It is a well-established rule in the profession that meeting with potential referral sources — physicians, physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons — helps to raise their awareness of the profession and gain their trust in O&P practitioners’ abilities. Practitioners cannot forget, however, that first impressions are the most important, and the best way to make a first impression is with a strong presentation.
Joyce J. Perrone, consulting partner at Promise Consulting Inc. in Pittsburgh, spoke with O&P Business News for a sneak peek at her own presentation at this year’s American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists’ Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium.
One of the most important factors in the success of a presentation is whether or not the people in the room should be there. When structuring meetings with hospitals or medical practices, presenters not only should prepare the most relevant audience, but also the most receptive.
“Every meeting there’s always one wrong person in the room — someone who shouldn’t be there, who has a terrible attitude, who doesn’t want you there for whatever reason,” Perrone said.
It is critical that every speaker learn to handle a situation where a listener creates problems for the group and for the presentation. First, Perrone said, the speaker must try to understand that listener’s point, and offer to work toward a solution. For a hostile person, the best course of action is to diffuse the situation by offering a private meeting to discuss that point after the presentation and pulling that person out of the room.
“Most people do not want a longer meeting and will breathe a sigh of relief,” she said.
Perrone, who also serves as practice administrator at De La Torre O&P Inc., has worked with O&P practitioners to understand the various personality types, and how to work with them instead of fight against them. A dominant personality, for example, is a strong person who might blow into a room like a fierce wind, let loose an abundance of information, and leave just as quickly. The people observing the presentation, however, might not appreciate that approach. Instead, speakers first should get a sense of how those people would prefer to learn and alter their speech patterns accordingly.
Perrone offers to review presenters’ materials before they meet with a group. These materials should be professionally created and duplicated, without spelling or grammatical errors or any other mistakes. Different layout features and formatting — such as bullet points — can help integral information stand out on the page. If presenters are using PowerPoint, she checks for slide organization, visual impact and clarity.
She offered the example of one of her most challenging speeches: soon after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, she presented to a group of physicians who angrily questioned her about the new law. She was only the messenger — the physicians were attacking the law, not Perrone — but she still needed to quickly compose herself and stand her ground as a professional.
“You can’t come across wishy-washy,” she said. “In a situation like this, you really have to know your topic or you should not present, because the minute you start getting jabbed and stabbed, you may start to lose your confidence, and when you lose your confidence, your jugular vein starts to throb and somebody’s going to go for it.”
When practitioners make a mistake in a presentation, however, they must be able to handle the situation without looking foolish. She suggested first complimenting the person who found the mistake. Then, offer to check the facts and get back to him or her in a timely fashion with the proper information. This proves to the person that, while practitioners are not perfect, they are aware of how to obtain the proper information.
The ultimate partnership between presenter and listener — practitioner and referral source — facilitates a scenario where the O&P practitioner gets the business; the physician or physical therapist is happy with the service the practitioner provides; and the patient gets the best care.
“The main thing is that you’re giving [the physicians] what they want. You’re not going to give them what you want,” Perrone told O&P Business News. “Ultimately you very well may, but the only way you can do that is to first understand their needs. In other words, meet them where they are first, then gently make any proper corrections.”
When dealing with other health care professionals, like physical therapists, she said, practitioners must be willing to move outside the scope of their particular practices to find information about new technologies. Instead of rejecting new ideas to push their own products, practitioners should investigate physical therapists’ ideas and offer professional analysis of the treatment. In this way, practitioners position themselves as partners, instead of as salesmen.
“You want to form robust relationships. That’s what it boils down to,” she said. “You want long-term relationships with these people. That will get the contract. That will get them calling you to take care of the patient.”
For patients, this type of relationship means a more well-rounded care plan. With the O&P practitioner, the physician, the physical therapist and the physiatrist, among others, collaborating to offer the best treatment, and maintaining an open, honest relationship with each other, the patients ultimately benefit. Each member of the treatment team, then, benefits too. In health care, Perrone pointed out, it is difficult to find a caregiver who entered the field for a reason other than to help patients.
“That’s what we’re here for, to take care of the patient,” she said.
Perrone’s final piece of advice? Prepare, prepare, prepare.
“You can’t prepare enough,” she said.
She recommends being as ready to speak to the particular people in the room as you are to speak about the subject. The more that you know about the individuals in the room, the more specific your references and information can become. Will any of the people in the room be authorized to make decisions, or will someone take information to the president of the company after the meeting? Knowing the difference between the two will create a more targeted pitch.
Most important is that every practitioner can successfully present to physicians and other potential referral sources to grow their businesses, Perrone said.
“Just learn how to do it and have fun with it,” she said. “You have to take your snaps and hits and leave your ego at the door.” — Stephanie Z. Pavlou, ELS
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of preparation in any meeting or correspondence with physicians or other allied health professionals, especially in light of their time constraints. If you don’t have all the answers it’s important to be able to follow up and resolve any information gaps.
Our office recently experienced a potential problem in presenting information to physicians. We had sent an informative letter regarding the new Medicare required PECOS registration to the physicians we deal with. When attending clinic, I was confronted by one physician who really didn’t know much about this policy. I tried to answer his question to the best of my ability, but assured him that my office staff would follow up with his office staff to ensure compliance on both fronts. Even though I admittedly didn’t know all details of the new requirements, I was able to diffuse the situation by assuring our office would indeed help his office with all the information.
I feel that being honest about what you know, and what you don’t know can be as important as the material presented. As long as you can follow up appropriately in a timely fashion and to their satisfaction.
— Joel J. Kempfer, CP, FAAOP
President, Kempfer Prosthetics Orthotics Inc. and Practitioner Advisory Council member, O&P Business News