Management of Pathology Practices

August 2005


Strategies for Growing the Independent Pathology Practice

by Lisa A. Gryscavage, Vachette Pathology Services


What can you do to create business opportunities, grow your practice and provide expertise to the community?  It has been proven that a focused and service-oriented strategy can provide additional growth for your independent pathology practice. 


In the age of customer driven service oriented business, focus on the customer is paramount.  With that in mind, it is believed the most important customer of the autonomous laboratory is the local, community-based physician.  When developing a strategy for growing the independent practice of pathology, you must focus your attention on the clinician and their satisfaction while providing high-quality patient care.  There is power in the physician’s decision to utilize a local independent pathology laboratory whenever they are given the option.  What are you doing to entice new customers?  How do you differentiate yourself from the competitor? 


National clinical laboratories are aggressively marketing in your “back yard” so much so they are driving specimens away for you the local pathologist to be processed and diagnosed elsewhere.  This leeching of specimens, is diminishing the relationship with your local clinicians that you once took for granted.  What can you do to stop the bleeding, how can you take back the power?  By evaluating your business opportunities and capitalizing on a strategy for outpatient growth. 


How to evaluate your current business opportunities and develop strategies for growth:


·        Understand your community-based physicians’ needs.  Many groups are afraid to ask the questions that will enable them to understand what physicians are missing from their current laboratory provider.  Ask the questions.  What do physicians want?  Listen to the answers.  This is a very simple concept but often overlooked.  Develop a plan to meet their needs and provide a superior service.


·        More highly differentiate yourself, so you can take back some of the power in the relationship.  What makes a local pathology laboratory better?  Continuum of care, turnaround time, access to the pathologist: these are a given.  You must think about ways to create a stronger argument to win the business and change the physician’s habits.  Cater to the office staff.  Don’t strive to keep up with the competition, strive to be different.  Build relationships with people in the community both in and out of the medical arena.  You, the pathologist are the product.  Capitalize on your experience, your contacts and your knowledge.


·        Educate your community-based physicians.  Help them understand what their options are and what “capitated” means to them and their patients.  So often physicians are given misleading information.  Some capitated agreements are used to misrepresent the arrangement in place with the laboratory.  


·        Focus on business that is obtainable. Don’t get sidetracked with managed care.  The independent pathology practice is so focused on obtaining contracts with the managed care companies that you don’t see the business opportunities that may be right in front of you.  The physicians in the community really do want to do business with you.  There are physician specialties who are overlooked and under-serviced, target those who may even be less volume driven.  Also focus on segments where the physician is less well served.  Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the potential of a less populated area or a lower volume-generating customer.


·        Take care of the powerful customers.  Your biggest physician group clients can bring volume and provide referrals.  Referrals are based on personal reputations and solid relationships.  These are your most important customers and they require extra attention.  Remember, it will require twice as much work to win back a lost customer than it will to gain a new one. 


·        Reach out to the consumer.  Educate the patient on what it means to have local, community-based health care services.  Patients are becoming more and more involved with their medical care and they are craving knowledge.  Take advantage of opportunities to get out and speak to people.  Offer to do presentations at various business and community gatherings.  Develop a plan to reach out to the consumer, i.e. the patient.


If you really want to increase your business, use these tips to develop a strategy that works for you and your practice.


Vachette Pathology provides practice management, billing auditing, managed care negotiations and marketing services to pathology practices across the nation.  You can contact Mick Raich, Owner at or toll free at 866-407-0763, website