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"You have turned my life around"

I am 87 years old, with a problem of the prostate gland. Before I met Dr. Baum, I went to the bathroom every 30-60 minutes. After Dr. Baum's treatment on my prostate, I go only 5 times per day and only 1 time at night! You turned my life around. I am so very grateful!

-Sidney Daigle

I want to thank you for your due diligence. You saved my life. I highly recommend you!

-Dwight Bastian

Thank you Dr. Baum! Because of you I'm back in the "rodeo"!

-Gerald Wallace


Reprinted with permission from Dialogue Medical, 1-800-482-7963.

When a plastic surgeon does a successful face-lift or rhinoplastsy on a Hollywood movie star, there's an abundance of positive word-of-mouth marketing. The same holds true when an orthopedic surgeon successfully operates on a famous athlete. The power of this positive word-of-mouth marketing is incredible. While your practice may not cater to such high-profile people or procedures, you have your own set of champion patients. Certain patients are "champions" and they provide a great opportunity for positive word-of-mouth promotion of your practice. This article discusses how to identify and utilize your champion patients.

Nearly 90% of your new patients entered your practice a result of what someone else said about you and your practice. Nearly 70% will choose a physician based on information from a family member, friend or another doctor. Another 15-20% will depend on information that they receive from a nurse or non-physician healthcare professional. Hard to believe, but a smaller percentage will make their decision based on their managed care plan's offering of physicians in the plans directory.

New patients frequently rely on only a single information source when making their health care decisions. A new patient will have probably talked with just one person then decided based on what that person said about you.

Can you imagine the powerful marketing and promotion of your practice that will occur if most of those who have had previous experience with you and your practice had a positive experience?

How the word spreads?
Every patient who knows you also knows 200, 300, or 400 other people. Each of those people knows a few hundred more. The potential referral base then is in the hundreds of thousands.

Realistically, there are probably three or four dozen people who know each of your patients well enough to speak to them often, even about something as delicate as their health and whom they should see for a health problem. Each person in that circle has his or her circle of friends, co-workers or social acquaintances. And there are others who just overhear a happy patient talking to a friend about his or her doctor.

Who are your champions? Champions are easy to recognize. They have a profile that is easy for doctors and the office staff to recognize. A champion is simply a patient who is happy with your practice-an frequently tells others about their experience with you and your practice. A champion is a patient who has had a positive experience with you and your practice and lauds you and your practice to other people.

Some people tend to be talkers, others tend to be listeners, and of course some fall in the midrange. Talkers have lots of friends and lots of social interaction-they belong to many clubs and other social organizations. Champions are usually found among the talkers. They are believable and sincere and radiate enthusiasm.

Your champions are able to speak with knowledge and authority about your practice. If a champion can point to a recent positive experience he or she had with you and your practice, listeners are more likely to believe the champion's assessment of you and of the services you offer. Champions demonstrate their interest in your practice by asking questions and making positive comments. When a patient shows gratitude for your services by talking to you in person, calling you, or writing a thank-you note, you should realize that that patient is a potential champion. So are the patients who offer comments on how to improve your practice. In our practice, we check the suggestion box in the reception area at the end of every day and thank each patient who has offered a suggestion or recommendation. We believe that if a patient has taken the time to offer an unsolicited critique of the practice, then he or she is likely to talk to others about the practice, so they are potential champions.

Many champions are patients of long standing. But champions may also be new patients. What you're hunting for are patients who are talkers and leaders, the sort of people whom others look to for guidance.

The champions are usually "talkers". They're believable, genuine, sincere and interested in what they are talking about. They radiate enthusiasm and speak with knowledge and authority about your practice.

Champions have lots of friends and a high degree of social interaction. They belong to many clubs and organizations and they talk with people in a similar age group or socioeconomic setting.

Your champions will show an interest in your practice by asking questions and making positive comments. Champions also show gratitude for your excellent services by telling you in person, calling you on the phone, or writing a thank-you note.

Many champions will be long-term patients. But new patients can become champions, too. Look for those patients who are talkers, leaders, those to whom others will listen and act on their advice.

Make a list of your champions. Present this list at staff meetings and ask for additions to your list. Have the list readily available in several areas of the office so that additional names can be added quickly.

Motivating your champions
When a champion has an appointment, let everyone know heshe should be welcomed with outstanding service. In my practice we have a one-minute marketing meeting at the end of very day. We briefly identify the problems that occurred during the day and mention the champions scheduled for the next day.

Provide the champions with ample information about the practice and its personnel. Every time a champion has contact with the office, make sure that they receive verbal and written information about the practice. When they have contact with others who could be potential patients they will have something new and interesting to tell them. For example, if you or a staff member presented a paper at a national meeting, had an article published, received a national honor, or even mentioned in the local newspaper, mention it to the champions and offer them a copy.

Your resume or curriculum vitae should be visible to all patients. But instead of handing your diplomas on the wall, consider providing a folder that contains copies of your diplomas and C.V. along with your continuing medical educational experience. Let champions know that you are on the cutting edge of your specialty or practice and that you are continuing to widen your skills and your knowledge.

Make sure your champions have an abundant supply of educational information about your practice and your specialty. You can use newsletters and pamphlets related to your practice and areas of medical interest and expertise for this purpose.

You also can enlist the assistance of champions to stop negative word of mouth marketing that occurs in the media. For example, a few years ago JAMA published an article relating vasectomy to prostate cancer. The American Urologic Association prepared a position paper that refuted or at least neutralized the information in the JAMA article. I made copies of the AUA paper and had them sent to all of my champions, in hopes that they would get the word out that men had little to fear after a vasectomy. This is an example of making good use of your champions to assist in public relations for your practice and for medical health care.

Champions enjoy being given "inside" information and being a point of reference for others.

Contact your champions when they least expect it. Take time every week to call a few champions just to ask about heir health, provide a reminder about your medical advice, thank them for a referral, o even acknowledge their accomplishments or those accomplishments of their family. This is a wonderful way to let theme champions know that they are special to you and your practice.

I have sent my champion patients postcards from my vacation and have been amazed at how appreciative they are. This simple, inexpensive gesture lets the champions know that you care about them even when you are not involved in their medical care.

My staff has embraced the idea of champion patients. But they noted that all patients should be treated like champions.

While it is true that each patient deserves extraordinary attention, we know that this isn't always possible. Since you can't do it for everyone, make sure you do it when it counts

Identify your champions, provide them with the best medical care possible and knock-your-socks-off service, and they will go out and spread the word, providing positive word-of-mouth marketing for you and your practice.

Bottom Line: Breakfast of champions is not just breakfast cereal. It is the opportunity to enhance and grow your practice. Take the time and energy to feed and care for your champion patients.