Why You Need to Specialize

Would you like to command higher fees? How about enjoy greater prestige?

You need to specialize.

Specialists always command higher fees than generalists. This is true in everything, not just medicine.
People do not always get what they pay for, but they will pay for what they think they are getting. With a specialist, you think you are getting more.

Specialists are Perceived as Being Better

This is a perception. It does not have to be true. When I was passing through Kalamazoo a few years ago and I had a problem with my back tire. I went to the Pep Boys tire shop. Any service station could have pulled the nail out of the tire and plugged the hole. A lot of high school kids could have pulled out the nail and plugged the hole. But I went to Pep Boys because I had a tire problem and they are tire experts. That is their specialty.

People Prefer to Work with Specialists

Let’s say you want to hire a web designer to build your website for your ophthalmology practice. There is one designer with a portfolio of 20 sites including music stores, pet stores, and nonprofits, and a health site. There is another designer who has in their portfolio 20 medical practice sites. Which would you choose? How about if you found another designer who has 20 ophthalmology sites in her portfolio? All else being equal people will choose the specialist whose expertise is in what they are seeking.

Is it possible to go too deep, to over-specialize? Absolutely. Someone who builds sites for ophthalmologists who focus on treating retinoblastoma may have trouble finding enough physicians who require his expertise. However, if this happens it is very easy to expand your specialty to include related areas.

You Do Not Need to be a Specialist to Specialize

This is something very few people realize.

In healthcare, there are numerous specialties and subspecialties. There are licensing requirements and boards that certify that you are a specialist. All this may make you think that you need extra training or particular expertise to specialize. If you wish to claim a specialty that is formally regulated, then this is true. You need to get the proper training and proof of competence.

However, in every era of healthcare there is latitude in each field where you can declare a specialty. Here is an example.

I have a cousin who is a general dentist. She has built a specialty and a reputation for “painless dentistry”. Her marketing slogan is “Dentistry with a Woman’s Touch.” She has filled her practice with shipbuilders and bikers and various other people who would bite the top off a bottle of beer rather than ask someone to pass the bottle opener all because they are afraid to go to the dentist. And these people are willing to pay whatever she charges to get the painless dentistry with a woman’s touch. That is her specialty.

I have never been to my cousin’s office. However, when I go to get my teeth cleaned my hygienist also has a woman’s touch. And it hurts every time. A lot.

There are obvious limitations on specializing. You need to choose something that has perceived value. Painless dentistry is a good example.

You need to be able to deliver on what you promise. You should not claim to be a weight loss expert if none of your patients ever lose weight. However if your patients do lose weight you can make that your specialty, even if others in your area get similar results.

Sometimes, all you need to do to specialize is to be the one to claim the title. And you should. This will make you the go to expert in that area and allow you to charge more and gain greater control over your practice.

Why You Need to Specialize

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