Doctor Entrepreneurship Podcast Series
We at Klara HQ would like to introduce the inaugural session of our weekly podcast series featuring doctor entrepreneurs. Klara is on a mission to inspire and help modern people within the modern healthcare system to reach new heights in their own lives through access to communication. One way we do this is by featuring inspirational doctors whom have started entrepreneurial ventures or have grown their practice in successful way. We are focused on connecting people for a better future.
Introducing our first guest, Meet Dr. Shiroko Sokitch.
If you're not able to tune in, check out the transcript of our conversation below:
Welcome to our doctor entrepreneur podcast by Klara, the healthcare communications app building the central nervous system of healthcare. I would like to welcome our first guest Dr. Shiroko Sokitch of Heart To Heart Medical Center who is here to discuss her journey.
With that Dr. Sokitch, would you mind introducing yourself and giving a little explanation on the background of your practice and your experience so far?
I’m a medical doctor and an acupuncturist and I’ve been in practice for 23 years in Northern California. In my practice I blend both Chinese and Western medicine to help patients with whatever it is that they need help with. The majority of people I see have are people who have sort of difficult problems that nobody else has solved so it tends to be that kind of patient.
What are the biggest challenges facing your practice currently?
Well I’ve been doing this for 23 years and there are different times that I have been through expansions and right now, for the first time in a long time, I am looking for employees and trying to expand my practice with more practitioners. So the challenge is finding the right people that match the way that I like to work.
What are some of the things you have done to grow your practice in the past?
I’ve done a lot of things for 25 years. I have had a newspaper column. My business is in Sonoma California and I had newspaper column in three different newspapers for 15 years where it was called ask Dr. Shiroko. So it was an advice column, and I would talk about various medical conditions and alternative ways to treat them. For a couple of years with a really good friend of mine I did a television show called Perspectives on Healing on local public access, and also we had that on 8 stations thoughout the state of California.
That was more recently, then you know patient referral. I have incentives for my patients to refer to me and I give talks in local communities and then I do currently, years ago we didn’t have social media, so I would go door to door, literally door to door, from business to business. My ex husband was a political and that’s how politicians got votes. So that’s kind of the model we tried in my practice was going door to door and telling people about what I do and who I am.
Also [another tactic is] getting local practitioners who either do similar things or complimentary things. I would go meet with them to tell them about my business and what I do and invite them to refer patients to me.
So all of those things.
How do you acquire new patients and increase your patient base? Is there anything now in modern times, for example social media and going to meet ups and things like that, that is becoming much more effective than the past ways you have tried to increase your patients?
Social media definitely gets me known but it hasn’t brought me very many patients. Yelp has brought a lot of patients. so having good yelp reviews really helps.
You can say Yelp helps.
I have not advertised on Yelp, I just have good Yelp reviews. People search the internet for me so they look at my webpage. So having a good webpage is good, Yelp reviews, i am writing a book and have been on a lot of interviews and summits for various healthcare conditions like Lyme disease and anxiety and things like that.
That has actually brought me people even internationally, so i have a couple people that are out of the country. I don’t know if the practitioners that are listening to this are interested in a wider range of patient referrals, but i have people now that are coming from Florida and Colorado to see me partly because I am doing a broader outreach on the internet.
One other thing, because i do bioidentical hormones, I’m on a special website. I’m on some special referral websites. So that probably brings a good number of people every month.
Do you use any technologies currently in your practice? We are this new innovative healthcare technology app, do you use any technology such as an EMR in managing your patients, an EHR, telemedicine?
Yes, I do. I use an app called Dr Chronos because I do integrative medicine and i sell supplements and herbs. very few EHR apps are applicable to me. because I’m doing both Chinese and western medicine. so that was one app where I could do all the things i do and integrate them into the online program that they have.
Do you have any advice for doctors who are just starting out and are looking to branch out on their own -- maybe an entrepreneurial venture within their practice such as selling supplements or taking on another type of medicine such as homeopathy and just adding onto their repertoire. Do you have any advice for them?
Of course I do, I have opinions about everything. I started 23 years ago and had eight practitioners in my office, and had a lot of overhead. It was a little bit difficult to get going because there were so many people involved in the process and i spent a lot of money getting started.
The first thing I recommend if you’re just starting out in a practice is that you do not start out large -- that you start small. Rent a small space or rent a room in another person’s space and just start out seeing patients. At first maybe don’t even hire an assistant or a receptionist, just start your practice. Start letting people know about it. build your business. get enough people involved and as you grow you add services and you add staff and employees and things like that .
So that’s first and second is:
People always tell me this in relation to the ventures that I’m doing, but it’s also the case in your own private practice: it is not as scary as you think and the only way to go is really to have your own practice.
When i first started I actually took insurance. I currently don’t take insurance and I used to take medicare and all of those things. You will find people who will do fee-for-service billing for you, and you can get someone to do your billing. If you’re not comfortable with that, you don’t need an employee to do that. Then when you’re ready to hire an employee you do that. You go one step at a time.
There are of course classes and services that teach you how to run a practice and certainly over the years i’ve learned a lot of different things, but i think just getting started is the key. Just get out there and do it.
What was your decision to not take insurance? Why?
There were lots of reasons, but it was the increasing complexity of doing insurance billing, and they didn’t cover what i did.
I spend an hour and a half with each new patient and there is no mechanism for billing that through insurance, that doesn’t exist. So there’s lots of reasons. Medicare still doesn’t cover acupuncture, and i do acupuncture. The types of patients that I got when I took medicare were not the types of patients that i wanted to work with. i wanted to work with patients that were motivated to get well not people that want me to prescribe medications.
Part of what we do is to streamline billing and everything like that, the administrative overhead that I feel a lot of doctors face in their practices .
How do you make sure that your practice is completely HIPAA-complaint?
We ask questions. The rules are always changing so we ask questions. We check to make sure that all of our equipment does the right thing and the Dr Chronos system that we use of course is HIPAA-compliant. [Regarding] our front desk, we’re very careful to have our patients not stand and wait while someone else is being taken care of, things like that. Then we have billing forms that people fill out.
Do you have any further advice for the audience? Anything you’d like to share about your services, your upcoming book launch, just any information you’d like to leave us with?
Actually I am looking for a physician or an acupuncturist or a nutritionist so I’m looking for several possible people. if somebody’s interested they should contact me that would be great.
Thank you so much for speaking with us and sharing your advice on the show Dr. Shiroko.
Dr. Shiroko's Website: http://www.hearttoheartmedicalcenter.com
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to use Klara.