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December 3, 2018

Faster, Sooner

Founded in 1946, Emery Air Freight quickly came to dominate the ‘freight forwarding’ business.  By 1964 its revenues were greater than its four next largest competitors combined.  The stock price traded at 40 times earnings.

In the early 1970’s as Emery was expanding globally, the world was changing – airline deregulation, rising fuel prices, a major economic slump, and a guy named Fred Smith.

We all know the story by now.  Smith’s C+ term paper at Yale was the genesis of what would become the FedEx business plan.  Launched in 1971, Federal Express as it was then known begin buying a fleet of Memphis, Tennessee-based aircraft. 

Mr. Smith and FedEx saw a market opportunity and were squarely focused on the frustrations of the shippers of small packages that needed them delivered quickly. Nothing better personified that differentiated strategy than the 1979 tagline, ‘When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.’

The rest is history. FedEx is worth $60 billion today; Emery was sold in 1989 for a paltry $478 million.

For independent practices wondering how they take on the giant health systems, you might consider stealing a page from the FedEx playbook.  Increasingly, speed matters.  Specifically, how fast a patient can get an appointment.

A recent consumer survey notes that once you get past the obvious ‘insurance accepted’ and ‘relevant clinical experience’ criteria, the most important factor when picking a new provider is ‘appointment availability.’  Four out of five cite this as a key factor in their decision making.  60% said that even after they booked their appointment, they kept searching another provider in case someone could get them in sooner…millennials are even less patient patients as 80% of them continued to look for a better (that is, sooner) appointment.

So, you don’t have the advantages of the big hospital? Their employed PCPs are redirecting their referrals away from your practice to other employed physicians?  Yep, those are substantial headwinds.  But you have an incredible advantage – agility – that the big systems can’t even spell, much less execute on. 

Take your agility and solve this problem: figure out how to get patients, both new and established, in quickly.  Tomorrow, if not today, is the right answer.  Then make that message central to your marketing.

Bonus fact: With all that is happening with technology-based patient engagement tools, still 62% of survey respondents said they prefer to book their appointment by phone because it is faster and more personalized. 

There.  There is a path to differentiation.  Go do it.

Tim Coan
Tim Coan

CEO and founder

Tim Coan, ALN’s CEO, writes an insightful and witty blog weekly about a variety of topics relevant to independent physician practices.