Improve financial footing with these six tips


Deirdre O’Boyle Hooper, MD

Beyond the important work of caring for patients, dermatologists must also make the running of their business a priority. When physicians fall short in managing their finances, employees, and processes, the ramifications can be far-reaching.

Deirdre O’Boyle Hooper, MD, shared strategies for branding one’s business by developing practice goals, creating staff incentives, and avoiding theft and financial mismanagement during her July 28 presentation, “Business Pearls for the Busy Dermatologist” (B011).

Dr. Hooper co-founded Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans, just after Hurricane Katrina. Along with her fellow dermatologist, the practice has 13 employees: two aestheticians, one product concierge, one biller, four front-desk employees, and five nurses and medical assistants. The dermatologists each treat about 150 patients a week each, and each aesthetician sees about 45 patients a week for a total of about 390 weekly patient visits.

“When we started our practice, we found most of our information through Google,” Dr. Hooper said. “Through 10 years of trial and error, we feel we’ve built a pretty good practice. We’ve gone through a lot of stumbling blocks, and we know a lot of women and men just like us who are struggling. That’s why I wanted to do this talk.”

She recognized that a big hurdle for dermatologists is finding time to manage the financial and human relations aspects efficiently and effectively.

“There are many aspects to each of these. It’s hard to begin,” Dr. Hooper said. “Doctors tend to be perfectionists, and, as we all know, perfect can be the enemy of good. What I hope we can do is give a few starting points from which you can build upon.”

She provided several tips to help dermatologists navigate the business of running their businesses:

  1. Lock down your brand: Write down key phrases that explain what your practice is about by describing the personality and tone of your practice.
  2. Consistently utilize your brand: Use it in marketing, such as in print materials and on your website, and when you communicate with staff. Doing so streamlines your marketing and employee communication efforts.
  3. Regularly set practice goals: By putting your goals in writing, you can create a budget, see where you can grow your business, and look at where you can spend and make money.
  4. Track your goals: Determine which areas you can build upon and which you should reduce.
  5. Incentivize your intelligence: Create incentives for your employees to do more of what you want them do and less of what you don’t want them to do.
  6. Distinguish financial responsibilities: People who have access to any sort of bill adjustments cannot have access to mail or cash, and people who have access to mail and cash cannot adjust bills in any way.

Dr. Hooper and her colleague set a goal doubling their filler business. In addition to marketing filler treatments to patients, they created slots in their schedule, which they held until a week before the appointment.

“Every month, we tracked and talked with our staff about how many fillers we were doing and where we were with the goal,” Dr. Hooper said.

Three years ago, Audubon Dermatology replaced its annual employee bonus program, which gave all employees a check worth two weeks’ salary, with a quarterly incentive program with two components. The first half of the bonus is based on performance, rewarding employees with up to one-quarter of their weekly salary. The second half is based on patient purchases of products and treatments, rewarding employees with up to $500 in Audubon bucks to purchase products or services at cost. Employees even can gift half the value of their Audubon bucks to family members.

The new bonus program has helped Audubon weed out poor performing employees. Because both dermatologists work on Mondays and Wednesdays, they are their busiest days in the office, but they also were days when employees most frequently called in sick.

“Within one quarter of instituting the new bonus program, we had an 86 percent decrease in employees calling in sick,” Dr. Hooper said. “We also found that people who don’t make their bonuses are the employees we need to let go.”

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