Home Runs, Strikeouts, and Singles and Its Application to Healthcare

I have always been a fan of baseball statistics.  Most of us baseball aficionados are aware that Babe Ruth held the home run record with his 60 homeruns in 1927.  However, it is worth noting that Babe Ruth was also known as the King of Strikeouts as well as the Sultan of Swat as he accumulated 1330 strikeouts in his career and he led the American League in strikeouts five times.

Looking at more current baseball statistics there were more than 5000 home runs hit during the 2009 major league baseball season.  That same year, nearly 34,000 single hits took place.  My take home message is that there were seven times more singles than home runs.  Let the truth be told that more games are won by singles than homers.

These statistics also apply to our medical careers.  Not every marketing foray is going to be a home run.  We can still be successful if we can consistently hit singles. 

Let me provide a few examples of my marketing strike outs. I was a young doctor starting my practice in New Orleans and the hospital public relations department arranged for me to give a luncheon program to a group at a senior citizen’s home.  My topic I selected was “Evaluation and Treatment of Impotence”.  I arrived as the men were pushed in their wheel chairs along with their oxygen canisters into the auditorium.  It was readily apparent after which the men entered the room that this was not a topic that would be of interest to these men who were probably more interested in oxygen rather than erections.  I shifted gears and asked for a deck of cards and a piece of rope and did a few magic tricks which went over far better than any medical lecture.  I had a handout which I gave to the aids and nursing staff at the senior citizen’s home and was delighted to find that one of the women gave the material to her husband who became a patient in the practice. Lesson learned: check out your audience before you give a presentation.  Make sure your presentation is appropriate for the audience.

Another example.  I joined a physician medical dispensing organization.  I was promised thousands of dollars of ancillary income if I would consider dispensing medications in my office to my patients.  I was told that doctor’s offices are now adopting in-house pharmacies, often generating additional income with minimal investment.  I had to invest significant dollars to purchase a large inventory of prescription drugs.  I also had to dedicate space to the storage of the medication and had to purchase a special cabinet to secure the medications and avoid theft of the drugs.  In addition, the process required additional staff time to distribute the medication to the patient and even more time to keep records to log in the medication with accurate records to the state organization overseeing drug dispensing and also accurate recording the medications in the patients’ charts.  This was far from a windfall but more like a prat fall!  It was waste of time and money.  It was an example of a Babe Ruth strike out.  Lesson learned: I should do what I do best and that is see patients and focus on providing outstanding service to my existing patients and not looking for added income in an area where I have little knowledge or experience.

Bottom Line: Just like Babe Ruth didn’t hit a homerun every time he stepped up to the plate, we can’t expect to hit a home run with every patient.  Yes, we would like every patient to have a home run experience with our practice.  No matter how good every doctor\surgeon is we are going to fail on occasion and not cure or heal every patient. 

Author: Neil Baum, MD

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