Doctor Marketing: Patients Are Always Judging You

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Surgeon's facial expressionIt doesn’t happen as often these days, but from time to time we find ourselves in a discussion with a practitioner who confidently declares that they have no need for “doctor marketing,” much less any need for a health care advertising agency.

The back-story in each conversation varies, but we often discover that their mindset against physician marketing holds a fear that, if they promote themselves or their practice, their peers will judge them as being less than professional, and/or the public will judge them as being needy or greedy.

These fears about doctor marketing may be more imagined than real. But if that’s what they believe, their perception becomes the reality. (We’ve written on this topic previously, including Stewart’s post titled: Is It True That 0nly “Bad Doctors” Market?)

In response, we offer a different perspective about healthcare marketing and branding…one that is often convincing in its simplicity. That is: You are being judged by virtually everything you do. Your brand—in effect your professional reputation—is influenced by all that you say and do. The public is judging you by even the smallest of ways.

An exceptionally insightful and articulate post by Dr. Bryan Vartabedian brought this home to us again recently. Perhaps he wasn’t writing about physician branding or doctor marketing per se, but we think his article, Physicians and Public Judgment, is relevant. He writes:

“My patients judge me before they see me.  They judge me from the moment I extend my hand.  They judge me when I talk to them on the phone.  Or when I fail to talk to them on the phone right when I should.  At the coffee shop, in the lobby, at the Y, at stoplights, during dialog after an endoscopy and on Twitter I’m judged.

“Some physicians don’t want to be judged. ‘It’s my right to be free. I’ve got to be me,’ they say. ‘Don’t judge me on a picture or a Tweet.’  The trend toward transparency coupled with the unbridled capacity to publish has created a digital libertarian sentiment among some of us. We want it all ways.

“But, right or wrong, as a physician you are judged.  Hopefully in the context of our modern communities we will be judged fairly.”

Depending on who you ask—and the perspective they hold—physician marketing can have many definitions. These can include branding to advertising to “image” and professional reputation. As we see it, the prudent approach is for doctor marketing to mean, in part, directing your own message.

As a note of disclosure, we have not met Dr. Vartabedian, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine. We judge him, sight unseen, by his perceptive and intelligent blog, 33 charts.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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