In the world of healthcare, there is a fairly firm line drawn between the haves and the have-nots. It’s why the debate over healthcare access and insurance coverage rages so hard in the halls of government and it’s why the richest men in America live on average 15 years longer than the poorest men. Globally, this pattern repeats itself. What does all of this have to do with your medical practice and its limited reach? Despite the failure to make significant progress on health reforms, most people care about reversing these inequalities and they want to partner with providers who share this commitment. Your practice can benefit, then, from participating in and promoting partnerships with non-profits.
When it comes to choosing a provider, patients today are more informed than ever before. They aren’t just going to the family doctor or whomever a friend recommends; they’re doing research before committing. For most patients, this research consists of reading patient reviews and looking at where you went to school and did your fellowships, but when a potential client clicks on your website, they’re also looking for someone who shares their values. They want someone who offers top quality care, but also someone who expresses similar concerns to their own – whether that’s the importance of family or a commitment to fighting inequality.
Growing A Partnership
Of course, you can’t just choose any non-profit to partner with when building your community connections. The key to success is finding a point of intersection, where you have a shared vision with your non-profit collaborator. It’s great to give back wherever you can, but if you don’t have the appropriate skills or resources to work with your partner, then the relationship will be a strain on both parties. One of the easiest ways to develop non-profit partnerships within your field is by looking to your professional association for guidance. For example, dentists seeking to connect with a community organization might choose the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s Give Back A Smile Program. The program benefits victims of domestic or sexual abuse who have suffered dental injuries, helping them reclaim their confidence and their lives. Other dental charities include the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped, which serves medically fragile and disabled individuals, and Oral Health America, whose Wisdom Tooth Project meets the oral health needs of older Americans. These partnerships are natural links for dental practices, matching available skills with a pressing community need. Another way to connect to professionally sanctioned non-profits is by working with educational groups. The Pacific University College of Optometry, for example, partners with AMIGOS Eye Care, a non-profit providing that provides vision screenings and recycled eyewear to people across the globe. You don’t need to send a doctor abroad to help; you can just be a collection site for used eyewear.
Many medical practices are intimidated by non-profit partnerships because they see the dramatic work of organizations like Last Mile Health, which uses telemedicine to recruit community health workers in developing countries, or Living Goods, a Uganda-based program that’s working to reduce child mortality. Because they can’t stretch their resources that far, local medical practices think there’s nothing of value for them to do. In reality, small, practical measures can make a big difference. The best way to scale down while still creating change for those in need is to think about small needs, not just big projects. For example, a private therapist might offer a few sliding scale slots through a local non-profit because resources are often tight on both ends. The additional slots can help the non-profit better distribute clients and manage their caseload; the therapist can support community mental health without sacrificing their practice’s profitability. Just how beneficial are these small actions for your practice and the community? Consider the non-healthcare private companies getting on board with similar programs. A company like Lyft could partner with just about any non-profit to demonstrate their commitment to local community, but they chose to work with the American Cancer Society this October to provide free rides to cancer patients in South Florida going to and from medical appointments. Working with health non-profits simply hits home and is generally non-controversial. Private-public partnerships in healthcare get a lot of press, and that’s good for business, but those marketing benefits take a backseat to the on-the-ground good of giving back to your community. Everyone knows someone who needs a little help. Draw clients to you by supporting not just their healthcare needs, but also the needs of those around them. Do good beyond your business and watch for surprising returns.