No matter how new or old your medical practice is, it is important to identify your competitors and evaluate their strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to those of your own.
Understanding the competition
Understanding the competition is a crucial business activity for any physician owner.
Some practices hire professionals to track competitors and assess the competitive landscape on a regular basis. But it doesn’t always have to be a complicated, time-consuming, and expensive process. There is a new wealth of data that can be assembled using the internet.
By investing even a small amount of time, physician practices of any size can
- develop a framework for making competitive assessments,
- gather intelligence on rivals, and
- understand how to position their own brand, services, and practice in the community.
Not only can you learn best practices from competitors, but you can also learn to avoid the mistakes they make.
I often tell physicians that keeping track of
- who your competitors are,
- what patients and referring physicians are saying about them, and
- what they are saying themselves
can help you differentiate your practice and stay ahead of trends that could impact your business.
Staying smart on the competitive landscape helps you make very practical decisions around what services you offer, who you hire, what your message is. It can also help you understand where you fit into the brand landscape.
Benefits of competitive research
Conducting a competitive assessment should be an ongoing process. In other words, a process in which you continue to deepen your understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.
There are a series of business benefits you can gain by having insight into the competitive landscape.
The following are potential business benefits from conducting competitive research:
- Understanding your catchment area (this is the geographical area from which your practice draws patients)
- Better targeting patients
- Forecasting the potential for your catchment area
- Figuring out how local forces (economic and political) impact your specialty and even your catchment area
- Understanding what competitors are offering
- Determining offerings in ancillary services
- Finding new patients.
A competitive analysis is a critical part of the marketing plan for your medical practice. With this evaluation, you can establish what makes your practice unique. You can also learn what attributes you should play up in order to attract your target market (patients and referring physicians).
Learn about your competitors
Learn about your competitors by doing the following:
- Read about your competitors.
- Look for articles or ads in various outlets.
- Review their marketing literature and check their entries in any directories (e.g. patient referral guides, chamber of commerce, county medical society, etc.).
- Ensure that you are looking at your competitors’ websites each month and take an objective viewpoint at out how they compare to yours.
Many physicians dismiss or ignore their competitors. They criticize or belittle them when their names come up.
Often they think and say that patients and referring physicians who prefer the competing practices are simply ignorant or misled.
As a result of this self-inflicted myopia, they fail to observe and learn how to outdo their competitors in tough markets.
One of the most effective business strategies you can implement is to always admire your successful competitors.
Never dismiss them out of hand. Study them. Learn from them. Respect what they are doing well, and look for ways to improve upon their best features.
Analyze your catchment area
Evaluate your competitors by placing them in strategic groups according to how directly they compete for a share of the patients within your catchment area.
For each competitor, list the following:
- their providers and services,
- their estimated profitability,
- growth pattern, marketing objectives, and assumptions,
- current and past strategies,
- organizational and cost structure,
- strengths and weaknesses, and
- size (inpatient volume) of the competitor’s business.
Answer questions such as:
- Who are your competitors?
- What services do they offer and/or what equipment do they have?
- Do you know each competitor’s market share?
- What are their past strategies?
- And, their current strategies?
- How and what types of media are used to market their practice (their physicians, their services, and their equipment)?
- Can you name each competitor’s strengths and weaknesses?
- What potential threats do your competitors pose?
- And, what potential opportunities do they make available for you?
More articles by the author:
What Are the Best Growth Options for Your Practice?
The Competitive Advantage of Strategic Planning
Make a competition grid
A quick and easy way to compare your physicians or services with similar ones in your market is to make a competition grid.
Down the left side of a piece of paper, write the names the physician groups that compete with yours. To help you generate this list, think of where your patients would go for care if you were not around.
Across the top of the paper, list the main features and characteristics of each practice. Include such things as the target market, providers, size, relationship with referring physicians, and patient volume. You may also want to list services offered, the strength of their marketing efforts, and other features that are relevant.
A glance at the competition grid will help you see where your physician group fits in your particular catchment area.
Impact of properly understanding the competition
Gaps in our knowledge of the competition are a natural and unavoidable characteristic of operating within the healthcare industry.
We must remember though that a competent study of the competition can help reduce some of that uncertainty and help pave the way for strategic planning and business operations within your practice. Physician owners must be keenly aware of what competing practices are doing.
Practice management requires a firm focus on the competition; identifying its strengths and vulnerabilities is crucial. Since managing a successful practice requires decision and action based on situational awareness, identification of your competition’s expectations and preparations is important.
The bottom line
Because the healthcare landscape is changing so rapidly, accurate and timely information regarding what competing practices are doing is a prerequisite for success. By evaluating yourself against your competition, you’ll likely find new ideas for your practice.
While compiling a competitive analysis is an interesting piece of work, it can indeed be challenging. Consequently, you may want to seek the help of a healthcare consultant to guide you through this process.
You’ll learn a lot about your market and in the process become a more valuable resource for your patients and referring physicians. The more time you take to study and understand your competitors, the more likely it is that you will find an opportunity to take away their market share.
Nick Hernandez, MBA, FACHE
Nick Hernandez, MBA, FACHE is the CEO and founder of ABISA, a consultancy specializing in strategic healthcare initiatives.
Since founding ABISA in 2007, his emphasis has been on developing and maintaining a strong relationship with physicians and identifying areas for business opportunity and support. The company’s client list includes physician groups, hospital systems, healthcare IT organizations, venture capitalists, private equity firms, and hedge fund managers.
Nick is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a former Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. He holds MBA degrees in both Operations Management and Information Technology & E-Business Management from Wake Forest University. He is Board Certified in Healthcare Management and has been named a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
He is a frequent guest lecturer and is often quoted in the national media. He has consulted with clients in multiple countries and has over 20 years of leadership and operations experience. Nick is a Subject Matter Expert in business strategy, practice management, telemedicine, health IT, and oncology.