Dr. Harry Heike has owned and managed Family Foot Specialists in Newport News, Virginia, since 1988. His schooling and ten years of experience as a podiatrist were not enough to guide him through the substantial problems of running a podiatric practice.
“My accounts receivable were astronomical,” says Dr. Heike. So when Sterling called me and invited me to their ‘practice management’ seminar, I thought I’d give it a try.”
At the seminar, he says, “The data was fascinating, but I was even more impressed with the emotional tone of the speaker and the registrars. The Sterling people seemed more honest, more knowledgeable, and with a high level of certainty.”
Dr. Heike headed to Sterling headquarters for an in-depth analysis of his practice, and a set of courses in the exact management skills he would need to handle what was found.
“The most impressive course was the Improving Business Through Communication course. The drills on this course enabled me to really be there, and communicate with whoever was in front of me, especially important in dealing with patients, but with staff as well.
“I also found the first business course to be vital, and I think it is vital for any medical practitioner. In today’s medical environment, it is very very easy for a doctor to be lured into unethical type activity because both the government and the insurance company engage in it. In fact, the insurance companies have recodified what moral behavior is to such an extent, that to coexist with these guys you are invited to play the same kind of game.
“By that I mean,” says Dr. Heike, “they don’t pay for claims; they find fault with legitimate treatment; they change the rules repeatedly or make up reasons so as to not pay claims to the doctors. This is a constant effort to not give proper exchange for services delivered. And the HMO concept is based on withholding services from the patient to increase profits.
“These agencies need the Ethics for Business course and someone to help them straighten out their ethics. But until someone comes around who can do that, the podiatrist has to stay true to his own ethical standards and insist on proper exchange.
“The podiatrist has to push through by having a stronger intention than those who would prevent him from getting paid for good service. He has to market more intelligently, he has to be willing to do battle, he has to work harder.
“Sterling and the Hubbard management technology have given us the tools to do that, to be expanding and prosperous. We apply Hubbard marketing and survey tech, and public relations tech, and we get good results.
“There is a tremendous market out there for podiatry that most podiatrists don’t know about, because they’ve never done a proper survey. Lots of podiatrists think that there are too many doctors out there and not enough patients. But that’s not true. When we did surveys we found a tremendous number of people in our market area; we just had to look for them and find out how to reach them.
“Actually, though, the first thing I applied when I got back to my practice after the Sterling courses was the information on communication and I started organizing and got my office manager trained. Then some work was needed with the staff’s ethics, but once that was done, things took off.”
How well is Dr. Heike doing? Well enough, he says, that it would probably not be believable to podiatrists who aren’t properly trained in management.
“All podiatrists could do a lot better if they could manage,” he says. “I’ve seen too many peak out at $200-300,000 only because they couldn’t manage more than three people. But that’s just because of a lack of administrative skill.
“There’s a lot of pretty disillusioned podiatrists out there, but they should know that there is actually something out there that works, and that Sterling has it. If they don’t like the conditions they are in, they can change their conditions!”