In this week’s podcast, James interviews our COO and Chief Marketing Technologist Uli Iserloh, PhD on the top 5 things he learned from last week’s Functional Medicine Success Summit.
Presented by Dr. Peter Osborne, this summit was headlined by our industry’s top practice development experts including Razi Berry, Dr. Sachin Patel, Dr. Matthew Loop and more.
Tune in right now for the top 5 things we learned at the summit, plus Uli’s root-cause solutions for the most common practice ailments holding you back, including:
- How to do a quick practice health check-up to identify systemic insufficiencies within your structures and systems
- Discover the 3 “time thieves” robbing you of time, revenue and better patient outcomes
- The best “set-it-and-forget-it” way to showcase your expertise and make your practice stand out
- The 3 key tools you can use to address the most common chronic practice ailments at their root
- How to implement these tools to increase efficiency, shore up your systems and get your practice back on track
The biggest thing we learned: with the massive demand for functional medicine upon us, practitioners can no longer afford to “just wing it”; you must have the right systems, support and strategies in place to thrive.
Wondering what do to next? Schedule a free practice assessment with an Functional Forum concierge here and discover the best next-steps for you.
Want to go deeper? Check out our on-demand training here and learn Uli’s recommendations for optimal website set up and effective automated email marketing.
Resources Mentioned in this podcast:
Announcer: Welcome to the Functional Forum Podcast, the place health professionals come to hear from innovators and agitators leading the charge. We cover the latest clinical breakthroughs in health technology, as well as practical tools to help transform your practice and the health of your community. Now here’s your host, James Maskell.
James Maskell: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. This week we feature Dr. Uli Iserloh. He is not a doctor that you’d like to see if you got sick, but he is the doctor that you need to see if your practice is sick. He is a marketing automation expert. He is also the chief operating officer of the Functional Forum. We brought him on because he’s been going to some big conferences in the space focused on functional medicine success. He shared some of the tips that he learned from that conference, as well as just some of the things that he’s been helping practitioners to do as they organize and automate their practice. Super valuable half an hour for anyone who is trying to build an integrative, functional naturopathic clinic. It was a great half an hour, enjoy. A warm welcome to the podcast, Uli Iserloh. Welcome Uli.
Uli Iserloh: Thanks James, for having me on the podcast. Glad to be here.
James Maskell: For those of you who don’t know Uli, Uli is the linchpin basically, at the Functional Forum. He was the first person that Gabe and I hired back in 2014. He is the chief marketing officer, he’s the chief operations officer of Evo Med. He also has his own company called Big Boost Marketing, where he makes websites for practitioners. He’s one of the leading marketing automation technologists in this space. He’s done work for IFM, and Living Matrix, Andrea, and all these other organizations in this space that are interested in marketing automation. He specializes in building automated systems for practitioners. So we’re absolutely thrilled to have him here on the podcast.
Now Uli, I know a couple of weeks ago … I used to go to all the functional medicine conferences for a long time, but now I pick and choose my spots. Peter Osborne’s functional success summit is one that I’ve never been to, but I’ve heard good things about from people like Dr. Sanjay Patel, and I know that you went this year. So I just thought it might be good to share some of what you learned on the podcast, and to talk about what you’re doing, what we’re up to. And for practitioners, ultimately what we’re in the business of here at the Functional Forum and the Functional Forum is empowering practitioners to be great entrepreneurs. What was some of the key take aways that you took from that event?
Uli Iserloh: It was interesting for me to observe at these conferences. There were some clinical probes of course, but a pig part of, especially Peter’s conference, was on marketing and automation. The one thing that really struck me, is that as practitioners we always talk about structure dictates function. We apply this with our patients all the time, it comes natural to us, and we can then look at the root causes of the imbalances and devise appropriate prescriptions. I was thinking, why not apply this type of thinking to your health practice? When was the last time your practice had a health check-up, and you really look at what is working in my practice and what isn’t? Based on those answers, where do you have to make changes to your practice, the structure of your practice to improve function?
James Maskell: Yeah, that’s super interesting. Obviously for chiropractors, I think that’s a good analogy because typically in the chiropractic world they talk about structure equals function. But also in functional medicine, it’s sort of a big fit. What would be some of the symptoms that would come up as a result of not having the right structure and function in place?
Uli Iserloh: I think when you ask yourself questions around how much time do you have available each week? Do you find yourself coming into the office on the weekend to catch up on paperwork? Is your staff as empowered as you? Wish they were. Do they ask a lot of questions or clarifications? You realize that these issues really come down to time management, areas of practice profitability, and patient acquisition. You’ll soon recognize that the systemic inefficiencies and misaligners from that are then really directly responsible for poor practice health.
James Maskell: Yeah, and there’s a lot of unhealthy practices. One of the things that we see all the time is that, even some of the guru’s in functional medicine, if you were to actually to get a profit and loss statement for their practice and see, okay that one of the reasons why we started the practice accelerated two years ago is because we got the first real honest look at what was happening in functional medicine, and it wasn’t very good. If you … our goal is to convince thousands and thousands of doctors to come and take part in the functional medicine revolution. If you now understand that you’re going to make less money coming into functional medicine, it’s a pretty hard sell. So we need practices that are going to sustain and perform well. Obviously, we’re in big support of any organization that is helping to do that. We’ve helped to do that with hundreds and hundreds of practitioners through the accelerator, and I know you’ve been building websites for practitioners to help them with that. So what are some of the solutions that practitioners can deploy, or once they understand that they’ve got some disfunction going on?
Uli Iserloh: I think the overall solution is to create more structure in your practice with better defined processes in office automations and marketing automation. We can talk about these three areas separately, but the important aspect is to embark on this before you get busy, because once you’re really in this mess and you have a lot of patients coming in there, it gets harder and harder to put these systems in place. If you’re just starting out, or you’re just ramping up your practice, or if you’re just transitioning into this arena, it’s super important to think about these things right now before you get really busy, so that you have the structure in place to really support the growth of your practice.
Ask yourself, every practitioner wants more patients in their practice, but imagine a situation if you had 20 new patients coming into your practice right now, could your practice actually handle that? Would the internal processes be in place to smoothly move them through the practice, would they get educated enough, would they know exactly what to do and what not to do? So you soon realize you’re probably not ready for 20 new patients this week. In order to get your practice to a point where that is not a big probably, you really have to do the advance work to set up these automations and processes before you get busy.
James Maskell: Ultimately yeah, 20 is great and I think many people out there would say maybe 20 is okay. I know Jeff Glad is a good example I use, they have 20 or 25 new patients every week. So they’ve been doing that for six years, what about 100? What about 200? What about 1,000? We went out a couple weeks ago to meet an employer with 16,000 people. If we signed them and we needed 100 patients in this one particular clinic, we’ve got to start thinking in those numbers because that’s the scale of the problem, right?
Uli Iserloh: Exactly.
James Maskell: The scale of the solution is just scaling up. But the scale of the problem is massive. If you’re looking at any of these issues, look at Benecomp last week. Everyone needs functional medicine. Employers need it, patients need it to get better, chronic illness is 86% of costs, so that the problem is very well defined. The solution is there in theory, and it’s there in very small batches. What we’re trying to do is to get to a scalable solution so we can actually solve chronic disease, and that’s going to take a lot more structure. What are some of the structures that we’ve either spoken about at the conference, or other things that you’re doing with practitioners right now, where you see that there’s an opportunity to build structure that gives consistent experience that will power word of mouth?
Uli Iserloh: I think from talking to over 500 practitioners over the last year alone in one-on-one strategy sessions as well as several conferences I went to. I think you have to think about the time thief’s in your week. Where are you hemorrhaging time? How can you get that time back? Ideally through delegation and automation to be free up more time for what you as a practitioner desire to do. Lack of boundaries is one of the biggest time thief’s. It’s really critical that your office is setting the appropriate boundaries and expectations with patients in how your practice interacts with patients. Are they emailing too much, are they calling too much? What information is your staff dispensing vs are you dispensing as the lead clinician? It’s about creating and defining processes in your practice that your staff can execute without having to rely on you. Think about things like lab report tracking, answering incoming questions, cancellations and all this stuff, the logistical stuff that a practice needs to get clear on.
James Maskell: Absolutely. I remember the first clinic that I worked in, the spa on Green street, back in 2005. When you would take practitioners around, like I would take practitioners around later on in the years to come to show them what the practice looked like, and literally the most valuable thing in that whole business, what was the most valuable asset that business had? It was the operations manual. It was six inches thick, and it had documented processes. The people that ran that practices had been in the spa industry, and they knew how to run stuff. So let’s just say you saw that there weren’t nearly enough appointments booked the next week. We could, there was a process to say, “Okay what do you do? Get out the list of people that have gift certificates and call them. And here’s the script, and here’s where you find the list of people, and here’s how you call it out.”
It wasn’t just a, let’s hope for the best, and hope people book in. Every probably had a solution. There were scripts and systems for everything. I think that is, that is what is necessary to go from being a doctor to a business owner, and it’s hard. It’s not easy. , but ultimately it’s necessary.
Uli Iserloh: I think the biggest problem that Peter Osborn was talking about for instance, is winging it, because you don’t have a defined process. What that ultimately translated into is, it creates inconsistency on how your office responds to patients. Your staff can’t ultimately step in for you, because they don’t actually know what the official policy is, or how you want this handled. So if you don’t have a process in place, even if you’re a solo practitioner. You’re making things up from one patient to the next. It creates inconsistency and inefficiencies that ultimately, you can’t just have somebody else run the process because they don’t know that there is a process in the first place.
James Maskell: Yeah absolutely. And ultimately … you mentioned something that was really critical there, is how empowered are your staff? Most people would think about how effective are your staff? But ultimately, if you have the right processes, you’re empowering them to first of all, to follow the processes and just execute the plan. But then with the best staff, they’re going to start to continue to build out the processes too. That’s ultimately what you want, to solve problems dynamically.
Uli Iserloh: Exactly. Now the second area where practices could use a lot more structure, is in how they acquire and nurture new patients. That’s sort of under the banner of marketing automation. Functional medicine, lifestyle medicine is really all about consistent communication. People coming into your office, they’re at a fifth grader comprehension level, so you need to repeat things seven times and really pass on your knowledge for them to really understand what it is that your practice does, why they should see you as opposed to anyone else in your community, and how it benefits them. So if you’re trying to do this one-on-one, or if you leave this up to chance, how to communicate that story, then your practice has no chance really to get into a consistent flow of pre-educated patients.
James Maskell: If you’re listening to this, I imagine you are a fan of the Functional Forum podcast. We did a whole series a few months ago called, success leaves clues. If you look at someone like a Bill Hemmer, where he’s got his 12 step recovery program, like a 12 step addiction program. He’s created a 12 step process, everyone goes through the same 12 process, there’s a defined structure. Same with Dr Logan who’s doing the Bredesen protocol, like consistent things happening at different parts, setting up a consistent system for the business so that every patient ha a very organized experience.
One of the things, you mentioned winging it. I think most practices that I see around the country are winging the majority of everything. Basically it’s up to the practitioner’s brain to remember to say, “Okay, can you send them this. Can you do this, can you set up that.” Ultimately, that stuff needs to happen in a coordinated way, and it not have to be in your brain. Because ultimately, if you’re the practitioner and you’re listening to this, you’ve got a lot on, you’ve got a lot, you’re typically the practice owner, so you’ve got to look at the dollars and the cents, but you’re also typically the main provider.
So I just want to share some empathy, I guess, more than anything because I feel your pain, but I also view you as capable. I know that most people are capable of doing this. Once they get into a habit of it, and get excited. That’s on of the things that we’ve seen in our practice accelerator, is that once people realize that everyone’s the same and they’re no dumber than anyone else for not working this out yet. That’s one thing about our accountability groups, is that we’ve seen practitioners, once they’re in a group together, realize they have the same problems, they’re all dealing with the same mess. So then it’s like, “Okay, we’re all dealing with the same mess, I don’t feel dumb, I’m not incapable, everyone else is doing it.” Then they get into a habit of executing every week on building the systems.
Then it’s like, “oh, I love being an entrepreneur.” Because you see the progress, you can look back three months, three years and see how much progress you’ve made. Ultimately what we’re trying to do, is just to get people into a structure where they can execute like that, so I can see that now. Uli, I know that you’re really focused in on marketing, and I know that the websites that you’ve been making for practitioners are focused on that. What came from the conference, or what are some other thoughts that you had for practitioners on the importance of this?
Uli Iserloh: I was really connecting with lots of practitioners at these various events and polling them, how do you get patients into your practice? How do you ensure that the right patients come into your practice, and not just a random selection? How do you really dial in who your ideal patient avatar is? And by in large, people recommended exactly what we’re talking about, which is what we call a patient acquisition funnel for your website, where on your website is a series of lead magnets or ethical ripes that attract exactly the right patients that you want to work with. Then get them exposed to your emails and videos so that they really get to know, I can trust you before they take up your one-on-one time. The idea really is, get them on your mailing list. Once they’re on your mailing list, expose them to your content, establish your authority. The goal there is really, get them into a local workshop or into phone consult so that they can connect with you one-on-one, and decide to become your patient.
Another thing that people recommended is the use of case studies on your website. So if you’re thinking about how can I demonstrate my expertise in my community? Case studies are really the best ways to showcase your expertise and really sell them without selling. Because you take them through an experience where they recognize themselves as the case study person, and they can see there was a before picture, they were in really bad shape, then after working with you, here’s the after picture and how their life looks like. That could be in the form of video testimonials, in terms of slides with case studies, but it’s a very powerful way to demonstrate that you can help them by showing how you’ve helped other patients.
James Maskell: Yeah, absolutely. Case studies is one of the things that we’ve done. Ultimately when you sign up for email lists now, we’re going to put you in front of the Success Leaves Clues series. Because one, you see passionate practitioners excited about being entrepreneurs, you see the practice transformation of practitioners that have been part of our programs, you listen to Dr Laura Salyer talk about her journey from being a regular DO employed to being an entrepreneur and having her own practice. The transformation of that doctor is incredible, and is so inspiring and so powerful. So we’ve had dozens and dozens of other doctors go, “Yeah, I want to be like her. She seems excited about her work, she’s transforming the health of this community, she’s coming up with her own innovations inside functional medicine by doing the intake as a group visit.”
It’s just amazing to see, so why wouldn’t you want everyone, I would want everyone that comes into our community to hear that because then they’re like, “Oh I see what the accelerator is, it’s getting people fired up.” Or, “Don’t you want a patient that’s had a transformation.” Just think about your best patient and how fired up they are that now they can play with their grandkids, or whatever their story is. If you had every single person that you came into contact with hear that story, they’d be ready to pay whatever dollars you’re charging for your practice because they now hear and believe. This is a great way to do it, selling without selling, just like you said. Ultimately people want these solutions. Having a third party saying, “Look, this was a transformation.” It’s not like you can get those patients to just show up and be there at every moment. Maybe if you’re doing workshops you can get a successful patient or two there, but ultimately what you’re talking about is an automated way to deliver it. Doesn’t have to be a podcast either, could be a written testimonial, could be video, could be anything.
Uli Iserloh: Yep. I want to move on to how in office automations can help you steal back time, but one of the resources that we have in an on demand training at goevomed.com/ppf where I show you how to optimize your website for maximum patient acquisition. So a whole training on that if free, and so that is probably a good starting point if you recognize that your practice needs to be of patient acquisition.
I mentioned in office automations, and in office automation really help your staff take the load off both your shoulder and their shoulder by moving some of these recurring and repetitive tasks into automation. It frees them up to do more productive things, or wherever else you want to direct them to work on your practice. Some of these ideas is, how does your intake work? Is that automated? There’s technologies like Living Matrix, there’s other intake technologies. When a patient comes into your office, you don’t want them to pre fill the paperwork. Another area is, what kind of EMR do you have? When you first start out with your practice, you may not want to jump right into the expensive EMR. Figuring out what is the right practice management software is a huge part of in office automation.
James Maskell: Absolutely. Yeah look, this is, all of these things that you’re talking about. You said the time sucks at the beginning. Ultimately what you have to do is to set up a structure whereby some technology is doing what you would do, or someone from your office would do. That’s why we’ve been huge on appointment scheduling. One of the things that I found is that I saw this amazing piece of like a staff from Zoc Doc, where they said that 80% of all appointments were booked between six pm and nine am, in exactly the time where you don’t have anyone on your front desk if you just have a normal practice, nevermind the days that you’re off.Having a way for patients to book their appointments when there’s no one at the front desk is just a, I hate using this phrase, it’s a no brainer. It’s just something that you have to have because that’s when people want to book their appointments.
So what Uli’s talking about here, filling out the paperwork, so annoying for a patient to have to fill out their paperwork sitting in the office, they could have done it from home, they could have done it from a computer because they can type way faster than they can write. There’s many ways that we’ve focused on. What are some other ways that you’ve found for in office automation, Uli?
Uli Iserloh: If you are on board with marketing automation, ie: providing prospective patients a series of emails with videos that really introduce your practice, why not deploy this once they’re scheduled for the first intake visit? You’re on the phone with them, with the phone consultation, they give you their credit card, they are now booked for their first visit, what is it that you should be sending them via email, maybe with an included video, that would make that first visit so much easier? It would take some of the anxiety out of this first visit. It would establish some of the things that you would say probably in the first 10, 15 minutes. Imagine how it is if you could save 10, 15 min with every first visit because they have already heard it in an email, and you just had to elude to it in that first visit with just one sentence. It’s like, “Oh yeah, I remember that.”
Also, what happens after that first visit? You’re sending them home with some paperwork, but again we know people don’t like to read, so how could you make this more multi media, how could you create a video that, once they leave your practice, you have figured out in that appointment, what is their biggest health concern? Is it cardiovascular, is it this, is it that? Could you then have an email automation that says, okay this patient should get now six emails with video programming around lifestyle modification, or detoxing, or whatever else it is that you want them to follow into it. You don’t have to say in the appointment all the things that they need to be doing. You could just say, “Hey, we’ll hook you up with a six part video sequence that explains all the things that I want you to learn.”
As practitioners, you many be thinking, “Oh, my one-on-one time is the most valuable thing that I can give to a patient.” But most patients, they’re so anxious in that appointment that they can’t really remember what you said. So the value that you think this entails is really not there, the patient actually appreciates if they had an email and a video that they could watch over and over again until they get it, then they could refer back to it. Again, if you’re setting up your program, being able to position, hey you get 20 hours or 10 hours of videos where I explain various lifestyle concepts. That value adds to your program that you record once, and it’s available to every patient that comes through it. You could even probably sell this on it’s own. I know Sanjay Patel has a program called, the Patient is the Doctor of the Future, or something like this. Think about how you could save time, but also create more value for your patients.
James Maskell: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s so interesting. And I think definitely having low cost ways to interact with you, or free ways to interact with you is the future. Ultimately, if the only way to interact with your business and to learn from you is to pay the $300 initial fee, you’re really limiting your ability to have impact in the community, because part of being a functional integrative medicine physician is the root cause resolution that takes your time. But part of it is helping people execute on the lifestyle. If you can help people execute on the lifestyle, and they get better from doing it, they’re ultimately going to come to you the next time they have and issue. You’re establishing yourself as the go to person in that community, and ultimately that’s really what this is all about. That’s what marketing’s about.
The automation part of what we’re talking about here is what allows you, like Uli said, to do it once, get it set up, get it organized, and then just to be able to use it ongoing. That’s really what our focus has been on the accelerator and all the work we’ve done, because ultimately so many practitioners need this, and so few practitioners are actually executing it.
Uli Iserloh: I want to share two super cool nuggets. One could be, how many questions can your staff answer on your behalf? If you were just looking at all the questions that are coming in from your audience through whatever channel, whether it’s on the phone, through the website, through email. How about you gather your staff, you just turn on the microphone and you record the answers for all these questions, the top 20, 30 questions, you get that transcribed, and then turned into simple nuggets that your front desk staff could just copy and paste into an email and respond on your behalf. You would know that they’re answering it exactly how you want it answered, comprehensively and consistently each and every time.
Another nugget is lab reports. I’m not sure if you’re doing video walk through of the lab report because before the patient comes into the office. Imagine, are you really talking about the fundamentals of what that lab report is about, and could you just relegate that into a standard video that every patient gets? Then you would just have to spend five minutes on talking about the exact lab results and specifics for that patient. Again, imagine there is so much time that could be saved by being systematic about this and creating a resource once that is available to all the patients, and you wouldn’t have to repeat it each and every time.
James Maskell: I love that. What are some other areas? I know you said you’ve spoken to 500 practitioners last year when we were launching the website product. What are some other things that you’ve found from practitioners that are real time sucks, particularly in a functional medicine practice?
Uli Iserloh: I think it’s really internal processes, and being able to optimize patient education. There are so much that as a practitioner you need to communicate, and most practitioners probably don’t even realize where they’re losing time each and every time. Often times what I hear is, “Oh, my practice is full. I can’t even grow any further because I’m so busy.” Then when I interrogate them, “Well, what are you busy with? Are you repeating the same thing each and every time? What was the unique part that only pertained to that patient?” Then we realize, varying times spent in the appointment is spent going over the same information time and again. So really monitoring of where you’re losing that time is the first step to then deploying resources, maybe putting all this information into a patient portal or client portal, where your patients can access it and draw from it.
James Maskell: So useful. I hope that most practitioners, if you’re listening to this, just start to take stock of what’s going on in your own practice, because ultimately our ability at the Functional Forum to effect the future of medicine is dependent, in this part, on your ability to execute on these things. Because ultimately, what we’ve learned in the last four years, is even the best practitioners who have got the busiest in their practice, who have seen the great results, and the word has gone out into the community, are super busy and overworked and tired. Ultimately we need a sustainable solution. So ultimately we have to either get this thing right on an individual level, or we have to find ways to siphon the demand in other ways. And that’s other things we’re looking at with Functional Forum, on how to do that. Uli, I know you’ve probably got a lot of people’s interests here, so where can they find out more? Or if they want to chat with you, what’s the best next step?
Uli Iserloh: I think we have a lot of pre training for practitioners, and the best way to get started is probably scheduling a free practice assessment with our experts. So if you go to goevomed.com/concierge, we can hook you up with the most appropriate resources we have created. As we said, a lot of information. We have an evolution in seven series that walks you though our most powerful content, lets you choose from where you want to dig in. If you’re looking specifically for help around practice marketing, check out our on demand training at goevomed.com/ppf. That’s short for perfect patient flow, where I show you how to optimize your website for maximum patient acquisition, and simple things that you and your team can do to put that on the right track.
James Maskell: Absolutely. So check out goevomed.com/ppf, we’ll put that in the show notes. If you want to speak to with one of our team, you can go to goevomed.com/concierge and we can put you in touch with the most appropriate resources. Uli, thanks for coming on, I appreciate you going through these conferences and seeing what’s on there. Ultimately, what we’ve been about for the last two years is implementation. It’s not about having great ideas, it’s about implementing a basic infrastructure that can help you build and organize a sustainable practice. Thanks so much for taking the time to share everything that you’ve learned. If you’re listening to this and you need help, then feel free to get in touch. This is the James Maskell, I’m the host of the Functional Forum podcast. It’s my chief operating officer, Dr Uli Iserloh. He’s not a real doctor, don’t go and see him for any medical situations, but if you have symptoms in your practice, he is the doctor for you. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
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