LIVE from the Graham Sessions 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee, I welcome Erica Meloe on the show to discuss how to create a brand ambassador. Erica Meloe is a board certified physiotherapist in private practice in NYC. After a decade solving financial puzzles on Wall Street, Erica took her MBA and her problem-solving skills into the clinic. She specializes in treating patients with persistent unsolved pain and her mission is to raise awareness of the physical therapy profession to a level like no other.
In this episode, we discuss:
-The lack of public understanding of the role of a physical therapist
-How to turn your patient into your brand ambassador
-Inexpensive acts of kindness that will make you memorable
-Why you should network outside of your profession
-And so much more!
A big thank you to Net Health for sponsoring this episode!
Check out Optima’s Top Trends For Outpatient Therapy In 2020!
For more information on Erica:
Erica Meloe is a board certified physiotherapist in private practice in NYC. After a decade solving financial puzzles on Wall Street, Erica took her MBA and her problem-solving skills into the clinic. She specializes in treating patients with persistent unsolved pain and her mission is to raise awareness of the physical therapy profession to a level like no other.
Erica is co-host of the podcast “Tough To Treat: A physiotherapist’s guide to managing those complex patients.” She is also a thought leader in the profession and helps her patients, as well as her colleagues, empower themselves to lead and live with purpose.
Erica has also been featured in Forbes, BBC, Women’s Day, Better Homes and Gardens, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Health Magazine. She is also co-host of the Women In PT Summit, held annually in NYC. Erica is actively involved in spreading the word on social media and at her website www.ericameloe.com
Read the full transcript below:
Karen Litzy (00:01):
Hey everybody, welcome back to the podcast today. I am here with physical therapist, Erica Meloe and we are live in Nashville, Tennessee at the Graham sessions. And for those of you that don’t know, Graham sessions is all about bringing up big bold ideas, things that might be controversial, things that may be we’re not talking about as much in the profession and it’s like a big think tank. And so today Erica and I are going to try and take that in, miniaturize it down to a podcast. So one of the things that really I guess gets to Erica is the lack of knowledge of what we as physical therapists do, how we operate and how we can help people. So Erica, what are some things that you have maybe even experienced? I’m sure this comes out of your experience as a practice owner and as a physical therapist for many years. So I’m just going to hand it over to you and let you kind of talk about some of the things that really get to you. And if you have any suggestions or solutions for other physical therapists or the general public that we can do to perhaps mitigate this situation.
Erica Meloe (01:14):
Well, thank you Karen. Thank you for having me on the podcast. Graham sessions is wonderful in Nashville. I’ve never been to Nashville, so I know it’s quite nice. One of my mentors or business coaches asked me a while ago, what can’t you shut up about and what I can’t shut up about? I mean, there’s many things, but this so irritates me is that people still, consumers and other healthcare professionals do not understand what we do at all. They don’t understand. They think we’re all exercise. And I know that this is a topic that’s been beaten around for many, many years. And for me it’s just, it drives me crazy. And I’ll just tell you a story related to Karen. I had a patient of mine who just texted me. I’m an out of network practitioner and she has a certain like a deductible.
Erica Meloe (02:03):
She has to meet. She’s like, well, I’m going to wait to see you. I’m going to wait to see. I’m going to go meet my deductible. I’m like, well, why don’t you meet your deductible with me? Am I not as my profession? Not as valuable to you in your mind. And I think as a profession we need to start when we can talk about the marketing and the branding, but that’s not what this is about. We need to start at the grassroots level with our patients. I mean our patients are our voices and we need to develop relationships with them and we need to actually make the ask. I think we sometimes in our profession, we’re not shy, but we don’t make the ask and I’m guilty of this. We don’t make the ask of our patients.
Erica Meloe (02:50):
What is your view of me as a therapist? What is your view of me as a profession? How can I get a seat at the table? For example, you know in a discussion in Washington, how can I get a seat at the table? You know, at an AMA conference. I know a lot of physical therapists out there are speaking at other non PT conferences. But I think it first starts with our patients developing, we talked about you know, a lot of these business and leadership skills, these soft skills and yes, those are very important. But the relationship with our patients, the patients will get that word out. I mean there are time and time again, we both experienced it. You treat so-and-so and the word gets out. This physical therapist is different, this is what they do. And I think that starting with the interpersonal relationships, relationships matter, I think it was on Twitter, somebody mentioned recently that she spent 40 minutes on the phone talking to an insurance company or a doctor and was that worth her time? And you know, she got a lot of comments and it was like relationships matter and that’s value to the patient.
Karen Litzy (04:02):
Oh, absolutely. So I agree with you. It’s all about relationships and those relationships, that Alliance that you create with your patient, that patient then goes out and they become your ambassador and not only an ambassador for you, but an ambassador for the profession as a whole. So instead of saying, which we heard today, people say, I went to PT and it was crap and they didn’t do anything. But instead, wouldn’t it be great if all of us PTs are forming these relationships, are treating patients with the latest evidence, are not wasting people’s time, are making people feel better. Or I would even argue making people more functional, getting people to an elite level of sport. And that’s what physical therapists can do. And I feel like a lot of patients, if they have gone to a physical therapist and they say, I did, they just put a hot pack on me and then some Estim, then do my exercises. And then I left. And you know who that patient was? My own dad. My own dad was like, well, why would I do that? He’s like, I can put a hot pack on at home and go to the gym. Well that’s not quite the care that your talking about.
Erica Meloe (05:21):
Right. So that was your dad. So you know, he would never say anything to you like you know he would not basically say, you know, all physical therapists are like that because you’re his daughter. So you know, I talk about, you know, building relationship with your patient and your patients. Number one are your advertising or your marketing and your brand. You know, we can spend a lot of money and we, you know, a lot of people do on all of these business courses and that, you know, marketing and the branding and the social media and that’s all great. But if you don’t have a relationship with your patient, it doesn’t matter.
Karen Litzy (05:58):
What are some tips that you can give to the listeners to create a good relationship with your patient.
Erica Meloe (06:03):
But say, you know, and I speak from experience and seeing other therapists work over my years, go the extra mile for your patient. Go. There are many times in patients, for example, they’re going, they’ll email me, they’ll text me and on weekends and I answer those text messages and I answer those emails and they are like, thank you so much for answering an email on a weekend. And yes, that’s a very basic example, but actually matters to these people.
Karen Litzy (06:37):
Well, the basics matter. That’s the simple little things that you can do that takes two seconds of your time.
Erica Meloe (06:45):
And also just listening to your patients. And yes, I do have a tendency to run a bit late when I see patients, but I will tell you, Karen’s laughing cause you know, but if someone asks you a question and you’re 10 minutes late for your next patient, you don’t just say, I can’t answer it now. You know, and this is obvious, but that patient, they may have gotten a hundred percent better with you, but they’re, Oh, they’re going to remember it. That last encounter. You need to make every encounter matter, whether it’s listening to the patient, whether it’s you know, listening to them about something that’s unrelated to physical therapy. And going that extra mile. And asking the patient, you know, what do you want from this relationship? It’s a relationship and it’s a trusting relationship. And, once again, you know all the branding is fabulous, but they’re your voice.
Karen Litzy (07:49):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s also important to remember that this isn’t a relationship of you being above your patient. It’s a partnership relationship.
Erica Meloe (08:07):
And what do partnerships do? You know, they give and they take and there’s a sacrifice, but I would offer this advice is your patient is your patient for life. Right? It’s like that lifespan practitioner that we talked about so often and they should be treated as such. For example, when they leave your office for, let’s say you’ve seen them for 10 visits, their back pain’s gone and they’re kind of good to go, but they’re not really, once again, we don’t discharge patients, you just, you know, see them and then they come back whenever they’ve got something else going on. It’s not a word I like to use that. It’s funny, I often say I don’t use discharge anymore. I actually say you know, I’ll see you if you have any other problems, just just come on back and I will keep in touch. I actually think using direct mail, and I’ve tried this, said this before really helps.
Erica Meloe (08:52):
I actually send birthday cards out and thank you cards and thank you cards after I have a a new patient, I will send a thank you card. Thank you so much. Nice meeting you. And patients are saying they come back and they’re like, that was a great touch. I really appreciated your card. Honestly go into your database. I’d get an Excel spreadsheet of all your birthdays of all their patients birthdays. It is an easy thing to do and then just note them down and write them, go on a Sunday, spend an hour and a half doing that. It will matter. I know, it’s funny because I had an assistant of mine do that and I was like, Oh, she has a birthday very similar to mine and you know, and, and they actually do appreciate that.
Erica Meloe (09:37):
And you know, I’ve been a patient myself and I, you know, we hope we can get the odd email and everybody’s about, you know, the email marketing. Yes. However, it’s not the same.
No, it’s definitely not the same. And, and I also can appreciate those tips that you just gave, listening to the patient, sending a birthday card, a thank you card and helping them kind of understand what we do and taking the time for them. These are not huge things. You don’t need a certification for it. You don’t have to spend money for it unless you get a stamp or something. It’s very easy, accessible ways for everyone to enhance that relationship.
Erica Meloe (10:33):
Right. I think someone mentioned today that you might not be the best therapist in the world, but if you’ve developed a relationship with your patient, that’s golden. And I received something from one of my coaches recently and it was a card and it said the best is yet to come. And I was like, Whoa. I was so touched by that. And it took her what, maybe five minutes to write that and not even, and that, and I remember that. I remember that. And when someone is sending that to you before you have to renew a coaching program or before you have to do something, I’m going to renew. I’m going, of course I’m going to renew because that was a great touch. You know, that’s the customer service that people forget that we actually need to do in our field.
Well, it makes you feel quite simply that you matter. Yes. And isn’t it great that we as physical therapists can give to our patients the gift that they matter because they might not be getting that elsewhere. So if you can do that for your patient, they’re your brand ambassador for life.
Erica Meloe (11:20):
Absolutely. You know, and when I started early on, you know, as a business owner, I was actually afraid to ask my patients for referrals. You know, I really was. And to this day it still is hard, but it comes out a bit easier now, you know, if you know of anybody else that could need my services, I really enjoy treating the difficult patients. Just, you know, send them my way and it comes out easier that way and we all have a different view, but they fade like you, you will do that.
Karen Litzy (11:54):
And I remember thinking to myself, Oh, I don’t want to do that. It sounds so slimy. Like used car salesman. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be that person. And I remember somebody saying to me, but you’re not slimy. So it would never come out that way. So if you’re not slimy and gross and you ask someone, Hey, listen, I love doing this. If you know someone, definitely send them my way. I’m accepting new patients anytime. Like it’s only slimy I think if you’re a slime ball.
Erica Meloe (12:17):
Exactly. And it comes out very you know, with integrity, right? And it’s not, of course not because, and if you say it with the passion, like you just did, you know, I love to treat these patients. I love to treat patients just like you. How special is that, right? That you make them feel special and they’ll be like, Oh, of course, you know, it’s like asking for reviews on a podcast. Oh, I didn’t know I had to write a review. You know, can you write me a review? Boom. They don’t understand it. And I think that is a good relationship. And once they realize that you’ll be in the top of their brain and then they’re going to be like, well, that experience was very valuable to me. You know, the birthday cards, the, just developing the rapport, rapport and just establishing relationships that, where it’s a, you know, a given a take, but it’s almost like a marriage in a way. I mean I’m not married and I certainly know I’m experiencing that, but when you have business partners or podcast partners, it’s a given a take. And the ones that last the longest are the ones that, that work together. They collaborate. That’s the best recipe for success.
Karen Litzy (13:24):
Right? And exactly what Erica just described is how we as physical therapists can help the general public know what we do, right? So it goes back to the thing that gets Erica every time is people don’t know what we do, but there are what 300,000 physical therapists in the United States? It’s a lot of people. And so if we can make a difference with every person, then can that cause a little ripple that can become a wave.
Erica Meloe (13:50):
Right. And I would also urge patient physical therapist to go to conferences that are not physical therapy related. Go to a leadership conference, go to a medical writing conference. Go to an urology conference or a women’s health conference or that’s the wheel. You’ll develop relationships and you’ll be the brand ambassador cause you’ll be the only physical therapist there.
Karen Litzy (14:23):
Very true. Right. Great advice. Well what are the big things that you want the listeners to take away from this?
Erica Meloe (14:29):
That it’s the small things that really matter. It’s kindness. That’s my word of the year by the way. I remember had the word of the year, that’s my word of the year. Kindness. It’s the little things that matter. Sometimes we need to go back to business 101 like direct mail that actually does work. You know, it really does. That’s the main thing. And don’t be afraid to collaborate with nonphysical therapist acupuncture as they’re developing a relationship there. Cause you will educate them, you really will. And you have to be passionate about this. If you don’t, if you’re not as passionate about it as I am, you’ll do it like half assed in a way. And you know, so, but start with your patients and pick a few patients you really like and you, you know, send birthday cards, send thank you cards, do it for one or two months and see if you get any return on your $1 investment. It’s nothing.
Karen Litzy (15:27):
Great advice. And now what advice would you give to yourself knowing where you are now in your life and in your career? What advice would you give to you as a new grad right out of PT school?
Erica Meloe (15:40):
Stop overthinking. I analyze, overanalyze everything and that’s good and bad. And I think that if I were coming out of PT school right now, it’s not the latest and greatest social media course or marketing course or branding course. You could easily do those via YouTube. I mean, and obviously, you know, but it’s really about what are your strengths? We talked about this at the women in PT summit. You need to play to your strengths. Like I like to problem solve. That’s one of my strengths and so I would suggest anybody coming out of PT school, do a deep dive into what your strengths are, there’s many StrengthFinders is a great one. I would really do a deep dive into looking at what your strengths are and play off of those. Get really good at those and you will find ways to apply those in physical therapy.
Karen Litzy (16:36):
Fabulous. And where can people find you?
Erica Meloe (16:38):
Oh gosh. Online. We’ve got an Ericameloe.com my velocityphysiony.com and I’m in New York city right across from Bloomingdale’s and all my Facebook, Twitter, Ericameloe. My podcast with my wonderful cohost, Susan Clinton. Tough to treat. And my book, Why do I hurt? Discover the surprising connections that caused physical pain and what to do about them. That’s on Amazon, Barnes and noble
Karen Litzy (16:50):
Awesome. And just so everyone knows, we will have links to all of Erica’s information under this episode at podcast.healthywealthysmart.com so Erica, thank you so much. Thanks so much for listening and have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy, and smart.
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