep an independent urologist or urology group thriving and healthy within the competition of giant hospitals or larger physician groups.

This may be the best time for a urologist to become, or remain, independent.

In a time where hospital doctors are now just as susceptible to being laid off as anyone else, many urologists are asking that question. Many independent urologists who merged with, or were bought out by a hospital, now feel a tinge of buyer’s remorse. Many hospital urology residents are quietly peering over the private practice fence to see how much greener the grass is on the other side. Even urologists at independent practices that don’t promote themselves or their services are wondering how much money, career freedom, and personal potential is being held back.

Marketing is a powerful tool that independent urologists have that most hospital urologists do not. In many cases, an independent practice, doing even a little bit of urology marketing, can bring in new patients, generate more appointments, and build new services faster and more effectively than the competition. In 2020, organizations like that may just be the best place where urologists can stay out of the red and not have to worry about getting pink slips.

Pete Griffith

Pete Griffith

President / Founder

Pete started Mentum after two decades of working as a Creative Director at some of the world's largest advertising agencies. His need to create exceptional work is driven 60% by the college tuitions of his three kids, 9% so he can go scuba diving somewhere he hasn’t been before and 1% to be able to afford a good bowl of ramen. The rest equally divided by both the desire to make people laugh and the fear of being laughed at. If you’re interested, his official resume can be gawked at here.

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