Dr. Samuels says it’s important to tell your colleagues at your institution about your clinical or research interests, as well as other physicians in your region by visiting their offices. “You can solicit referrals this way, and also put yourself in a position to give both lay talks to the community, professional talks to other physician groups and grand rounds at medical centers,” he says.
Dr. Lim strongly advises having at least one mentor. One of his mentors has been a leader in lupus care and research, and ran a lupus clinic at her institution for many years. “If you don’t have a mentor in the specific area of interest, you may still find one in another disease condition or field,” he says. “There are also many universal issues to starting any specialty niche. A career mentor can also help [you] navigate the more practical issues related to academic or practice advancement.”
Marketing Your Practice to Patients
As part of establishing your niche, you’ll need to market your specialty to potential patients. “The best people to promote your practice are your existing patients,” Dr. Arnold says. “If you take good care of them and understand their needs, patients will do your marketing. The longer you’re in practice, the more patients will promote it for you.”
Dr. Lim also says that building your patient base is key. An effective way to do this is to develop patient-centered resources. One example would be to foster the development of a patient support group that meets in your clinic or somewhere nearby. Disease-specific organizations are often active in various conditions. “You can quickly establish a relationship by volunteering to serve on an organization’s medical advisory board and speak at their patient forums,” he says.
Other crucial marketing strategies are to create a website that promotes your specialty and be active on social media. Additionally, list yourself as a provider of certain conditions on disease-focused websites, such as www.gouteducation.org.
Advertising through a variety of channels may work well, too, Dr. Lim says. You can purchase space on patient advocacy newsletters or in email blasts. Other traditional methods, such as targeted mailings, are good, too.
Promoting Your Practice to Physicians
Just as referrals from patients are invaluable, so are referrals from physicians. Dr. Arnold writes a letter to every patient’s primary care physician after a visit. “We want them to be aware of what we’re doing and thinking,” she says. “Many physicians have told us that they really appreciate this.” In addition to keeping the primary physician updated on the patient, it’s a great way to get referrals.