How to Increase Patient Referrals and Bring Value to Your Physician Customers

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Do you know what it takes for a specialist physician to properly develop patient referral patterns?  Helping physicians market and grow their practices is one of the very few ways industry reps can truly bring value to their physician customers.  Mary Pat Whaley is here to help us understand how to partner with specialist physicians in order to increase patient referrals.

Who is Mary Pat Whaley?

Increase Patient Referrals

Mary Pat Whaley is the Founder and CEO of Manage My Practice, LLC.  Since 2008, she has provided healthcare managers, executives and providers the resources and information they need to drive excellence in their organizations. Mary Pat has over 25 years of experience in managing physician practices of all sizes and specialties in the private and public sectors.  She is Board Certified in Medical Practice Management and a Fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives.

Interview Highlights with Mary Pat Whaley

  • The largest challenges that medical practices face on a daily basis.  Interesting side note: did you know that 25-30% of every dollar is owed by the patient and NOT the insurance company!
  • Why vendors and industry reps need to completely understand reimbursement.  Hint: a rudimentary knowledge won’t suffice.
  • Practical steps vendors and industry reps can take to help physicians build and market their practices.
  • Why physicians don’t understand the need to market their practices and what it takes to overcome this mindset.
  • And much, much more!

This Is What You Can Do Next

1) You can listen to the interview with Mary Pat Whaley right now:

2) You can also download the mp3 file of the interview by clicking here.

3) Don’t forget – you can listen to this interview and all of the other Medsider interviews via iTunes.  And if you get a chance, leave us an honest rating and review on iTunes. It really helps out.

4) Read the following transcripts from my interview with Mary Pat Whaley.  Also, feel free to download the transcripts by clicking here.

Read the Interview with Mary Pat Whaley

Scott Nelson:       Hey everyone, it’s Scott Nelson. Just a few quick messages before we get started. First, as a reminder, Medsider is on iTunes. Just do an iTunes search for Medsider and you can subscribe to the podcast for free. That way, all the new interviews will automatically download to your iTunes account. It’s super-easy. Also, if you like the podcast, don’t forget to rate it. That really helps us out.  A couple of other ways you could follow Medsider, subscribe to our email newsletter, like us on Facebook or join our LinkedIn group.

Second, since 2005 my friend Ryan Gray has been helping thousands of medical sales professionals keep an edge on the competition. He gathered a team of sales managers and top sales reps to discover the best ideas and practices that drive more business and yield the most commissions. Their findings are highlighted in the number one medical sales book of all time, the Medical Sales Desk Reference. You can find the Medical Sales Desk Reference at or go to Ryan’s website at That’s V-E-N-D-E-S-I-G-R-O-U-P dot com. And here’s your program.

Hello everyone, it’s Scott Nelson and welcome to Medsider, home for ambitious medical device upstarts. This is a program where I interview a mix of experienced and dynamic medical device or med tech mentors so we can all learn a few things, and hopefully there’s some entertainment value along the way. So without further ado, our guest on the program today is Mary Pat Whaley. She is the founder and CEO of Manage My Practice, which she started back in 2008, I believe. She is a veteran in the healthcare industry with over 25-plus years of healthcare practice management experience. She’s also a speaker, a writer, and plays some contract/interim management roles through her company Manage My Practice. So Mary, thanks a lot for taking some time out of your schedule to join us on the call today.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Thanks for inviting me, Scott.

Scott Nelson:       I’m really looking forward to the conversation, and hopefully the audience gets some real value out of what you bring to the table. So what I’d like to do is talk a little bit about what you’re doing at Manage My Practice and learn how you got to be where you are today, and then most of the interview I’d like to focus on how the medical device and med tech industry…what role we can play in helping physicians market and promote and build their practices. So, for example, if my medical device is a new way to treat diabetes, and I’ve got a new device and I’m selling to a specialist, how can I help this specialist further build their practice by educating their referral community? That’s kind of a general of kind of where I’d like to go. So if that’s okay with you, let’s start with learning a little bit more about your company, Manage My Practice.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Okay. I started my blog three years ago and it really was just something that I had envisioned as being, oh, something that might give me a revenue stream in my retirement.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    I didn’t ever think that in three years it would grow to be what it is today. I actually became addicted to blogging and found that I fell in love with everything that surrounds blogging, the actual writing but also all the people that you meet and all the wonderful contacts that you make through publishing a blog. So it started out as sort of a long-term project, and then started to really pick up some steam. I felt like there really wasn’t anything for whether you call them practice administrators, healthcare executives. There are all kinds of different titles that people have in our field, but there wasn’t any place for them to truly get information and resources that’s free. Everything you had to pay to belong to.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And so I really started out wanting to provide information to people that do what I do, especially on technology. I’m a little bit of a technology geek and, as you probably know, traditionally, healthcare or physicians [laughs] predictably have been considered luddites and not really very technology-savvy and certainly the doctors.

Scott Nelson:       Sure.

Mary Pat Whaley:    So I really wanted to write about what was going on in technology, what I saw coming in technology and what I felt was going to absolutely swamp people in healthcare [00:05:06] who are managing practices. And it is. We are getting swamped with all the different government programs and all the different requirements and audits and so on and so forth.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    This year, I decided to move away—I had been actually working full-time as a practice manager during the time that I was writing for my blog and doing some speaking and doing some writing for other publications, and I at this point said it’s just too much and more it’s like I have two full-time jobs.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    So I made the decision to move into consulting and speaking, paid writing and interim contract management.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. So this is a perfect example of something that you started. Didn’t really necessarily have a solid idea of where you wanted to go but it was kind of an outlet for you, and three years later, in a relatively short amount of time, you’ve garnered quite a following. That’s interesting.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Exactly. I think part of it has to do with certainly the access to information, and part of it I think has to do with my voice, which is the voice of everybody out there trying to keep up with everything, especially in private physician practice, but I don’t really see a delineation between employed physicians and independent physicians. I think everybody is struggling.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    I also started speaking to different companies that wanted some insider knowledge about approaching physicians and working with physicians to help them market their practices and to help companies understand what the workplace is like, the environment, what the workflow is like. I don’t that a lot of vendors don’t really have, other than the lunch period or the breakfast or the cocktail party period, don’t really have a good snapshot view of what goes on in the practice and kind of what the dynamics are there.

Scott Nelson:       Yeah.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And without that information, sometimes it’s hard to make decisions how to really interact with physicians.

Scott Nelson:       Right, and I’ve actually long thought that that should actually be a component in sort of any training process, from an industry standpoint, is we should be trained and we should know and learn more about how these physician practices are run typically, you know? Just even a barebones knowledge, I think that would be extremely helpful. So in regard to you mentioned that you stepped away from a full-time role as a healthcare executive or a practice manager into kind of now more so playing a full-time role with Manage My Practice, what are your main buckets? Can you provide us with an overview there?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Sure. I have one book for sale on my site now and I have two more books coming out this summer.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Also, my son is in business with me. He is my COO, my partner in Manage My Practice, and he and I are resellers of Box, which is a cloud product, data storage, document storage product, and we overlay healthcare-specific application to the cloud storage that assists practices with organizing and storing of all the insurance paperwork, all the credentialing paperwork, all the personnel files, every bit of paper that is essentially not necessarily EMR-related, although medical device records can also be stored there as well.

And we’ve just started with this and already people are really excited about that. We have sponsorship on the site for vendors who [00:09:47] it’s not a real open system right now. I’m really being very careful about who advertises on the site because I feel like it is in essence an unspoken recommendation. And then, speaking and writing for a number of publications and contract management.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    We’re also moving into a place where we’re developing kind of a core group of service people that are very familiar with healthcare and can offer advice and services, websites, marketing and design, coding and billing, all those kinds of things.

Scott Nelson:       So basically any need or any problem that a medical practice would have, they can basically come to you? We’re talking anything from billing and reimbursement and coding to marketing to kind of administrative issues, etc. Is that correct? Am I kind of painting a…?

Mary Pat Whaley:    That’s correct.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Right, and it’s not something that I feel that I have the strength or the depth then that I can recommend or refer practice to somebody else.

Scott Nelson:       Sure. Okay. Okay. So in regard to the…I mean, I would imagine there’s a whole host of issues that you help to solve, but can you pinpoint one or two big things that you see or trends that you see with current medical practices that are coming to you and saying, “Mary, we’re really struggling with this,” or, “We’re really struggling with X,” etc.? What are the trends that you’re seeing?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Probably one of the biggest problems in most of the medical practices that I either work with or correspond with has to do with collecting money, but as opposed to what the problems were back in the ‘80s when I started, it was collecting money from insurance companies, that remains a problem, but one of the most intense areas is collecting money from patients. And having the technology and the assistance and knowing exactly what to collect from patients when they are in the office, at the time that they’re in the office, that they’re pre-procedure, pre-surgical, it used to be that just about anybody who would come to a private practice was insured. A lot of people were covered at 100% and there was very little concern about collecting from the patient. Now, 25 to 30% of every dollar owed to healthcare practice is owed by the patient.

Scott Nelson:       Hmm, no kidding. That’s a phenomenal stat. Thirty to 40% of every dollar that’s owed…

Mary Pat Whaley:    Twenty-five to 30.

Scott Nelson:       Oh, 25 to 30%—wow—that’s owed to healthcare practice is from the actual patient, not the insurance company. That’s fascinating.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Right. That’s a big deal because a lot of practices have not really learned the skills of talking to patients about money. As a matter of fact, in healthcare, it’s been kind of a touchy subject because nobody has wanted to [00:13:34] healthcare and physician practices as a business.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    It’s a calling, it’s a service, it’s an honor to help people and heal people. But as we know now, the truth is healthcare just can’t survive without being treated as a business. The money has to come from somewhere. So we see a lot of practices that need training the staff about how to talk with patients about money, where to talk with patients about money, when to talk with patients about money, how to communicate, and in particular, how to do it on the front end and not wait until the insurance pays and then send a bill to the patient, because that can be the kiss of death for as much as 75% of the dollars owed by patients.

A lot of patients, especially in surgical practices, have a sense that insurance has paid so much that if the physicians are trying to collect from them they’re just being greedy. They really don’t…the whole reimbursement thing is foreign to most people, and this would be one thing that I think vendors could really, really benefit from understanding, is kind of the big picture of reimbursement. I know a lot of them, there’s information about reimbursement for either procedures or utilization of testing machines, but it’s often not…we can’t really isolate one thing and say, “This is how much you can get reimbursed for this,” because everything is in context of everything else.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Everybody, we all could stand to know a lot more about insurance and reimbursement, and I would say that the majority of patients don’t understand their insurance plan and they look to the practices to be the experts.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And that’s a pretty tall order to fill.

Scott Nelson:       So I want to dig into this here in a little bit, after I ask you what other big problems that you see exist within medical practices. But while we’re on this topic of reimbursement, I hear you saying that, like from a vendor, from an industry, we need to understand reimbursement, but you’re saying we need to go a little bit deeper than that. Can you give me an example of how vendors could go deeper or what reimbursement value we could bring to the table that would actually be helpful to a practice?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Well, I think that understanding that it’s not just as straightforward as putting a CPT and ICD9 code on an insurance form and sending it out and expecting it will be paid.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    There’s so much more to the ifs and thens and the buts, and so just understanding the bigger picture of how the whole process works, how radically different it is for each different carrier or payer. And many times, payers have many different plans, so it’s really by plan or by employer.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    So I personally have the experience where a vendor came in and sold something to the physician and I got passed a piece of paper that said, “You just bought this. We’re going to start doing this and this is how the billing goes,” and just to follow through and find out, “Oh, well, no, [laughs] that didn’t actually work. We’re getting denials.” And then we have to kind of dig down and find out, “Okay, why was this denied? What are the requirements? How can we make this work?” So I think the vendor, in absolutely trusting information that they get, and then the office trusting information the vendor gives them, but sometimes at the end of the day it just doesn’t work that way.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. Okay. So maybe…because to be candid, I’m somewhat familiar with ICD9 codes and CPT codes, but that’s really about it. So you’re basically saying we need to have just a basic or a general understanding of the bigger picture and not just, well, this is the ICD9 code or this is the CPT code.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Definitely, and just like anything else, when you speak the language, when you take the time and understanding to get to know who your audience is and who you’re selling to, it’s going to help both parties considerably.

Scott Nelson:       Sure. Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And, you know, I know that a lot of information comes from the vendors’ in-house information, but sometimes I wish vendors would go outside their own organization to get confirmation and a little more information about reimbursement strategies, because most of the things again that I’ve seen coming from vendors are kind of just like, you know, things scribbled on little sticky notes and not kind of a full—wouldn’t it be impressive if a vendor came in and said, “This is something that we’ve had substantiated from XYZ coding consultant or whatever, and so we really feel like we can stand behind this,” as opposed to, “Hey, in the office they told us that this would work.”

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    You know what I’m saying?

Scott Nelson:       Yeah, yeah. So, I mean, basically just empathizing with you as the practice manager and saying, “Hey look, I know that you perhaps maybe have been burned in the past in regard to reimbursement, but these are the steps that we’ve taken to give legitimacy to the reimbursement behind this particular device or this particular product.”

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yes, and then to say, “And if you find that anything is denied or the reimbursement is not what we said, we’re going to pay for this consultant or whoever substantiated this to do a little phone consult with you to help us work through this process.”

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    A lot of times I feel like the vendors just present the same information to office after office and never kind of circle back around to find out, “How did that work for you? Did you have any problems?” and kind of gather that information as well to enrich what you have to pass to the next practice.

Scott Nelson:       Gotcha. Okay. Okay. That makes a lot of sense. And I can see the need or the value that that would bring to that relationship if vendors did circle back around. Even if you didn’t have any experience or haven’t experienced any issues with reimbursement, the fact that that vendor did circle back around and say, “Hey, look Mary Pat, have you run into any issues with coding or any insurance claim issues with this particular product?” I can see how that would bring a lot of value.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Definitely.

Scott Nelson:       Yeah. So kind of going back to the main trends and issues that you see with medical practices, besides collecting money, is there anything else that really stands out?

Mary Pat Whaley:    You know, phones are a huge problem in every practice. They have gone on from being fairly manageable to probably within the past five years or so to being very unmanageable, and there are a couple of reasons for this. One of the reasons is that as more and more falls to the patient to pay, that 25 to 30% of every dollar, patients are trying to avoid going to the doctor.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And so patients are trying to get advice and prescriptions by phone. So we have many more patients calling in not to make an appointment necessarily but to see if they can get a solution without making an appointment.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    So that has increased considerably. In addition, our lives are so busy. Everybody’s life is crazy busy, and so we find that we have much more [00:22:39] appointment-changing ramp. People are always having to tweak and change, and, “This came up and so I’ve got to do this,” that kind of thing, and so there are a lot of calls related to that. There’s much more paperwork to complete in our lives, whether it’s FMLA or disability papers, whether it’s paperwork for the handicap parking space or for qualifying for Social Security disability. If it’s for entrance into a nursing home, there’s a lot more paperwork associated with home healthcare and there’s a lot more paperwork associated with nursing home orders.

And so it seems that every single patient takes more than just a phone call for an appointment, which used to be it. Of course, there are a lot more drugs on the market. People are taking a lot more drugs now. There’s a lot more discussion over the phones about, “This drug isn’t working,” or “Can I get a refill?” So the phones and the faxes are just nuts, especially in primary care practices, but really in all specialties across the board.

And so practices are looking for technology to help and solve that. They’re going to outside answering services and call centers. They are using patient portals for some communication, automated messages for some communication. They are having employees work from home and answer phones and do phone triage. So that is quite a complex thing to figure out for most practices. And I’m sure you’ve probably noticed it if you’ve been in healthcare for a while, the difference in the level of activity at any practice that you go in.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    If the physician’s there, things are usually hopping.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. Sure. Sure. And I kind of want to transition a little bit here, but the reason I wanted to ask you these main problems that you see within medical practices is because I think it is valuable for industry people, whether you’re in a sales or marketing capacity, whatever capacity you may be in, to kind of understand what goes on in a certain medical practice and the problems that you face, so we can learn to empathize more, and perhaps there’s some opportunity to add to that relationship by helping to solve some of these issues. So with that said…

Mary Pat Whaley:    And it also helps…

Scott Nelson:       Go ahead. Go ahead.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And they’d also help to understand why maybe five or 10 years ago it was relatively easy to slide into a practice, get some quality time face-to-face with a physician, and these days it’s very, very difficult.

Scott Nelson:       Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s a great point, yeah. Absolutely. So if I’m calling to try to set up a meeting within a certain practice, it’s not unreasonable to have to make five or six phone calls to get that appointment because that practice manager is extremely busy and they’re dealing with a lot. And so, in the past, I could have gotten a call back after the first or second call. Maybe now I’m having to leave five or six voicemails to get a phone call back or something, and that’s understandable. No, that’s good stuff.

At this time, I’d kind of like to transition a little bit more into maybe the two, three, four things that vendors can do or industry can do to help practices, particularly primary care practices, I’m sorry, how specialists can help build and market their practices to primary care providers, if that makes sense. What role that we can play, maybe some practical steps that we can do in kind of aiding that process. Is that okay?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yes, absolutely. And we’ve talked a little bit about that the other night online, and what I always say is if there are several specialists providing the same quality of service and the playing field is level as far as who the physician is going to refer to, there are a number of things that tip the scales towards one specialist or another.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And one of the things that I brought up is easy, easy getting into a specialist practice to set up an appointment. And this could be a direct hotline where there’s somebody there to take the information. This could be giving the…and paying for a cell phone for the referral clerk that’s just for them to call and send patients over.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    One of the big things is that specialists of course need lots of information to care for patients that are being sent to them, and typically referral clerks in primary care offices are just slammed to the wall, they are just so busy. There are so many patients being referred out to specialists and for tests and procedures, and any way to make the collection of that information that has to come with the patient or coming by fax or by phone, that would make a huge difference. A lot of times referral clerks get stuck on the phone going through all the patient information that the specialists have to have to “accept the patient.”

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And so that’s a sticking point too.

Scott Nelson:       So…

Mary Pat Whaley:    Go ahead.

Scott Nelson:       I guess let me stop right there. So if I hear you correctly, for the specialist that’s trying to increase the referral patterns with a particular group of primary care providers, not only is it important for that primary care provider or that patient to be able to schedule an appointment with that specialist, you’re saying the communication or the information that’s passed from the PCP to the specialist, that process needs to be really efficient, and so that primary care provider or the referral clerk at that PCP’s office needs to have like a very simple clear-cut set of data or metrics that they can send to the specialist so it’s easy, it’s efficient, it’s simple. Is that right?

Mary Pat Whaley:    That’s exactly right.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And having a patient portal where referrers can pass information electronically across the portal is one really great way to do it.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Not everybody’s excited about doing that. One of the things is for the specialist to ask the referral clerk, not the doctor but the referral clerk who’s going to send the referral over, “What would make your life easier as far as sending information?”

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    I mean, I can think of a lot of things, and some of them are a little outlandish. “You want to put a stack of charts for our referrals and I’ll send somebody over to copy the paper charts so that nobody here has to do it.”

Scott Nelson:       Ah, okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Lots of different possibilities, but if you just ask the referral clerk, “What would be a very easy way for you to pass the information over to us? Because we want to make that just super-easy [00:31:02] and seamless for you, so all you have to do is pick up the phone, give us some very basic information on the patient and send the information to us in whatever way is easiest. What is it? Is it electronic? Is it fax? Is it copies in the mail? Would you rather spend the time on the phone? Most people wouldn’t but some might.”

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    You know, just kind of throw it out there and customize it if you can, if the specialist can, for each PCP’s office the way they want to do it.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. Okay. Okay. Yeah, okay. That’s really, really good information and very practical. So really it’s about passing that patient from the PCP to the specialist in a very efficient, easy, simple manner, something that’s not very stressful at all for the PCP. So that’s really good information. What else? What else besides that? You know, basically connecting the dots, I guess, in a very efficient manner, what else is important to that primary care provider?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Providing information to the patient, providing brochures or some sort of information that the referral clerk can give the patient as they are making the referral to say, “Here’s a brochure about the practice that you’re going to. It has a description of the test and it gives you a map and shows a picture of what the building looks like so you’ll recognize it.” It’s amazing how many patients have like parking anxiety.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And to help people know, especially older people of course, kind of help them know not only how to get there but also what the parking is, on what part of the building do they park, on what side of the building, and what the building looks like. And another thing is also to provide information to the referral clerk about what they’re ordering. For instance, if a referral clerk is ordering to a radiology facility, an imaging facility, they have to provide the CPT and ICD9, they have to know what to order, and of course that comes from the physician, but sometimes the physician may have written it down in writing as opposed to code, so they need some help with picking the correct CPT and ICD9 to go with it, and not only to schedule the test but also if there’s any pre-authorization that has to go on before the patient can be scheduled for the test.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And that could be for Medicaid, Medicare, Blue Cross. The big ones are typically the ones that ask for pre-auth.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    So that’s another thing, is to, again, help the office, the PCP office and the referral clerk choose the correct thing that they’re sending the patient for. Now, maybe there’s no choice, maybe it’s one code for a procedure and there’s only one or two different diagnoses that it could possibly be and it’s easy-peasy, but typically it’s not that straightforward.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. Okay. So not just information about the particular test that’s being done or the procedure that’s being done, but you’re talking about practical things like driving directions, parking, I guess, and what the building looks like, etc., and then beyond that, providing information to the primary care provider’s office and the referral clerk about what they’re ordering in terms of the coding or reimbursement, and then any pre-authorizations that that patient may need. So I guess what I’m sort of thinking about in my head is we should empathize with that patient, because typically maybe the patient is going to be maybe elderly, and maybe this pertains to kind of the patient brochures, but they would probably be well-served to have a good understanding because most of them are probably a little bit overwhelmed by these clinics. Typically they’re in big medical centers, and a lot of these patients are going to get overwhelmed when they try to find the office, etc. So something as simple as that, that could provide a lot of value to that PCP or make that PCP look good to their patient.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Oh, absolutely, and the PCPs love nothing more than to have a patient come back and say, “Thank you so much for sending me to XYZ. I didn’t enjoy the test but I found it fine and it took me right in and I got to go home in an hour and everybody was so nice.” When PCPs hear complaints about where they’re sending patients, they listen, and if they hear something more than once, if they hear it two or three times, then they start changing their referral patterns. They take it very, very seriously.

Scott Nelson:       Hmm. That’s a good point. So that specialist definitely needs to wow that—their customer is the patient, well not just the patient but the referring physician I guess as well, and so they need to wow that customer, wow that patient over with quality customer service. So I guess that goes back to kind of basic business essentials, right? [Laughs]

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yes. And I think the last thing that we talked about was making sure that the report gets back to the PCP in a way that’s just like, how do you collect the information from the PCP? It’s, how do you send the information back? Do they want you to mail it? Do they want you to call them with a preliminary report? And I’m sure this will depend based on what the test or the procedure is. Is it a treat or is it an assess and return situation or an assess and treat situation? We talked a little bit about PCP sending patients to specialists and then the patients never coming back again, and that really makes PCPs mad, of course…

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    …if they take over care of the patient’s problem. And of course, again, this happens more with older patients that have multiple different problems or diseases, but do they want an electronic report, a fax report, a mailed report, a phone report? How do they want that report? If you can customize that information coming and going, that’s a really big deal. That’s something that I don’t know of many specialists doing really, really well.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. Okay. So just basically understanding how that PCP was to receive that report and how quickly, or what’s important to them in terms of how quickly they receive that report, that’s very important.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yes.

Scott Nelson:       Gotcha. Okay. And one other kind of last thing, I know we’re running a little bit short on time here, but one other thing I did want to ask you is, in terms of the specialist coming to that primary care provider and basically trying to educate them about a certain disease state or a new way to treat a certain disease, what role can industry or vendors play in regard to kind of connecting that specialist with the PCP in terms of education and why they should begin to send their patients for this particular procedure for this specialist?

Mary Pat Whaley:    I do think that there is a tendency to make generalizations, “Physicians like this, physicians don’t like this,” and of course I’ve been peppering our conversation with saying that quite a few times.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    But I think that you will get different responses from different practices about what they want the vendor involvement to be.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And maybe it’s as basic as trying to suss that out at the very beginning, you know. I know that’s kind of a novel idea to say, “I have something I’d like to communicate to you, or Dr. XYZ has something that he would like to share with you, what would your preference be as far as getting together for a 10-minute conversation? Could we see you in the morning? Could we make an appointment on your schedule? Could we reach you at the local, I don’t know, IHOP or Perkins for breakfast or in the hospital? Can we reach you in the hospital in between rounds?” I mean, just kind of throw it out as opposed to, “I want to set up a lunch, period.”

Scott Nelson:       Sure. Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    “I want to set up this, I want to set up that.” And maybe for something to come directly from the specialist that says, “I have something that we’re offering [00:40:48] and I’d like to talk with you one-on-one, and here are some different times that we could get together based on your schedule. Can you let me know what would work for you?” Maybe it’s as simple as checking a box on a little responding card that they throw in the mail or somebody from the specialist’s practice comes by and picks it up.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    You know, there are all different kinds of ways that you could kind of do some testing to figure out what’s your most successful method of getting these times, the specialist and the PCP face-to-face.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. And in your experience, what if the specialist either doesn’t want to make the time or it’s not high on their priority list to actually make it to the particular meeting? In that case, is it very valuable for an industry rep to come and do the educational presentation? If it’s a group of primary care providers, for example, is there any enough respect there, I mean, is there going to be much value there if the industry rep shows up and not the specialist?

Mary Pat Whaley:    I think if they’re expecting to hear from the specialist it would be quite insulting if the specialist didn’t show up.

Scott Nelson:       You’re saying it would be insulting to them if the specialist didn’t show up.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yes.

Scott Nelson:       Okay, that’s interesting. Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yes. If an invitation was extended to talk about this and it was from the specialist, which is how it should be, it’s from the specialist, to talk to his colleague or her colleague, and he set something up, small group, big group, one-on-one, whatever, the rep shows up and not a specialist, that’s kind of a slap in the face there.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And primary care is already a little tender about the difference in income between specialists and primary care, so I think the specialists need to be sensitive to that.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. Okay. And one other thing I wanted to ask you about is in regard to that chat, and for those of you who are listening and are kind of wondering, what is this online chat that Mary Pat and Scott keep talking about, is we both participated in actually a Twitter chat that was hosted by Joe over at and he’s got kind of a blog followup post to that Twitter chat, which is, you know, I would encourage everyone to go check out that Twitter chat, but that’s what we’re referencing. But I thought one of the comments that you made was in regard to these KOLs or these thought leaders that come into town and want to do the presentation. You made a point that that’s not maybe as advantageous as maybe we think it is for these big national KOLs to come in and do the talks, that PCPs maybe would prefer the specialists just to do the presentation.

Mary Pat Whaley:    That’s what I believe.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Having participated in both kinds, I have seen physicians just not really having the same interest in a national speaker, feeling like it’s just a one time they come, they give information and leave, whereas somebody in their community who they’re going to have an ongoing relationship with, I think they see that as different. And, you know, depending upon the size of the town you live in, physicians care for other physicians’ families. Their kids play sports together and go to school together, and they live in similar neighborhoods, same neighborhoods. And so I think there’s really an interest in the face-to-face or one-on-one or small group with somebody who’s from the community.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. Okay. No, that’s definitely an interesting thought. The reason I wanted to bring it up is because your point of view is probably different than what most people think, and so I think it’s extremely important to kind of consider the alternative view to that KOL, that national speaker coming into town to do the presentation. So that’s good stuff. Kind of in conclusion, Mary Pat, or were you going to say something? Go ahead.

Mary Pat Whaley:    I was just going to say that, again, physicians’ time is so short. Less of them are working longer hours to try and make the money that they had been making several years ago. They’re not living the same lives that physicians a long time ago where the wives or the spouses were staying home and taking care of the kids. They have responsibilities with their kids, oftentimes their spouses work, and so they’re trying to make any time that’s not in the practice but that’s related to the business of medicine count, and so they’re very picky about what they go to.

Scott Nelson:       Okay.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Now, again, a long time ago, I think you could get physicians out on just about every night of the week, especially for dinner, but I just don’t think it’s that way anymore.

Scott Nelson:       Sure. Okay. Okay. Great point. In conclusion, I’d like to ask you about—and most of our conversation’s been centered around specialists kind of promoting and marketing and educating the referral community, in particular the PCP community, about their particular practice and about the patients they see and the specialties or kind of the services that they offer—in your experience, why is it that that specialist in this case, they don’t understand the need for this sort of stuff? And I guess from my own personal experience, sometimes a lot of these folks, they think that by going out and talking about their practice it comes across too salesy.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Mm-hmm.

Scott Nelson:       Or they feel like, well, they’re not salespeople, they’re doctors, they’re not marketers, they’re physicians, so they don’t really need to do this sort of stuff. I want to ask you, why is that? And has there been anything in particular that’s helped physicians with this mindset kind of get over that hump?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Well, I think that there are still a lot of physicians that believe, number one, the best advertising is good quality care and that will take care of them, and number two, build it and they will come, and we know that that’s not the situation anymore. Things have drastically changed referral patterns. The paperwork did not use to be so onerous that if it was easier to send the patient to one specialist because the paperwork would be very—you know, that never used to be an issue.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    The paperwork was just not that big of a deal. So the old ways are going away and the competition is [00:48:07] ramped. We know now that people will travel. We know that people will shop. We know that we have [00:48:16] consumer patients, and they are becoming more and more enlightened every day that they’re in the driver’s seat. And so the specialist physicians, number one, can’t count on getting referrals without working for it, and number two, can’t count on patients being satisfied if they don’t give good service…

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm.

Mary Pat Whaley:    …or if anything around it does not strike the patient right. So I probably have to think a little bit more about what to say to specialists about getting in the marketing game, but I’m sure there are some great statistics out there that would support, it’s not so much that you have to sell yourself, it’s just that you have to introduce yourself and tell your story.

Scott Nelson:       Sure. Yeah.

Mary Pat Whaley:    And that’s what it comes down to me—that’s what I always talk to the physicians about, is people want to hear your story. Whether it’s patients, whether it’s referrers, no matter who you’re going to have a transaction with or a relationship with, they want to hear your story.

Scott Nelson:       Sure.

Mary Pat Whaley:    They want to know who you are.

Scott Nelson:       And I think…go ahead. Mary Pat?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yeah.

Scott Nelson:       Oh, sorry about that. I thought we had a slight disconnection there. But no, that’s a great point. In my experience, I almost wonder if that’s more effective to kind of position that as…and maybe you can speak to this, but position it to that specialist as this is not really marketing per se, this is just a matter of introducing yourself and telling your story, and that’s really it.

Mary Pat Whaley:    It’s relationship-building, absolutely.

Scott Nelson:       Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. No, that’s a great point. So I know we’ve kind of surpassed our deadline here, but you’ve got so much…I’ve got a whole host of other questions to ask you, but perhaps we can schedule another interview at some point in the future, but I can’t thank you enough, Mary Pat, for coming on to the call and sharing your experiences and sharing this information. It’s been really beneficial.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Well, I’ve enjoyed it too, Scott. Thanks so much for asking me, and I would be glad to come back and talk again anytime.

Scott Nelson:       Absolutely. And for the audience here, where’s the best place to go and learn more about your practice and what you do?

Mary Pat Whaley:    My website is and I have all kinds of information there, but if you start by clicking on the About tab, it will tell you all about me and the services that I offer and will tell you the groups that I’ve been speaking to and writing for.

Scott Nelson:       Okay. Very good. Very good. And from your website they can go and subscribe to…I think you’ve got an email newsletter, correct?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yes.

Scott Nelson:       Yeah, and then there’s a link to see your Facebook page and also your Twitter, you know, they can have a chance to follow you on Twitter as well.

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yeah.

Scott Nelson:       So anyway, again, that’s, is that correct?

Mary Pat Whaley:    Yes.

Scott Nelson: Alrighty, sounds good. Well, thanks again, Mary Pat. I really, really appreciate you coming on the call. It was really good stuff.

Mary Pat Whaley:    My pleasure.

Scott Nelson:       Alright. Thanks everyone for listening.


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