How to Orient your Medical Secretary






My secretary of ten years recently left for abroad.  If you read my previous blog entry ( on who can make or break your practice, your secretary sure is one who can!  Ms. A  has been an efficient partner  in my practice.  She knows how I want things to be so I  can work at my best. She genuinely cares for my patients too. She is like my administrative boss who is able to handle all non medical aspects of the job.

So what do you do when your trusted help suddenly tells you she or he is leaving? I appreciate that Ms. A told me way ahead. She knew I had to find a suitable  replacement.  She knew also that whoever replaces her had to be trained.  Here are three things you can do to prepare for a similar situation:

  1. Identify the work your secretary does for you (its like a job description). I asked Ms. A  to write down everything she does for me  then I grouped them into general categories. These may include: documents to keep and maintain, payments to make on a regular basis, clinic operations procedures (for me, this includes how to take patient weight, height and vital signs, vaccine ordering and safekeeping, collecting from HMO etc), location  and contact persons of vital offices  etc.
  2. Write up in detail how each of the tasks are done. Make it like how any company would write its manual of operations. If you are just starting a clinic, you may need to write this yourself. But if you have been practicing and your current secretary are doing these things, just have her write it and revise as you see fit.
  3. If you have the opportunity, have your old secretary train the new one weeks before formally taking over. Run through the tasks with the new one yourself  to check if she got things right.

Avoid getting caught off guard! If you haven’t done this, now is the time.  If you are just starting, do it to be prepared.

Have you got other ways to prepare? Share  and write in the comments.


What is Your Brand?

brandingA couple came into the clinic a few days ago. They are expecting their baby soon and would like to speak to me.  As they came in, I asked how  they came to know about my clinic.

Expectant Dad said, he told a friend that they are looking for a pediatrician for their first born. They would like to ask for some names. His friend asked “what kind of doctor would you like for your baby?”  Expectant Dad went on to enumerate what they want. So my name came up. “Go to Dr. E.”

This little conversation made me think. What can we do so that when potential patients ask their friends  for doctors they can go to, we can  easily be  top of mind? We need to develop our brand.

Brand?  Isn’t that for products only?  But we  are not selling products, you might say.  In our world, in the service profession, WE are the product.  Ha? I am the product?  Yup.  We are the product.  In the same way, real products try their very best to connect and evoke a relationship with their consumers–how are we doing so on our end? I looked for a few definitions of branding that we can easily understand. Here’s a few:

From the Marketing Spot:

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company.”
Marty Neumeier

“A brand isn’t a brand to you until it develops an emotional connection with you.”
Daryl Travis

“…brands speak to the mind and heart”
Alina Wheeler


Branding helps  build an identity that makes patients easily spot you.  It makes you standout. It makes it easy for others to think of you and refer to you. This identity is often emotional.  People make  a lot of choices based on their emotions. You only need to read forums and see how  people choose one product or service over another.  Most often it is because of the emotions evoked as they experience the product or service. “Mabait sya, hindi nagmamadali, hindi ako naiinip kasi hindi mahaba ang pila, on time sya, magalang yung secretary, okay lang magtanong…”


For  a very useful checklist on building your brand check out  here.

Can you now answer, What is Your Brand?


photo credits: Ritjaroon




Numbers Game

One day, I was talking to one of the medical representatives covering me in the clinic. I asked about their never ending quest to get the doctor’s signature as they visit. I was told they are required a certain number of visits per week . The signature is their evidence. The more visits, the higher the chance their product or service is remembered.

My brother in law who is in sales also talked about prospecting. The more people they are able to talk to, the greater chance they will make a sale.

My dad calls it the numbers game.

How can the numbers game work for start up doctors? I learned a lot from my consultants when i was starting. Here a few things they shared:

1. Stay in your clinic. My dad emphatically states it “stay put”. Man your clinic. Even if no patients come for a string of days. One day he will and if you are not there you lose the opportunity. There are many variations to this nugget of advise. Some choose to stay all day in most days of the week. Some choose to start with just one or two clinics. You must be there when opportunity knocks.

2. Work on your ideal set up but do something while you wait.I spoke with my newly graduate mentee today. She is eyeing a mall clinic near her home. However the clinic is still up for construction. It can still take months. I told her she might benefit from starting her clinic in a nearby site that she can occupy right away. The time it will take for the mall clinic to be set up and get running is more than enough time to start building a patient base in an area just nearby. Should she decide to let go of the clinic in favor of the mall clinic, patients are most likely to follow.

3. Associate work is okay but but set up shop at the same time. Many busy consultants engage new graduates as associates in the clinic to help them with patients. This is fine as long as you also set up your own clinic schedule. If you do, you also start having your own patient who will see you and come back to you. Associate work provides an income we all need but the patients you see are not your own.

Build the numbers. Spend time for it. Remember,you only need one to get started.

How about you, can you share what you have done to improve your numbers?

If you like this article, go ahead and share to friends who may benefit from it.

photo credit: justt2shutter/

How to Apply for HMO Accreditation


Health Maintenance Organizations remain to be one of the major means patients access health care. As a service provider, you
can apply to be affiliated with HMO as long as you agree with their terms and conditions including fees and payment schedule.

If you are in a multispecialty clinic who accepts HMO, the arrangement is made by the clinic so you can accept patients who will use their HMO.

If you have a clinic of your own, you can apply and course it through their offices or clinics located in hospitals where you are affiliated.

I asked different HMOs about their application procedures. Requirements for most are similar which may include:

Letter of intent
Medical school diploma
Medical Board certificate
Specialty or subspecialty board certificate
Copy of PRC card, PTR (professional tax receipt),
Official receipt, TIN, VAT registration, Philhealth registration as a health provider

The HMO sends you a contract which stipulates the terms of your engagement,fees, payment,and documentation. The contract can be for inpatient or outpatient or both. Once approved, patients who wants to avail of your services will be given a form by the HMO each time they make an outpatient consult. This is the form you will fill up and include in your documentation so the HMO can pay your fees. For in patient, hospitals are given a list of accredited doctors. If you are in the list, patients can be admitted under your service using their HMO. Payment for your fees may range from 1 to 6 months.

photo credit: Stuart Miles/

Have You Got What It Takes to Face This ?

Furious. Loud. Intense. Crossed.

At one point in your practice (or even during training), you will meet a patient like this. Or sometimes, its the relatives.

Have you got what it takes to face her?

Patients reach this point for a thousand and one reasons. They are worried. They could be scared. They could be in pain.  They can complain endlessly. WE  NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY ARE COMING FROM.  Uncertainty can make even the most reasonable person reach their wits’ end. They can become very, very sensitive about small things. With every word you say. Even with what you are not saying but your body  language is shouting.

WE NEED TO HAVE A LISTENING STANCE. We need to allow them to vent their frustration and anger as long as they don’t get themselves and others hurt. Listening is not just about keeping quiet.  If you are seated,its leaning forward a little to show interest in what is being said. Arms not crossed as if saying “I don’t want any of your stuff, ” but perhaps on the side. Establish eye contact. Nod a little at certain points.

WE NEED TO COMMUNICATE EMPATHY FOR WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH.  Apologizing is important. But apologize for the inconvenience. Apologize for the resulting  anxiety (I apologize that this has caused  you to worry). Use of words that acknowledges or describes how they feel connotes empathy like ” I can see that this has made you uncomfortable”.

OFFER  SOMETHING YOU CAN DO AT THE MOMENT TO PROVIDE EASE. Say what you can do at the moment. Do not promise something you cannot deliver.  Tell her how you will address things at this time and what you can do afterwards. Be honest without sounding you do not care.

LISTEN TO WHAT THEY ARE SAYING BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY TO WHAT THEY ARE NOT. When a patient is  mean and crossed, could it be  a disguised cry out for help?













image courtesy of ohmega1982/

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Have you ever experienced liking someone so much that you feel so comfortable and so at ease?  Wouldn’t that be so great if that’s how every patient feels towards us?Would you think that holds the key to a long term patient – doctor relationship?

Patients come to see us  for a reason. For the most part because they have a health concern.  True.

But before they are patients , they are persons first. If we see that first in every patient , imagine the magic that it creates!

Different strokes for different folks. That i learned through time. Each person is different.  Personalities differ.

I had a newborn patient who fell ill shortly after birth. It looks like its a cyanotic heart disease.  Faced with such a condition, we held a family conference to be able to explain the situation.  For us, that would mean a whole bunch of people to explain to—mom, dad, grandparents, aunt, uncle etc. So there we were with a roomful of relatives. As we began carefully explaining why the patient turned toxic,possible courses and sequelae, my eyes saw different reactions from each one in the room.  Some were trying to absorb every word we were saying. Suddenly, one spoke with a tone  that seem to brush aside all the explaining we were doing. “So what’s the chance the baby will not make it?”


So there are patients who want details.

These patients bring a list of questions and concerns to be asked from us. They research about their conditions and can cite them during the consult.  They need their doctor to be thorough.They don’t like to be hurried.


Then there is one who wants things straight to the point.

No going around the bush.  They express with no uncertainty their preferences. They are quick to decide. They need their doctor to be straightforward and definite with their points.


There is the amiable patient.

This patient says yes to everything we say.  They follow every word and does not question for fear of offending even if what we are telling them might cause some difficulty.  They need a doctor  who would be sensitive to their unspoken needs because they are just too amiable to say it.


Adjusting our approach to these different folks will surely win their hearts.  Our desire to help them remains the same. The content of our conversations may be the same.  But our ways to bring them across may differ.

Different strokes for different folks!


Have you got other tips in dealing with different kinds of patients?








photo by renjith krishnan/














Learn The Art of Selling

What? Me, sell? No way! I don’t like selling.  That’s precisely why I took Medicine.  I don’t like to sell. Period.

Believe it or not, we all sell!


I must admit, I could not buy the idea myself at first. Selling does not necessarily involve goods, wares or products.  When you try to convince your friend to eat pasta because you are craving for it, my dear, you are selling! When you want a certain work done by engaging others to help you, convincing them to do so is selling.   So yes, we all sell.


What does selling got to do with my practice? Getting started with your practice requires that you sell your best product, YOU!

If you were to sell yourself to somebody, what do you think will convince others to”buy” you? A recent “buy me” exercise revealed very interesting points  we can learn from.


  • People buy because they see the passion in the person selling.  In our work, do our patients see our passion in helping them?
  • People buy because they are friends.  Are your patients just patients or do they feel that they  are  treated as friends?
  • People buy because the offer has been fitted to their needs. Do we know our patients enough to meet their needs?
  • People buy because they see and know that what we say is who we really are.  Do we “walk our talk” when we deal with patients?


The minute a new patient walks into our clinic, he is already deciding whether this will be the start of a long lasting relationship or his last.

Which one would it be for you?









photo by Stuart Miles/






Chunk and Check

I had a patient born to a young, first time mom. The baby had  numerous problems involving the spine, limbs and brain.  Before I went to the room, I knew I had to do a lot of explaining. I found the mom alone obviously overwhelmed by what was happening.

Communicating what we know about diseases to patients is a skill we develop over time.

They deserve to know  everything we could possibly tell them. How the condition came about.  What caused  it.What could it lead to.And  to many,  what can be done to relieve them of their complaints.


All these we had to do without drowning them with medical jargon. Or giving too much or too little.


Here’s an  exercise.  Think of one disease we commonly encounter in a patient.  How do we explain it to a grade schooler, say a grade 5 student?  In simplest terms we could possibly use.

What I find helpful  is knowing what patients  already know.

I use it as my starting point. Some patients like to hear everything. Some just want to know how will life be different for them or their chances.


Conditions requiring  long explanation may need to be chunked into small bites. I check for understanding   before moving on to the next chunk.


I try to talk slow and observe body signals that suggest understanding or otherwise as I go along. Asking  for any thing that needs to be clarified or be discussed is a good way to end.


The mom I was talking to only wanted to know what could be done for the  moment.  I respected that.



Chunk and check for better understanding.