I get asked a lot by friends and acquaintances how to lose weight, how to manage their disease, how to achieve better health, etc. I’m sure every medical professional is solicited this way, wherein we provide free health coaching advice with some potential risk and minimal reward.
I shared my story on this blog before when a friend had me palpate her enlarged lymph node at a bar, while I was drunk. I dismissed it at the time and it turned out to be a lymphoma.
Helping family and friends is sort of frowned upon my state medical boards and usually there is something in the Medical Practice Act which discourages a physician to be a resource for others outside of their practice setting.
I have been throwing around lots of ideas in my head to figure out how I can recover from my recent medical board troubles. I’m not employable, not even as a per diem physician because of what’s been accumulating on my professional license record – and the list is growing.
Opening my own practice is an option and I’m not ruling that out. A small urgent care with basic services would do great in most cities. There are a few hurdles to overcome, but they seem minor.
Another option has been to sell my expertise rather than give it away for free. The reason I think that there is a market for this is because people are willing to spend money for information, when they get desperate enough. One such potential is being a health coach.
Free medical advice
I love medicine despite the shit I’ve had to deal with trying to practice it. I have toyed with the idea of having a patient oriented blog, talking about chronic diseases and how to live with them, how to manage them, etc.
As a physician I am held liable for any information I disseminate, especially when geared towards patients.
Free medical advice isn’t effective because it’s general advice and will hardly apply to each and every individual. And most will take free information for granted.
My buddy is down to 260 lbs after losing 60. He did this by paying a personal trainer $2,000/month who told him to exercise every day and control his portions. This is the same conversation him and I have had routinely for the past 10 years. The difference is that my advice was free and the personal trainer’s is $$$.
There are more health coaches than lawyers. The market is saturated with them and most can’t even pay for their website hosting.
But as a physician I have a definite advantage in this marketplace. Health related interventions are just more believable when it comes from a doctor than someone who got some online health coach certificate.
Ironically, laypersons will make better health coaches than most physicians. My buddy is in his 60’s and he’s ripped and lean and knows everything there is to know about diet and exercise. He barely finished high school but knows more about it than myself.
The need for health coaching is there. Whether it’s looking for a nutritionist, a dietician, a personal trainer, for the sake of weight loss, more energy, or getting back into shape.
Every marketing book I have read emphasizes niche marketing – focusing on a particular group rather than targeting the entire population.
You narrow down your potential market and make advertising cheaper which allows you to create more targeted marketing material.
It would make sense for me to advertise to patients with chronic diseases who are trying to get into better shape or come off of their medications.
Also, those who have recently been diagnosed with a chronic disease will be most eager to want to make major changes.
- New onset diabetic or an executive with a recent heart attack.
- A woman with recent MS diagnosis.
- A patient with new COPD or CHF diagnosis who is otherwise active.
- A deconditioned post-op patient.
- Obese professional who wants to get into bikini shape.
Marketing and advertising aren’t the same thing but let’s focus on the task of actually getting my services out there.
I could advertise to concierge medical groups. I could post on community wallboards. I could advertise on YouTube blogs which cater to patients with specific diseases.
Word of mouth is huge in such aesthetic businesses. One person tells another and soon I’ll have multiple interested parties. Which means that my customer results have to be walking billboards for me.
The business model is more important than the business you are in. In the health coaching business, will I be selling health or a body image?
As a physician health coach, my business model would dictate whether I’ll be charging individuals a monthly fee or an hourly consulting fee.
I could sell them a package for several weeks to help them achieve a certain health goal. Or I could also sell them an individualized health routine in form of a video.
I could also provide a group service such as access to a membership-only website where they can learn everything they need to in order to manage a particular disease.
The next step is to figure out if I want to find clients all over the US or only locally. The latter would allow me to make medication adjustments if needed.
I have no idea what will work and what won’t but I can make adjustments on the fly. My customers will help me figure this out.
I will likely start this business with one particular business model in mind and realize that there is a totally different need which I wasn’t even aware of.
Unlike a coffee shop or primary care clinic, health coaching by a physician doesn’t have a proven model. There is no society-accepted method of delivering this service.
Will customers look for physical results?
Will they accept changes in their lab values?
Because this market doesn’t exist outside of concierge medicine, I can experiment wildly. This part is very exciting because it’s something I enjoy.
My #1 question
My #1 question which I’ve been asking myself whenever I start a new project is: “Would I do this for free?”.
If you enjoy what you do then you can’t call it work. If you’re engaged in activities which you’re excited about, it’s not a job, it’s just fun.
Yes, I would love to do this even if I didn’t make any money from it. I would enjoy:
- Meeting new people
- Helping someone with my knowledge
- Learning more about alternative medicine
- Improving my clinical skills
- Improving my entrepreneurial skills
- Potentially hiring employees and helping my community
This is how I got the green light from myself to go ahead with this business. What’s the worst thing that can happen?
Going straight to step 10
Many entrepreneurs have 10+ steps outlined just to get to an MVP.
Each of these steps can lead to more doubt. Instead, it often makes sense to go straight to the last step and just start the business with the ideas you already came up with. Test the business model.
The steps which could be skipped at first are:
- create a website
- get a business license
- create advertisement flyers or adwords
- write a business plan
- research weight loss and diet and exercise routines
My strategy is to go straight to marketing myself and my services through word of mouth.
I will tell each and every one of my friends that I am now offering medical health coaching and provide them with a list of services I provide.
Next, I’ll let the market determine the price and get a few dry runs under my belt. Armed with this information, I can decide how I want to fine tune my business model and my public profile.
I’m not too worried about the revenue stream. Though I’m a huge believer in the Profit First concept, I’m also not jonesing for money.
I want to be flexible because it’s more important to me that I capture my first few clients. These will be my ambassadors, free advertisement for life.
I’m comfortable generating side-income from other gigs until I get this thing off the ground. I’ll continue with consulting and selling my products on this blog.