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About Philippa Kennealy

 

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC is The Entrepreneurial MD Business Coach who wants to help you build your business!
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Friday
May252012

Death of a vision spurs entrepreneurial physician to dream anew

Most physicians graduate medical school, or later from our residencies, our heads and hearts filled with idealistic aspirations. We carry internal visions of what we hope to do with this hard-earned degree ... make a difference, do special work, earn the respect of our colleagues and love of our grateful patients...

What we didn't expect was how hard it would be to face the realities of starting a practice, developing our own following of patients or physician referrals, and making a living.

This shock was no different for Jeffrey Hartog MD - a South-African born plastic surgeon who started his career training as a dentist (we discovered we were classmates in South Africa for the one year that dentists and medical students trained together!) and went on to retrain several times as a maxillofacial and then plastic surgeon. His dream - to become a highly specialized pediatric cranio-facial expert.

Instead, he faced the reality of needing to support a growing family and setting his sights on new and different goals.

To indulge his entrepeneurial spirit, he built his own surgical clinic. To appease his restless spirit, he began several years ago to explore the newly-developing field of fat-grafting, resulting in the development of his own FDA-registered fat back, which he describes as follows:

Liquid Gold™ combines an FDA registered lipobanking with state-of-the-art techniques to produce lasting results for a broad range of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures

In this 18-minute podcast interview, I explore with Jeff the challenges and opportunities that being an entrepreneurial physician has dished up.

When you have finished listening to this interview podcast, please add your comments here.

Wednesday
May232012

Preventing physician burnout - is there a secret recipe? Part 1

The recently published Medscape's Physician Lifestyle Report: 2012 starts to tell the story of what it is to be a physician in the US today, beginning with an overall "happiness" rating.

Approximately 1 in 3 physicians -- both men and women -- rated themselves a 5 and 40% rated themselves a 4 (suggesting "pretty happy"). The average happiness score for physicians who responded was 3.96, which is on the cheerful side but not overwhelmingly happy. When looking at happiness ratings by specialist, the 5 happiest were rheumatologists (4.09), dermatologists (4.05), urologists (4.04), ophthalmologists (4.03), and emergency medicine physicians (4.01). The 3 least happy professionals were tied at 3.88: neurologists, gastroenterologists, and internists. The next unhappiest were oncologists, general surgeons, and plastic surgeons, all tied at 3.89.

(This is a link to the actual Physician Lifestyle Report by specialty in case you are interested!)
The results of a separate online survey released by the Physicians' Foundation in March 2012. According to the Foundation:  

Nearly 60% of physicians ages 40 and younger don't hold out much hope for American healthcare.

Among the 500 respondents, nearly a third (31%) said they were "highly pessimistic" about the future of the U.S. healthcare system. Another 26% characterized themselves as "somewhat" pessimistic. Four percent (4%) said they were "highly optimistic," and 18% claimed to be "somewhat" optimistic.
 
About a third of those who were pessimistic (34%) specifically cited the "new healthcare law/regulations" as the reason. But that proportion would come closer to half if those who provided responses such as "system is a mess," "distrust of government," "government intervention," and "Medicare is a mess and will only get worse" are added in. When asked specifically how the Affordable Care Act will impact their practice, 49% of all respondents -- those optimistic about the future of healthcare as well as the pessimists -- said the ACA will have a negative impact.
 
(Here too is this report).  
My guess is, with the younger generation of doctors experiencing this degree of pessimism, we're headed for widespread physician unhappiness, if not burnout!
 
In a couple of posts, I'll explore what it's will take to forestall this professional collapse, beginning today with insights into what happens to our brains when we're nearing burnout.
 
Dr Judy Willis is a neurologist-turned teacher and blogger who writes for one of my favorite sites, Edutopia (I have a secret passion for understanding what makes a child's education valuable!) and she has the following to say about our brains under stress:  
There are specific and reproducible patterns of changing neural activity and brain structures associated with stress. In the high-stress state, subject's scans reveal less activity in the higher brain and more activity in the lower brain that directs involuntary behaviors and emotional responses. Prolonged stress correlates with structural increases in the density and speed of the neuron-to-neuron connections in the emotion-driven reactive networks of the lower brain, and corresponding decreased connections in prefrontal cortex conscious control centers.
 
The explanation of these changes is generally attributed to the brain's neuroplasticity of "neurons that fire together, wire together." The brain literally rewires to be more efficient in conducting information through the circuits that are most frequently activated.
 
As you internalize your thwarted efforts to achieve your goals and interpret them as personal failure, your self-doubt and stress activate and strengthen your brain's involuntary, reactive neural networks. As these circuits become the automatic go-to networks, the brain is less successful in problem-solving and emotional control. When problems arise that previously would have been evaluated by the higher brain's reasoning, the dominant networks in the lower brain usurp control.  
I take this to mean that if your current default mode is a fried state of frazzle, you run the risk of this mindset becoming self-perpetuating.
 
Since physicians are smart and understand this kind of neuroscience lingo, I believe we can use this insight to come up with a toolbox of coping skills. 
 
In my next article, I'll gather together and then share some useful tips - think of them as success ingredients -- for your burnout prevention recipe!
Friday
May112012

Is it time to pull the plug on your physician business marketing activity?

I recall the day I finally summoned up the will to dump my almost-full box of 4-color glossy brochures, having recognized that I'd wasted a whole lot of money on design and printing. They were simply not bringing in any business, and were instead cluttering up a closet! Likewise, when rethinking my business identity and brand in 2006, I had to discard a prior website for which I had paid a fair amount and that was also not doing the job for me.

The learning curve to marketing success can be painful and expensive! It's why I am so insistent, when starting a coaching engagement with an entrepreneurial physician or a physician who is becoming more business-minded that we map out a realistic marketing strategy up front, rather than as an after thought.
 
Recognizing that your marketing efforts, while they might look or feel good, aren't producing the goods is difficult. We get attached to routines and to our "brainchildren" - the clever things we have spent hours dreaming up as ways to promote the business. Letting go sounds like failure - which in many cases it is. Not a failure of YOU, but a failure of this one effort -- let's get a sense of perspective here!
 
While that may sound harsh, really effective marketing is about measuring the results of your efforts. This may take the form of surveys, focus groups, simply keeping track of where your business is coming from (mine is still >75% from the web!), using a few basic tools and tricks to figure out how your latest client or patient got to you (have a systematized way to try ASKING asking that patient or client), or applying some sophisticated marketing metrics to your efforts - although I am not a whiz at the latter!
 
So, to stay in integrity with this message, it's time for me to evaluate the effectiveness of this newsletter that I have sending out almost every month for five and a half years. While I enjoy writing and reaching out, I too need to be razor sharp about how I spend my time and my company's money.
 
I've created a simple survey to answer the question Is writing this newsletter each month worth my time? Is there an "opportunity cost" associated with it? (in other words - could the time I spend thinking about the content and then writing it and having my assistant set it up to go out be better spent, perhaps on other forms of marketing, on personal time or on getting income another way?)
 
Would you please answer 6 simple questions in this short survey (it should take less than 5 minutes) to help me craft my communication strategy and figure out how best to use my time while staying in touch? I truly appreciate your input!
 

Click here for the survey.

 
Thank you for your willingness to help me out here. 
Tuesday
May082012

This CEO enables physician collaboration via your "virtual back office line"

How many steps does it take you to reach your referring physician colleague to give feedback regarding your recent consultation with his or her patient? Do you have to dictate a letter that must get into the hands of the physician? Must you have your staff get him or her on the phone? 

What is involved in finding an expert who can quickly answer your pressing clinical question while the patient is still in your office? How do you find that expert, and then actually reach him or her?

And, most importantly, how much productive time are these activities costing you each week or a month, as a result of this effort? 

Jeff Tangney is out to transform your experience and return hours of time to you, using the connective power of technology.

As a co-founder of Epocrates, he saw firsthand what having "power in your pocket" looks like - instantly available information that a physician can look up in a moment, to ensure the best care.

This got him wondering about the other transformative powers of mobile technology.

What if you were able to access the intelligence and years of experience of a group of physicians, with a few taps on your mobile?

How would physicians be able to use mobile technology to collaborate? And what was needed to rapidly connect with a referring physician or specialist to who you'd like to refer a patient, or get a quick curbside consultation?

To respond to this perceived need, Jeff Tangney founded Doximity, one of the fastest growing physician networks. Not only is the company thriving, but Jeff has a vision of how networks like his can help sustain the professional freedom that we physicians have come to appreciate and value as necessary to provide the best patient care possible, despite the increasing "corporatization" of medical practice.

Listen to my 20-minute conversation with Jeff and then please add your comments here.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Friday
May042012

Could You Turn Your Medical Knowledge to Copywriting?

It's easy to see why so many physicians contemplating a non-clinical business or career change feel a sense of nervous excitement and apprehension about branching out on their own. After all, you've put a ton of time into becoming this highly-trained professional, and being a doctor could be all you've ever known.
Starting your own non-clinical business can be a nerve-wracking experience. Perhaps you're wanting to get out of clinical practice but are still looking for that "perfect" business idea to take to the next level. Thankfully, there are many non-clinical career options that will not only let you get a taste of the world of business, but also allow you to put your medical knowledge to good use.
 
One great example of such a business is copywriting. There is currently a significant demand for copywriters with deep insights into healthcare - from hospitals and medical start-ups that need website content, to private research firms and surgery insurance firms.  All sectors of healthcare need technical, scientific and promotional materials.
 
Let's start by looking at what medical copywriting is, and how you could turn your current knowledge into a new revenue-generating career.
 
What is medical copywriting?
 
Copywriting, if you don't already know, is the process of writing words to promote a product or service. Whenever you read an ad anywhere, it's very likely that a copywriter has had a hand in writing it. They are the custodians of the written word in advertising, ensuring that all text content (or copy, as it's known) is accurate, grammatically correct, and that it works conceptually. Don't worry if you don't think you're a great fiction writer; being a copywriter is driven by facts (or at least, making those facts sound as appealing as possible).
Medical copywriting is a more technical discipline, sometimes crossing the boundary into technical writing (another writing-based profession). Consider it to be a subset of medical communications. Most medical copywriters spend time describing devices or various effects of medications, possible side effects, chemical composition, and more. This factual non-poetic writing demands concise, clear factual writing and it's easy to see why those with a solid medical background can find success in this field.
 
How easy is it to transition into medical copywriting?
 
Pharma is an industry that continues to grow. Unlike others that have been negatively affected by an economic downturn, drug companies have tended to thrive - because people always need drug therapies in one form or another. This is great news for a medical copywriter or someone looking to enter such a role. There are many medical copywriter needs in the market, so it's likely that demand outstrips supply - someone with the right qualifications and writing experience can step in and take on the role. Even if you don't feel your writing skills are up to scratch, there are employers who would be happy to offer training in exchange for the right knowledge. As a former physician, you should be able to display this level of knowledge with no problem.
 
Tips for good medical copywriting
 
There is a large divide between 'regular' copywriting and the medical stuff. The language must always be accurate and factual, using medical jargon appropriately, and should not be overtly promotional. This latter difference marks a large separation from the copy you read in typical ads. Whereas regular copy will make promises of benefits to the consumer, a medical copywriter needs to use more measured terms. For example, rather than saying a product will 'cure' a medical condition, the copywriter may choose to say that it relieves symptoms. These clarifications are far more important with medical writing.
 
So now you're asking 'what are the next steps?'
 
The first step is to create a portfolio of writing. This may mean offering to write copy for free for a while. Some aspiring copywriters start blogs, to communicate their writing style, practice writing and market themselves for future positions or freelance projects. Consider joining the AMWA (American Medical Writers Association) - they offer training programs. Or sign up for a certificate program (google "medical copywriting certificate program"). One of your biggest challenges down the line will be to find clients or employers; with a solid clinical background, you should have no problem convincing someone that you're up to the task of the actual writing. Your job as a self-marketer is to persuade your audience that you are worth the investment. After you've got your first gig, simply rinse and repeat. You might just find that medical copywriting was right for you all along! Good luck!