One of the challenges for new practice owners is deciding who their ideal patient is. Most Nurse Practitioners don’t want to focus on a particular group of patients. They feel confined by the concept of the “ideal patient.”
What is the “ideal patient?” It’s a virtual person that represents the people you want to work with. Shared traits of the ideal patient may include age, health challenges, location or any other number of characteristics; you decide.
Some Nurse Practitioners view the ideal patient concept as discriminatory. Others feel that implementing the concept would limit their practice far too much. After all, they are health care providers, and health care doesn’t discriminate or exclude.
In a perfect world, perhaps; but the one we live in is far from perfect. However, that’s a different discussion for another time.
I believe the ideal patient concept is neither discriminatory nor is it limiting to your practice. On the contrary, there are compelling reasons why you want to pay attention to the “ideal customer” concept.
Do You Want To Help Everybody?
Of course, you do. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to help everybody through the work you do:
- From infants to children.
- From adults to seniors.
- From people with diabetes to those with heart conditions.
- From people with cancer to those with mental illness.
This list represents a wide spread of potential health concerns and problems. And you’re probably thinking: “Wait a minute! All these people have totally different medical needs.”
Trying to help everybody is challenging…
You wouldn’t think of “throwing everybody in one pot” and treating them the same. The same medical treatments, the same medications, the same psychological and emotional support.
No, of course, you wouldn’t. It just wouldn’t make any sense!
Yet when it comes to identifying your ideal patient and marketing your practice, you apply a different set of parameters.
You want to serve everybody because you’re afraid of excluding somebody.
I totally understand where you’re coming from. But identifying your “ideal patient” is not about exclusion.
On the contrary; it’s about focusing on a group of people so you can help them even better. In the process, everybody benefits… your patients, your practice, and you.
Benefits Of The Ideal Patient Concept
Let’s look at the reasons why the ideal patient concept benefits everyone.
In Your Marketing:
- It’s much easier to focus your marketing on your “ideal patient,” so that you can “attract” that type of person to your clinic.
- Compare that to marketing to a broad group of potential patients, all with different medical needs. It’s far more difficult to market and attract a variety of patients to your office because everyone has different priorities and needs. Your office needs to be in a position to address all these problems and ultimately solve them.
- You can’t dial in your marketing message. When you talk to everyone, your marketing message gets diluted, and you end up talking to no one. But when you talk to your “ideal patient” you can craft a targeted and effective marketing message that directly speaks to them.
- Every person has different problems and different needs: they will only hear what is important and has meaning to them. However, people dealing with similar problems are looking for similar solutions that your clinic can provide to them.
In Your Clinical Practice:
- It’s easier and less expensive to create a clinic environment that works for a specific population rather than one that works for everyone.
- For example…
- The elderly need different chairs and equipment than a five-year-old
- Various medical conditions call for specialized equipment that you’ll only use every once in a while. For example, a bariatric patient needs a special scale and other equipment not required for other patients.
- It’s challenging to prepare for every type of patient and their medical needs. If you have a clear focus on what you will and will not treat in your office, this becomes less of a problem.
- Different age groups have different medical needs and problems.
- Preventive services are different depending on the target group or population you choose to serve.
Non-Primary Care Setting…
The concept of the “ideal patient or customer” is particularly important when you rely on your own efforts to bring in new patients to your clinic.
Let’s say you operate a specialty, dermatology practice. You elected not to work with insurance companies and don’t get referrals from them. You are solely relying on your own marketing efforts to fill your practice.
If your marketing message is too vague and unclear, you’ll have a difficult time attracting the right (any) patients to your practice. You might as well throw your marketing dollars out the window because the net effect will be the same: You’ll be spending a lot of money without getting anything in return.
In the Primary Care Setting…
But what if your clinic provides primary care services and accepts insurance reimbursement? If that’s you, you’re probably thinking: “Well, that’s all fine and good, but it doesn’t apply to me.”
Hold on, not so fast…
The goal of the “ideal patient” concept is not to exclude, but to provide superior services to the people you choose to work with.
If your clinic is a primary care clinic, naturally you will see all types of patients, most ages, and many different health challenges. But even so, you probably have established some parameters, realizing you cannot handle everything in your clinic.
So regardless, the ideal patient concept also applies to the primary care setting. If you are clear about who your ideal patient is, over time you tend to attract this type of person to your office.
Let’s say you operate a primary care clinic and you enjoy working with patients taking responsibility for their health.
However, every day you see many different people, all with varying attitudes about their health. But you particularly like working with your “health aware” patients; because they are doing their part as much as you are doing yours.
When you’re clear about whom you enjoy working with, it is easier to market, because your marketing message will be clear and dialed in.
On the one hand, your marketing efforts speak to health-conscious patients and attract them into your office. On the other hand, the same marketing message will not resonate with the person who has no interest in taking responsibility for their health.
Over time, these patients tend to move one. They will look to get care from someone who is more “in tune” with their own thinking.
Time to Reconsider?
While the “ideal patient” concept may have felt foreign at first, I hope you can see how beneficial it can be.
When you start to think in terms of your “ideal patient,” you gain clarity and can fine tune your marketing. Over time you’ll find yourself talking more and more to the people you want to attract to your clinic.
What do you think about this concept? Does it resonate with you?
Please let us know by leaving a comment below.
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.“