Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Physicians, Business, and Marketing

Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions, marketing and innovation. But none our institutions exists for itself and by itself. Every one is an organ of society and exists for the sake of society.

Peter F. Drucker (1909-2006). Management, 1974

Whether one likes it or not, medicine has become a business, thanks in no small part to managed care. As a business, it depends on marketing and innovation.

But physicians are notably edgy about the term “marketing,” often equating it with advertising rather than about making your services and skills known.. There’s an unwritten rule among physicians, “Thou shall not advertise.” You can put your name in the Yellow Pages, create a website to highlight your practice, speak before community groups, organize educational forums, let your local hospital advertise for you. But limits exist. Drug firms cross the line with Direct Consumer ads which invariably end, “Ask your doctor.” Doctors look upon these ads as distasteful, even though they may direct traffic to their door.

As a general rule, thou shall not blow your horn in any public media But there are all sorts of exceptions to the rule. Cosmetic physicians, plastic surgeons, surgicenters, and other physician-engaged enterprises can advertise, but not individual physicians, lest they offend their peers.
The most acceptable way for a physician to market, i.e., to make their services and skills known, is to establish an unassailable reputation. This may be done by affiliating with a prestigious hospital, writing a landmark paper, being listed in Top Doctors or Best Doctors, writing a book for the public, being frequently cited as a source by the media as best of breed, or simply impressing your patients and your colleagues by the quality of your work.

There are, in short, multiple roads to marketing glory, both high and low. David Zahaluf, MD, a practicing physicians , author the Ultimate Practice Building Group, suggests these ten marketing and practice building steps

1. Focus on the future.
2. Keep score on the financial yield of your marketing efforts.
3. Plan better, including for contingencies.
4. Work to the clock, be crisp, focused, and efficient..
5. Build championship teams by seeking help from the best people you can find..
6. Have high self esteem.
7. Take action.
8. Model what works for others.
9. Respect and learn from more successful people.
10. Invest in education.

There is no miraculous marketing magic in all of this, just hard work and solid performance and the understanding that your reputation is your best marketing tool.


Zahaluf, David, “Financially Successful Physicians,”, June 12, 2008. For more information, see

1 comment:

Dr Aniruddha Malpani said...

Is there a typo in the website url in your reference. ?

Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD
Medical Director
HELP - Health Education Library for People
Excelsior Business Center,
National Insurance Building,
Ground Floor, Near Excelsior Cinema,
206, Dr.D.N Road, Mumbai 400001
Tel. No.:65952393/65952394