Reflections on 9/11

It’s truly hard to fathom that 10 years have passed. We were changed by that day, and perhaps we still don’t comprehend fully how.

For me, the day serves as a bookend… the beginning of a season of work that continues to grow and develop today. I launched out full time in Epiphany Marketing (the business I still operate) on Monday, September 10th. Had Tuesday been uneventful, Monday might be a faded memory… perhaps I might not have even really marked the date in my mind.

But Tuesday was eventful. A sudden jolt that reminded us all that life is short. That things can change… instantly. That whatever you’d been doing suddenly may no longer have been important. Perhaps it had never been.

Since it came at the beginning of a new season for me, it underscored the fact that there is important work to be done. That, as Seth Godin pointed out today, “…we have an obligation to stand up, stand out and to do work that matters.”

I’ve shared on a previous anniversary of that fateful day about Sarasota’s role in its events, and on the amazing community response.

Today, however, my thoughts are simpler and clearer. As a change agent, there’s still so much to do.

Photo: © June Marie via BigStockPhoto

EMR Software: Meaningful Use Incentives for Physicians

When I first launched Epiphany Marketing back in 1998, it was a side venture and a vehicle for handling smaller projects that didn’t require a full-time effort. In 2001, however, I decided it was time to make it a full-time effort and start taking on bigger projects.

One of our major clients in those early days was a software dealer that focused on providing electronic medical records software (and the related hardware like computers, scanners, tablet PCs and so on) to physicians’ practices. The company wanted to expand into Florida and we worked with them to develop and implement what turned out to be a highly successful marketing strategy.

Along the way, I became very acquainted with the ins & outs of the modern-day medical practice. Many physicians were already accustomed to using “practice management software” that handled important tasks like scheduling patient appointments and billing insurance companies, medicare & the patients themselves for services rendered.

Electronic Medical Records Software

However, at that time, it was still a relatively novel idea for a smaller, privately-owned medical practice to be using a system for handling electronic patient records (or electronic health records — EHR — as they have come to be known). Even more novel was the idea that an electronic medical records system (EMR) would be integrated with a “practice management” system so that all the patient data was in one place. At that time, if practices were using an EMR system, it was typically completely separate from the scheduling & billing functions that were traditionally part of a practice management system.

We worked with this software company for an extended client engagement which lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of about 13-14 months. I met a great many medical practice administrators and doctors in various medical specialties from all over the State of Florida during that time period. Some of the doctors that we worked with went on to become friends and even clients of ours in the years that followed.

Since that time, I have remained interested in medical software. In fact, a friend of mine and I started a consulting firm focused on working with physicians to evaluate their own needs and the EMR systems that were being marketed and sold in order to help them make wise decisions and end up achieving long-term ROI (return on investment) from their technology decisions.

But, as time went by, I spent less and less time focused on that world and more time focused on newer clients and growing our primary business. So… I spent some time away from the space.

In the last few months, however, I’ve had good reason to pay a lot more attention. And it’s interesting to me today to see that the EMR systems available now have very little to offer that’s in any way new and improved over the leading systems from 7-9 years ago. In fact, some of the more “cutting edge” systems from years ago were actually further along than where the major players are today. Sadly, many software companies have come and gone — something that seems to be a bit of an epidemic (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the world of medical software.

In fact, the churn in this unique space has created a great deal of reluctance on the part of the typical private medical practice. The doctors who own and/or manage these practices have seen and heard a lot of sales pitches over the years. In some cases, they have invested tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in systems… only to have the software company go out of business or otherwise become unable to provide the much-needed ongoing support that is so critical to a medical practice.

So it’s not surprising when the average physician is reluctant to think about making technology-related changes. To them, it’s about as much fun as a root canal… or exploratory brain surgery (unless, of course, you’re a neurosurgeon… in which case the brain surgery would be fun… as long as it’s being performed on someone else).

Meaningful Use Incentives

Today, however, the government has stepped into the game. Uncle Sam now has a vested interest in making sure that all physicians are tracking patient information (including diagnoses, lab results, prescriptions, etc.) electronically. After all, paper charts have always been incredibly inefficient. And this is all the more true when you have a major role in paying for services being rendered, medications being prescribed, and diagnostics and treatments of all kinds. Aggregating data, keeping track of which physicians are doing what, and which patients are being treated for what illness… these are all reasons to try to force medical practices to use electronic medical records software.

Setting aside the very interesting political and societal ramifications of all this for a moment… what it comes down to today is that government has set up incentives (for now) to reward doctors who can demonstrate “meaningful use” of a qualifying electronic medical records system.

As you might guess, “meaningful use” and “qualifying EMR systems” all have very lengthy (and somewhat bizarre) definitions. But the bottom line is that the first doctors recently got the very first sizable checks from the government to pay out the incentives for using these systems.

On the back side of the incentives is a deadly set of penalties for not adopting a qualifying system within specified time periods. Practices who demonstrate meaningful use early get rewarded. The ones that wait will not only not be rewarded… they’ll actually begin to see cuts in payments for services rendered to Medicare and/or Medicaid patients after a couple of years go by.

What all of this means for the average medical office is this: it’s time to take this seriously. Any medical practices that are using older, outdated systems that don’t meet new government requirements will have to find a new system if their software vendor doesn’t make the necessary enhancements in time. Medical practices that haven’t begun meaningfully using an electronic medical records system at all (you know… the ones still chasing 2-inch thick — or thicker — patient charts around the office) will be forced to purchase and implement a system.

As a patient, you’ve probably begun to see certain physicians taking advantage of technology. Some doctors have welcomed technology quite openly… and you’ll see them carting laptops around the office and typing up visit notes while you wait. Others have dragged their feet and will only begin using technology against their wishes. Some will undoubtedly retire early rather than face that kind of change. Others will be driven out of business by the expense… especially when added to the already high costs of medical malpractice insurance combined with the pressures of reduced reimbursements from insurers and government payers like Medicare and Medicaid (not to mention the high costs of providing health insurance benefits to their own employees).

Regardless, your privacy as a patient is going to be affected. It’s already been greatly reduced in recent years. Pretty soon it’s not going to exist at all thanks to Uncle Sam’s meddling in this game.

On the other hand, the arguments in favor of using EMR systems are substantial. Medical practices that have truly embraced the process and have implemented systems have been able to greatly reduce their operating costs, increase efficiency, increase the speed with which they can access and utilize needed information (very important for you when facing an urgent medical issue of any kind), and even recover from disasters (after all… do you think they had backups of their paper charts?).

The bottom line? We’ll be keeping a close eye on all the issues related to electronic medical records, patient privacy and the economics of practicing medicine in the 21st Century. It’s all about to change…

David Johnson of Epiphany Marketing Appears on Faith Life Now

David Johnson, founder of Epiphany Marketing, LLC appears this week on airings of the Faith Life Now broadcast with Gary & Drenda Keesee.

David is a Sarasota, Florida-based author, speaker, trainer and consultant who specializes in helping small businesses communicate and attract customers in the 21st Century. On the program, which airs on the Daystar and NRB television networks as well as on a local Fox affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, David and hosts Gary & Drenda Keesee talk about the opportunities that exist in this economy for new business ideas.

I have a fundamental philosophy. Never waste a good crisis!
-David G. Johnson

As a trainer and consultant, David and his company deliver value to clients in the marketplace by helping small business owners and their teams understand the most effective ways to get the message out about their products and services.

As a speaker, David challenges audiences in both the business context as well as in conferences, seminars and churches where he is known as a challenging and inspiring speaker and Bible teacher. His organization, Nourish The Dream, was established to encourage entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs as well as others who are working to integrate their faith and their working lives.

Learn more about Nourish The Dream and the Kingdom Thoughts audio teaching series being offered on the television program here.

Ready for a Strong 2009… Regardless of the Economy?

I recently learned that I’d made a bit of a faux pas. I used the word “recession” in an article I was asked to write for the newsletter that Zig Ziglar sends out every week.

It was an honest mistake. I wasn’t aware of his personal — and consequently, their corporate — policy to simply not use that word. It really got me thinking. After all, Zig has been responsible for mentoring and coaching thousands (tens of thousands? more?) of successful people to the top of their game.

So… from here on out, I’m dropping the word. It might seem like a silly or symbolic move, but I had already decided months ago that we — that is me (David Johnson) and my company (Epiphany Marketing) — weren’t participating in it.

So… we officially renamed the event that I’m privileged to be a part of next week with my good friend, Tom Ziglar. It’s new title is:

How to Attract Customers at Low Cost in this Tough Economy

Ziglar Webinar: How to Attract Customers at Low Cost in this Tough Economy

And perhaps a better title would be, “in any economy.” The fact of the matter is that we’ve systemized some processes that any business can use — after all, it’s the very process we’ve used an honed for years in our consulting work — to bring in a steady stream of new prospects, clients and customers.

Sound good? You can do it.

In fact, the Ziglar organization has been kind enough to permit me to invite you to next week’s event.

Go watch the video clip of Zig Ziglar, Tom Ziglar and yours truly, then register. But do it quickly — the space won’t last long!

I’ll see you there next week!

WordPress 2.7 – I’m Officially a Fan

Typically, when a new version of WordPress is announced — and particularly when there’s a lot of fanfare around it — I’m prone to delay upgrading. WordPress is, for the uninitiated reader, the software that runs this site as well as countless others that I own and/or manage (I’m serious… I’ve truly lost count).

Since I’m a classic “early adopter,” this behavior might seem a bit odd. I assure you it’s entirely pragmatic. The upgrade process, though not complex, can take time — especially if the number of sites you’re working with is measured in the dozens (at least). Then there are the compatibility issues (or potential compatibility issues) with themes (not usually critical) and plug-ins (sometimes these are dealbreakers).

For example, my favorite statistical tracking plug-in had problems with WordPress 2.5 for months. I found some workarounds, but it’s hard to complain or apply too much pressure to a hardworking developer who writes these plug-ins and gives them away. (Ain’t it great?!)

2.7: A Big Fat Exception

Like many, I’ve been paying attention to the previews and the news about the 2.7 release candidates. Like I said, typically this pre-release “hype” doesn’t move me.

I have, however, been seriously looking forward to the re-write of the user interface for the backend of the system. What that means in plain English is that the WordPress developers have given you — as the owner or author of the site — a completely new system to look at and work with. The whole experience of writing on and managing your site is new. Most significantly, they engaged in significant usability testing that incorporated laser eye-tracking and other sophisticated ways of measuring whether or not we’re all going to like it and find it easier to use.

By the way, you can find a nifty preview video posted here to take a look at the new management console.

So… after noticing that the final release had been posted yesterday, I decided to go out on a limb and upgrade one of my newest sites. It’s a personal blog for me (David Johnson) and it’s brand new and doesn’t have many plug-ins installed — nor complex customization — so it seemed likely to be be a good place to test. Very little stuff to break.

The upgrade process was quick and painless. I always back everything up first (good habit), which was what took the longest. And aside from an annoying message about my favorite tagging plug-in which told me I’d have to switch (and which thankfully turned out to be false), there were zero complaints. Initially, I had problems with all the nifty new Ajax features, none of which seemed to work in my browser. After rebooting and otherwise trying to make the problems go away, it occurred to me to empty my browser’s cache. Since I’m a Firefox user and have the nifty “web developer toolbar” installed, this was a mere mouse-click and a few seconds of waiting — not nearly as painful as doing the same thing in Internet Explorer. Voila! Everything worked as pictured in the video.

The result? Let me tell you… it’s gorgeous. It’s delicious. It’s easy to use. It’s very well done.

I’ve not yet tested every single plug-in I use and recommend for compatibility yet, but I’ve now upgraded 3 of my sites. I’ll be shooting a training video on the upgrade process for members of our marketing training program, so let me know if you’re interested in getting your hands on that video (we’ll have a new enrollment opportunity coming up shortly). The members of that program that are currently in training will have the luxury of finishing their training using this delightful new version of WordPress. It’ll be good!

How ‘Bout You?

What?! You don’t have a WordPress-based website yet? Hmmmm… that probably explains why you’re not ranking well in the search engines for your real prospects’ actual searches. Stay tuned for help on that! Or better yet… subscribe to updates over at the Epiphany Marketing site!

Have An Epiphany In Your Marketing

With so much talk of recession… and some actual slowdowns — some of them serious, especially within certain industries — businesses have a tendency to cut back in areas that can make matters worse.

Marketing is at the top of the list.

If you know me, then you know that I’m not in favor of untracked, unmeasurable and expensive advertising anyway.  So, don’t get too upset if you think I’m thinking mainly of advertising… I’m not.  What I’m referring to are the systems in your business that produce new prospects and/or customers on a regular basis.

You do have some of those, don’t you?

If not, then the time has come for you to put some in place.  And fast!  If you do, then it’s important that you proceed with caution if you’re eyeing them in your budget.

2 Big Announcements

First… we are happy to unveil a shiny new blog site that just launched. It is focused on small business marketing and already has a few posts on it (some of which were gleaned from other publications for which we’ve written).  This reflects the renewed focus in our business: Epiphany Marketing.

Secondly… there are a couple of big things coming in the next few weeks.  So, this is an announcement about our coming announcements!  But there will be some significant new opportunities for you as a business person to learn how to use applied strategy along with some free and low-cost technology to make sure that your future customers find you instead of someone else.  It’s going to be big!

Here’s a hint: there will be something happening in Sarasota.

If you’re one of our many readers from across the US and around the world… not to worry, we’ve got something coming for you, too.  Keep your eyes glued to this spot… and the new marketing blog, too!

Finally… Small Business Marketing Made Simple

As most of our faithful readers know, this company was founded as a marketing consultancy. Marketing strategy is and always been our core competency. And, although we’ve done quite a bit of strategic work over the years that has been focused more at leadership and overall performance, in the last 24 months or so, we’ve been doing more strategic marketing work than ever before.

In fact, the work we’ve been doing has been so effective and is in such high demand — particularly among small business owners — that we’ve been forced to bring a shift to our business. Here’s an idea of what I mean:

“When David told me that I could start using the internet as a primary method for marketing my Neurology practice and obtaining new patients, I didn’t believe him. I did not understand the power of the Internet in reaching thousands of people daily with information about my business and services we provide. However, having prior experience of working with Dave, where he made outrageous claims that I didn’t believe, I proceeded with designing a completely new website and blog site.

His predictions came true, where now my Internet presence is responsible for a large number of new referrals. The initial investment cost of the project was rapidly recouped and as an ongoing service, my website has added significant revenue to my annual bottom line. Within 6 months of implementation, I was ranked on the top four pages of Google. Almost 50% of my new patients were (and are) coming in after finding me on the web. I was a busy physician when I started down this road – but I was able to use the techniques he showed me to make my business even more successful. With the excellent response to the website, I have been able to cut our yellow pages advertising budget by fifty percent. David is a skilled IT person and is very knowledgeable about marketing and creative uses of the Internet.”

– V. Daniel Kassicieh, D.O., founder of Sarasota Neurology, P.A.

One client (with a well-established business) multiplied revenues by a factor of 5 just last year alone!

We’re having such tremendous results that we recognize the need to share what we know. The good news is that any business person can implement these strategies right away.

So… I have 2 critical announcements to make.

  1. Effective January 1, 2008, we have no longer been offering any consulting services not related to marketing. The epiphanyconsulting.net site will be redesigned (when we have time) to reflect that change.
  2. We are formally announcing that we are not accepting new Epiphany Marketing clients at this time. The EpiphanyMarketing.com site has already been changed to reflect this fact. We will continue to evaluate new strategic marketing projects only from existing clients and Epiphany Marketing subscribers on a first-come, first-served basis.
  3. This means that the best way to access what we know is to participate in one of our training programs. A new round of these is starting up shortly.

Consider this your personal invitation to join me and my good friend (and client) Michael Pink on a conference call this Thursday or Friday. There are currently 4 time slots to choose from, but a couple of them are already nearly full (we can only accommodate 200 callers on each call), because Michael has been inviting people through his blog. We will consider adding additional slots if these fill up completely.

Here’s where to go sign up for these important calls.

I look forward to talking with you very soon!