Acupuncturists trying to figure out how to open an acupuncture clinic may find it intimidating initially, but it can be immensely rewarding for providers who are ready to capitalize on this growing industry. The acupuncture and oriental medicine landscape consists largely of smaller practices with no single business holding more than a 5% market share in the US. That means that acupuncturists who want to take ownership of the care they are providing would fit seamlessly into this healthcare industry.
With that in mind, there are still important details to consider when launching a healthcare organization, so we spoke with DrChrono user and Chief Operating Officer of Acupuncture Atelier, Afsheen Khosrowjerdi, about his experience opening and expanding his clinic. Khosrowjerdi and his wife, Sara Khosrowjerdi, left their successful Wall Street careers in 2015 to follow their passion for high quality, alternative medicine, and this blog shares some of their experiences and insights from operating their alternative medicine practice.
1. Hone Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Digital marketing is one of the best mechanisms for bringing patients into your acupuncture practice, and it can be incredibly cost-effective. Acupuncture Atelier initially depended on word of mouth to get new clients, and though this was effective, it was not easy to scale. Khosrowjerdi found that their targeted digital marketing strategy has captured the vast majority of new patients for their practices.
“Now we’re seeing 85 to 90% of our patients finding us digitally whether it’s through Google or social media. SEO is a huge part of what we try to do, and on social media, we have a reasonable following for acupuncture,” says Khosrowjerdi.
Working on your online presence is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition. Acupuncture Atelier was initially launched in Hoboken, New Jersey which has a population under 60,000, but there were around five other acupuncture practices in the city. Fine-tuning their website proved crucial to standing out in such a saturated market.
For example, many practices feel the need to over-explain and expand their offerings on their website, but Khosrowjerdi found that this created a confusing experience for patients. Ultimately, the best way to explain acupuncture treatments, they realized, was in person. With that in mind, they focused the website on specific treatments such as fertility treatment or pain management to get patients in the door where they could cover questions and concerns with a more personal touch. That personable nature is important to their marketing strategy, particularly on social media.
“Really it’s a two or three-pronged approach in the digital world. For us, that includes our own blogs, making sure we rank for things that we specialize in like fertility and our social media. We take a very different approach to social media where we try to be as authentic and open about our own personal lives as we can to form more honest connections with our patients,” said Khosrowjerdi.
Their digital marketing strategies have been highly successful in establishing and growing their acupuncture practices, and those strategies can be replicated by savvy practitioners. Your approach to content can be personal like theirs, or it can lean more informative. Either way, acupuncturists must bring a plan to the table to stand out from the crowd.
2. Create Consistent Hiring and Cultural Standards
In general, acupuncture practices tend to keep staffing very lean because employees are expensive. However, you may reach a point where the workload grows beyond what you can handle alone, or perhaps you are doing so well that you want to add a new location. Whatever the situation, you need to be prepared to hire the right practitioners and staff for your specific practice, and to do that, you need an understanding of your distinct company culture.
“Things that most medium to large businesses have in place need to be there even for the smallest business, and the most important thing when somebody is looking to bring on an additional provider is to ensure that they have a roadmap. That includes company handbooks, policies, employment agreements, and things that make working for you more transparent and comfortable,” said Khosrowjerdi.
This may seem like overkill for a small practice that just needs a little help, but having an established culture and structure with documentation to communicate those expectations will help you hire better candidates. Instead of looking for anybody to fill a spot, you can find the right person, train them to your standards, and watch them grow with your company.
“What we’re trying to do is attract like-minded practitioners, train them in our methods, get them to buy into our culture, and allow them to do what they went to school for while we handle the admin,” he said.
3. Have an Understanding of Acupuncture Medical Billing
Medical billing and coding are complex procedures, especially for acupuncturists who can expect different degrees of health insurance coverage for their services from patient to patient. Because of this complexity, it is essential to have a solid base of knowledge about acupuncture medical billing when operating your own clinic. Even if you decide to outsource billing to a team of billing and coding professionals, Khosrowjerdi emphasized that being able to understand what that team is doing will help you vet their work and protect your practice.
“I say to every acupuncturist, learn the billing yourself, but if you hire an outsourced billing team, make sure you know everything they’re doing inside and out. Many acupuncturists don’t understand what the biller is telling them and how that fits within their state and national legal structure,” he said.
Khosrowjerdi has personally had largely negative experiences with acupuncture-specific billing vendors. Though not every vendor is the same, he mostly came across organizations that were rather opaque about their processes, sometimes even bordering on predatory, because so many acupuncturists do not know enough about acupuncture billing to catch notice before it’s too late.
“That transparency is one of the reasons we went with DrChrono. I had no desire to go with an acupuncture-specific biller who is 100% incentivized to maximize billing and collections because ultimately the responsibility falls upon the provider. I would say don’t jump into it headfirst, and make sure you have somebody with a long track record of billing on behalf of medical doctors in addition to alternative medicine providers,” Khosrowjerdi advised.
Acupuncturists have a lot to consider before starting an acupuncture clinic, so thorough preparation is essential. These tips outlined by Afsheen Khosrowjerdi of Acupuncture Atelier will provide prospective acupuncture business owners with a solid starting point as they attempt to build a practice that grows.