April 23, 2023 - Economics


Medical Professionals Seeming Shaken At The State of The Economy

And What Some Are Doing About It

There are over 230,817 open medical practices in the United States.

For the first time in nearly two decades, less patients are seeking elective procedures, and as a result many practices are losing revenue at a dramatic rate.

Dental, Chiropractic, and Aesthetic Practitioners are feeling the squeeze of the economy.

"Only about one in eleven practices are actively making more profit as of April 17, 2023, compared to the past two years prior," says leading economist Vivek Curtis, Ph.D.

Referred to as "walled gardens," these top performing practices seem to operate in a way that isn't location specific, or riding on the coattails of well-regarded, established practitioners, but rather on the things that these offices are doing to establish direct relationships within and around their community.

More on that below.

For most practices, things are not looking so vibrant...

Due to patient volume decreasing, practices abilities to retain, and train employees is more problematic than ever.

As a result of not having a large and stable calendar full of patients, practices are having to cut hours and staff amid an already bearish labor market.

Albeit, we are all aware that this is not specific to medical offices, but more so a result of the events we've all faced over the last three years.

Most practices, especially those that operate on a cash-only basis, are also experiencing increasing difficulty keeping their doors open due to the inability to satisfy debt obligations, rents, and other operating expenses due to shrink in cashflow.

Here's some of what we've heard from some of the practitioners that responded to comment following our questionnaire:

"Time's are changing and things are not what they once were. Medicine is one of the constants of any economy, and for the first time it feels like this industry is progressing backwards. Practicing medicine was supposed to be "recession proof," wasn't it?"

- Dr. M. Lazarro, M.D.

"We have already been running a lean team due to employee retention issues, and now we can't see as many patients as we need to cover the overhead we have.

I never thought we'd see the day where we were struggling to pay our bills to keep the office open."

- Dr. J. Hartfield , D.M.D.

"We've had to limit our staffs' hours and close our doors an extra day per week in order to operate with positive cashflow. Something has to change. I can't see how things can get worse than they are now."

- Dr. M. Bagliea , M.D.

Many of the medical professionals we asked for comment from have seemed to have tried everything they knew of that could help.

Many ran promotional offers with flexible payment options via mailers, billboards, and TV ads, just to find out that all of the usual tricks didn't seem to work.

For some reason, they and others seem left wondering why nothing seems to be changing, even after many attempts at trying to acquire new patients.

The common concern of the medical professionals who responded fell along the lines of how some offices without clear rhyme or reason were able to stay afloat under the current conditions of the economy.

After sampling 500 medical offices, medical professionals, and practices that went under in the last five years, we were able to establish some consistent pitfalls that the offices that struggled the most had in common.

Arguably more importantly, we were also able to establish three key areas that make or break a practice's ability to thrive, regardless of what's happening in the economy.

The small percentage of practices that were able to find success through the start of 2023 have been those turning a page on how to attract, and excite patients into creating great word of mouth marketing.

Word of mouth marketing is a mainstay route for growth for many small businesses. Some argue that it's the best route for most businesses seeking longevity, but hard to establish without a consistent flow of new patients or customers.

So, how are these practices doing this without being world-renowned practitioners or being in giant metropolitan areas?

Social media. Social media has become one of the best ways to acquire new customers in the digital age.

Out of the sample of 500 offices that were polled, only 45 responded saying that they were busier than they've ever been.

Upon further investigation, the 45 offices are actively seeing new patients daily have some sort of trick up their sleeves.

41 out of 45 claim social media content and advertising to be the most potent driver of new patients to their practice.

The remaining four attest that having a strong referral program is responsible for their new patient flow.

Of the 227 saying they're getting new patients at a volume similar to last year have found that Google searches, Google Pay-Per-Click ads and Google reviews have had the biggest impact on driving new patients to their practice.

The remaining 228 practices of the 500 sampled stated that they have not focused on establishing a digital presence in the past, and regret not putting more effort into attracting new patients sooner.

The common thread separating the high performing offices from those that are struggling seems to be that the ones that are winning are focusing on where people spend their time online.

During our research, we found that most Americans are spending over eight hours a day in front of a screen.

Of that time, 80% is on some form of social media. Five percent is spent searching Google for news or businesses in the area. Another five percent is spent checking email for important correspondence. The final 10% is spent on the phone either texting or chatting on the phone.

"We've found that our patients are easiest to reach where they're already spending their day. And that would be in front of their phone"

- Dr. G. Burns , M.D.

When asked, Dr. Burns further elaborated on what specifically he has been doing to attract the patients in his local area to his practice versus losing them to competing practices.

He continued by saying "There has been a lot of learning that I had to do about growing a practice this day in age. What I did when I started my practice 17 years ago is very different from what we do now to attract patients. We've been lucky to find a great marketing team after going through many over the years that honestly, were regrettable. I guess it is very true what they say about finding good help. You're going to kiss a lot of frogs before finding what works."

We asked Dr. Burns if he would feel comfortable sharing where he found his marketing company in an effort to help those in a position requiring it. He afforded us a link to the marketing company that he uses here.

He did further inform us that the most valuable thing that you can do is try to find solutions daily until something works.

"Looking back, I must have tried over seven or eight different marketing companies before I landed on CMO2Go. They had a catchy offer that caught my eye. They promised 100 patients in 100 days, so I thought heck it may as well be worth a shot. Worse comes to worst, we'd get some new patients and our money back if it didn't go well."

I'm happy that I took the leap. We went from seeing roughly 30 patients a week to over 85 in about three months. One of the things I wish that we would've done is waited longer to see how many patients we could help if we had the staff to support it. We, unfortunately, are too booked, and without the help to support further growth, we can't continue to cater to new patients at the volume we were prior to slowing down our advertising again."

Dr. Burns concluded the interview by saying that "I don't think that we are doing anything different than we have been. Getting in front of more people in our area, the right way for the times, has been the most pivotal thing when booking new patients."

If you own a medical practice specializing in dental work, chiropractic, or aesthetics, you can qualify for CMO2Go's 100 Patients in 100 Days program here.

Of the offices that have been struggling the most, we've found that the reliance of outdated marketing tactics has seemed to be the thorn in their side.

Dr. W. Huckabee of North Houston has stated in an interview with us that "My practice is about 60 days from selling to a competing office in the area. I can't find a way to get new customers, and I'm getting too old to keep up with trying new things. I'd rather enjoy something of a retirement than keep trying to do more of what isn't seeming to work."

This seems to be much of the sentiment shared by many in similar situations.

Those that responded to our questions that are still also in their prime working years are considering working within medical networks in their areas at emergency rooms, or at other private practices that aren't owned by them, while some are considering an early retirement.

Medicine is not as much of a guarantee of making a good living as it once was if you're sticking to the means of old.

To get ahead in this economy, it requires being catchy, and connecting with your local area on an individual basis.

Growing a practice seems to be best done digitally in 2023.

If you are a medical practitioner, or own a medical office and would like to reach out for comment, please call (724) 640-3475 or email us at info@ascensiondigital.org