I enjoy seeing patients in person – or at least I did in the past. I’m ready for something new, and I’m putting more effort than ever before into building an online medical business. Here is what I’ve learned and what has worked and hasn’t worked.
I’ve spent thousands on attorneys, consultants, coaches, web designers, programmers, web hosting, and everything else you can imagine to get here. I’ll make it brief so you can see what might be relevant to you. Grab a bottle; here we go.
Healthcare Makes Money
There is 100% zero doubt that healthcare makes money. People are willing to pay for health related knowledge, support, and clinical care, whether in-person or from an online practice. o
Healthcare can be acupuncture, reading films, replacing a hip, advising on which test to order, interpreting studies, prescribing weight loss medications, or guiding someone through menopause.
It’s for you to decide if you want to service the patient, the physician, the medical group, the entrepreneur, the investor, the regulator, or countries. Yes, countries! Who do you think they turn to when they want to implement a new healthcare law?
Generalist Get Slaughtered
I’m unsure why this is; if you have some insight, comment below. But if you’re a generalist, you kind of get taken advantage of. General Derm, General Ortho, General Psych – perhaps the more common you are, the less value you have.
So, let’s play hard to get. There is value in moving up the pyramid of expertise. From a Generalist to Specialist to Expert to Authority on a topic.
As a generalist, you kind of get taken advantage of.
The authority on a topic is the person who can teach it to others and can successfully deliver on a promise to a patient. The model of prescribing meds and waiting to hear back from a patient is outdated and only works in our obscure insurance-based system.
This is the main reason that virtual medical practices are earning a lot of revenue and attracting more patients.
What Makes for an Expert?
I’m a Heart Health expert. Did you know that? Family medicine, you ask? Yes, so what? I’ve been busting my ass reading everything there is to know about cardiovascular medicine. And, by the way, there is no legal stamp that knights you an expert.
When I owned an auto mechanic shop, I had a mechanic who was a gear differential expert. Why was he an expert? Because he knew more about rear ends than Sir Mix-a-Lot!
So, what would make you an authority on the topic? You’d have to be the expert to whom other experts turn for advice, or your content is what everyone else copies.
That makes me an Expert here on DNP! I’ve had my content copied, plagiarized, imitated, and recreated plenty of times. I’m flattered!
Creating Interactive Content
We are a culture accustomed to fiddling with our keyboards and phones. We are willing to learn and make changes through an online medical business, but it has to be engaging. It’s kind of like the way food has to taste good, or material has to feel nice on the skin before putting it on.
Online courses are a great place to start. They allow you to reach a certain course to a group that’s reproducible and consistent.
The online course creates an online community with which you can interact. I do that on my own online courses – replying to comments and answering questions certain hours of the week.
This community and online course allows you to sell individual coaching or virtual clinical consults. This becomes your virtual medical business. You generate income from the clinical consults (the patient visits), but the backbone is patient engagement and education.
The Legal Issues
Coaching is different from offering clinical consults. When you create an online course, you must ensure you’re not giving individual medical advice. Not hard; just have to watch the way you say stuff. Need help? Check out the legal resource article I wrote.
There are business entity decisions, patient contracts, policies and procedures, and a few other documents needed to ensure you’re doing things well. Any halfway decent attorney can draw these up for you well under $10k and often well under $5k. As you grow, you can modify these.
Building an online medical business isn’t rocket science – it’s been done by others successfully over and over. The best way to start is to imitate someone else’s success and go from there.
My online courses used to make me a lot of money. I’ve turned my attention away and focused more on individual consults. This was the wrong move for me.
My online courses were selling really well. I took down everything because I was worried about the medical board coming after me again. Then, I realized that unhitching myself from clinical medicine is exactly what I need to do!
You create the online course once, you interact with it a few times a week, it sells itself by creating a sales funnel, and you sell your coaching or engage in patient-doctor relationships with potential patients.
Brick & Mortar Medical Practice
Perhaps you prefer to have a physical medical business – you don’t want to deal with the mumbo jumbo of virtual reality. Well, your online medical business is the best source for feeding patients to your physical practice. It’s also a place where you get to experiment with advertising.
You can decide whom to advertise to. Using Google Ads you can choose the exact demographics and only advertise to patients located in Manhattan or Long Beach.
But also, if you build your virtual medical practice and one day decide that you’re popular enough that you want to build a physical clinic, you have the perfect platform to announce that.
Virtual Medical Practice
I built up my Virtual Primary Care practice backward – I searched for patients to become clients to whom I could then sell online courses and other digital content.
I should be creating digital content to sell and attract the ideal patients after they have completed my online course. They will already be familiar with my philosophy and will be part of my online community.
For the dermatologist, it might be about acne management, and for the orthopedist, it might be injury prevention or rehabilitation or second medical opinions.
I despise supplements almost as much as I despise pharmaceutical drugs. But, but …. there are patients who benefit from certain supplements. If you want to be that loser Integrative or Functional Medicine doctor who puts everyone on Mag and Vitamin K2 or your proprietary blend of money butt extract, please just fuck off right now. Turn off my site and go listen to Dr. Oz.
But, if you really want to help patients, you can find a niche population such as elderly & frail or postmenopausal women or men with actual hypogonadism and develop a transparent formulation of supplements and a proper lifestyle intervention.
Sure, if your supplement package is super successful in the future go ahead and package it up into one mega suppository and now you can call it your own supplement or formula. But I don’t believe in having a secret, proprietary blend. It just doesn’t sit well with me and it should not be the backbone of a thriving online medical business.
I charge $500 per hour for my Heart Health coaching and $100/mo per patient for my virtual DPC practice. And I never took patient engagement seriously until now.
Patient engagement is basically making sure that you don’t lose the customer in the hustle and bustle of information. When they get overwhelmed, they will naturally drop off.
The disadvantage of a physical practice is that it’s chaotic and hard to track down a patient. In an online practice I can email, text, leave an audio message, or video chat with a patient and ask them to update me on their progress.
If they fell off the physical therapy bandwagon or they aren’t rubbing monkey butt oil on their acne scars every night – why? Are they having pain? Monkey butt oil too expensive? How can I intervene and get them engaged?
Marketing Your Content
Marketing is the most time consuming part because it has a steep learning curve. It’s still something we have to learn as online medical business owners, but we don’t have to do it.
I’ve found markets for me through word of mouth. Some are cheap, some quite expensive. Some you never hear from again after you pay them, and some pester you to hell and back.
Just like there is no perfect physician for all patients, there is no perfect markets for all virtual practice owners; it’s important to experiment and know what you expect from them.
My expectation is that my sales go up as long as I hold up my end of the bargain. I couldn’t care less how many extra clicks I had on my site. I don’t care how many new email subscribers I collect if my sales don’t reflect it!
Offering Free Information
A big part of online presence is giving information for free. You’re getting free information from me right now. And some of you will not want to read it or all the other articles I linked – you have better things to do.
Those who have the time but not the money will read every tidbit and learn everything they need to learn. Those who have the money but not the time will click on the Consult link on the top right of the website and book a $250/hr session with me.
The basic information you can give away for free. The tips and tricks of implementation you can keep for yourself and share with your paid clients.