Create Professional Groups to Expand Practice, Referrals

BOSTON — A goal of every practitioner should be expanding your practice and referrals. By creating a local professional group in your community, you can open doors to networking opportunities with other practitioners as well as local vendors and suppliers, according to a speaker at the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association National Assembly.

“I think something every community needs is a place to go for continuing education and to network locally based on your area of specialization,” Kevin C. Matthews, CO, LO, practitioner, chief executive officer and owner of Advanced Orthotic Designs in San Antonio, said. “You get exposed to a lot of different topics and there are many classes that you can give as an orthotist to get your name out there.”

Start your own group

To start your own group, the first step to take is to choose what specialty the group will focus on and find other professionals in the community who specialize or work with the population. Collaborating with three or four like-minded individuals will help spread the word because you will have more contacts to reach out to. If you choose to work alone, Matthews recommends compiling a list of prospects and find reasons to get them all together.

“The difficulty is getting word out to start the group,” Matthews said. “You really need to get as many contacts as you can. With all of the different marketing tools it’s a little easier now than it was, and as word spreads the group will grow.”

One way to get prospective members to attend is to invite a known expert to present a topic and provide free continuing education credit and free dinner. If you are concerned about what the meeting will cost, invite local vendors or suppliers to sponsor the meetings and allow them to speak about their company and products for 10 minutes to 15 minutes before the speaker. Not only will this strategy provide food for the attendees at no cost to you, but it can help the vendor or supplier secure more clients. Also ask the sponsor if they will be willing to pay for the continuing education credit application as well.

According to Matthews, pediatric specialists, sports medicine specialists and rehabilitation specialists are ideas for groups that can provide many topics of discussion for regular or less frequent meetings.

“Meetings just take planning. If you plan ahead once and you have the group established, it’s pretty simple,” Matthews said. “Just forecast out your lectures and get other people to help and participate.”

Have a successful meeting

It is important to choose a topic that is interesting to orthotists and prosthetists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, etc. A topic that is timely will draw a crowd more than a topic that has been discussed several times before.

Well-known speakers who are experts in their field help to draw a crowd. If you are providing continuing education credit, you will need to obtain a copy of the speaker’s CV and outlines. According to Matthews, getting credit is relatively easy as long as you follow instructions obtained through the accrediting body.

You can always choose to present the topic yourself, but be sure that you are confident and competent about the topic you are presenting. Prepare for or introduce dissenting opinions and give your rationale for your recommendations. Be prepared to answer questions.

“If you’re not adept at speaking, get people to help and bring in orthotists from another city,” Matthews said. “But I suggest getting out there to speak. Speak at in-services and physical therapy groups just to get that experience. It does great things for you and your company. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it.”— by Casey Murphy

Matthews KC. Create professional groups to expand your referrals. Presented at: The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association National Assembly; Sept. 6-9, 2012; Boston.

Disclosure: Matthews has no relevant financial disclosures.

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