By Justin Batt, Chair of the Health Practice

What does it take to be seen as an authority in healthcare?

It used to require 150 peer-reviewed articles published in journals, or appearing regularly in professional publications like “The American Journal of Cardiology”, and being a frequent guest speaker at medical conferences. That was how you established your credibility as a thought leader in your field or specialty.

But today, that’s all changed. You’re not only required to do speaking engagements to your peers and the medical community; you’ve got to reach out and establish yourself as an authority in your field to potential patients too, and in a language they understand, person to person.

I think a great example of this and why it’s so powerful is Dr. Oz. Take a patient who has cardiovascular disease, and is looking for a specialist. Offer that person a choice between two physicians; the first is Dr. Oz, who we all know from his television shows and from being on Oprah, and who’s a cardiologist by training. Let’s say the alternative is Dr. X, a cardiologist who was Harvard-trained, who has published 150 peer-reviewed medical journals, and who’s done hundreds of successful procedures in cardiovascular patients – but someone the patient has never heard of.  In today’s personality-driven culture, which physician would that patient choose to go to see? I would bet 9 times out of 10, he’s going to see Dr. Oz.

Why? People want to be treated by a doctor they see as an individual – not by someone they don’t know, and certainly not by a “healthcare system”.  They want to know their doctor as a person, not just as another name on the roster of a big practice. And they want to know you as an expert – but they don’t have the scientific literacy to wade through the technical language of a journal. If you’re counting on your biographical page, where you’re listed as a part of a major health system, to serve as your introduction, you’ve got to realize that to that prospective patient you’re indistinguishable from the other 10,000 doctors that are also part of that system.

How do you break out of that anonymity to reach out directly to patients? The important thing from a consumerism standpoint is to be seen as an individual, independent authority – and the quickest path to that is to write a book. We often say “the riches are in the niches”: I’d bet that whatever your specialty is, it’s something you’re not only very knowledgeable about but also passionate about. And while your CV may impress people, what they’ll remember about you – and why they’ll choose you over your peers – is that you explained complex ideas to them in a language they could understand. You literally “wrote the book” on your specialty.

Using that book to reach patients is just one part of the sophisticated branding strategy required today to build the kind of authority that generates leads – but it’s a critical piece you can’t afford to neglect.

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