Physicians seeking growth turn to marketing firms

Just hours after the government approved a medicated patch for depression, an e-mail went out offering reporters the opportunity to speak with a "doc in private practice stunned at FDA approval of depression patch." While Eric Braverman was being interviewed over the phone by a reporter, another call came in: CNN was on the line. Score another one for the doctor's public-relations agent, Hope Kaplan.

A decade ago, the idea of doctors and dentists marketing themselves would have been shunned by the medical community. Now, driven by higher costs and inspired by direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads, doctors are hiring publicists to increase business.

But don't call it marketing – doctors call it "practice development." "There has to be this admission that being in medicine is also a business," said Rudy Svezia, president of DocGrow, a medical marketing firm in Englewood, N.J. He said his clientele increased sharply about five years ago, as remuneration from insurance companies decreased. Still, there's plenty of resistance to the idea. "If Dr. Jones is willing to at least investigate what marketing is about and deal with some professional sneering, he will see that he'll do better business than the guy down the street," Svezia said.

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