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March 2013


by Andrew D. Schwartz, CPA

Whether you have your own practice, are a partner in a large group practice,  work at a large company such as a hospital or research center, or are not even a health care professional, maximizing your "internal marketing" is a must.  So agrees Fred Joyal, co-founder of 1-800dentist, in his book Everything is Marketing: The Ultimate Strategy for Dental Practice Growth.

Fred's basic premise is quite simple.  "Patients can’t assess quality of care, but they can assess their own experience."  Think about your own experience when going to a dentist or physician, having your taxes done, meeting with an attorney, or getting your car fixed.  Don't you just automatically assume the person is proficient in their profession or trade? 

Fred starts his book on marketing for dentists by talking about the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer.  “A satisfied customer got what they expected.  A loyal customer experienced something unexpected.”   Fred goes on to explain that while a satisfied patient will keep coming back to your practice, only a loyal patient routinely refers their family members, friends and co-workers to you and your practice.

Think about the professionals you regularly recommend to people.  And then think about those you wouldn't recommend to your arch enemy in a million years.  Fred is right.  It's all about the experience, right?  

Please keep in mind that the patient experience isn't limited to when he or she is "sitting in the chair".  The experience starts when the person researches which Doctor to call and then books an appointment, continues through the pre-appointment correspondence, followed by being greeted at your office by your front desk staff, and ends with the follow up information and/or phone call, paying the bill, and responding to your patient survey.  Is your operation set up to maximize the patient experience at each and every step of the process?

I recently had a simple procedure at a local outpatient clinic.  Prior to the procedure, the GI practice sent me a copy of instructions to follow the day prior to the procedure.  The copies looked as though they were made by a 5 year-old child on a Xerox machine from the 1970s.  Based on the poor qualify of the pre-procedure materials they sent to me, I didn't feel overly confident about the care I would be receiving from this group.  I ended up a satisfied customer, but I most likely wouldn't refer anyone to this group if asked for a recommendation of a GI doc. 

What do you need to do to reach that higher threshold of patient satisfaction?  For starters, according to Fred, you can maximize the patient experience through:

  • Genuine Empathy

  • Effective Communication

  • Listening

If someone is trying to tell you something, that person wants to be heard at that time.  Let the person fully explain their situation, and listen intently to what he or she is saying.  Interrupting the person or finishing their sentences does not demonstrate empathy.

For many of us, listening is a skill that we never fully developed.  Remember, at most schools in the US, we learn to read, write, and speak.  Very few schools teach us to listen.

And while empathy is a trait that some people are born with, all people can learn to be empathetic.  Trust me, as a Schwartz, I was born with very little empathy, but feel that over the years I have managed to learn to be much more empathetic when dealing with others in my home and professional life.

If you've had the privilege of reading Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he discussed Empathetic Listening in great detail.  I strongly recommend that you read this book at some time if you haven't already done so.  (This past summer and fall, we had a book club in my office and read one habit per month starting in May.  It was a big hit and we all learned a lot by discussing the chapters together.)

What are some easy ways that Fred recommend to maximize the patient experience by doing something unexpected?

  • You and all your staff should greet each patient by name.  Who doesn't like to be addressed by name?

  • Put personal info into your practice management software (such as the birth of a grandchild or a great trip they were telling you about) and bring up that nugget to the patient at their next visit.

  • Call all new patients at the end of the day they contacted your office staff to book their first appointment with you.  How reassuring would it be to get a call from your new Doctor welcoming you to the practice?  Yes, you're busy, but it shouldn't take too long to leave a message on their cell phone.

  • Track how each new patient came to your practice so you know where to focus your marketing dollars and efforts.

  • Thank patients for referrals.  This doesn't need to be a gift card or movie tickets. A hand written note is a nice touch.

My closing bit of advice?   Read Fred's book.  I read it and ended up instituting changes in my CPA firm based on recommendations that Fred made to the dental community.  During one of our staff meetings, we utilized the chapter on phone scripts and took turns reading his recommendations for the right way and the wrong way to handle certain situations.  Even though the scripts were for a dental office, everyone found this exercise to be very worthwhile.

After reading the book, think about every aspect of the experience you are offering your patients, clients, or customers, and determine what you can do to maximize each person's experience.  Ask your staff to help come up with ideas.  Then take the steps necessary to improve the internal marketing at your practice. Hopefully you'll soon see an uptick in referrals coming to your office, and the improvements you have implemented at your practice will become as routine to you and your staff as going to the dentist.



Check out Form 8396, Mortgage Interest Credit  According to the IRS:

Mortgage Interest Credit

The mortgage interest credit is intended to help lower income individuals afford home ownership. If you qualify, you can claim the credit each year for part of the home mortgage interest you pay on Form 8396.

Who qualifies.

You may be eligible for the credit if you were issued a qualified Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) from your state or local government. Generally, an MCC is issued only in connection with a new mortgage for the purchase of your main home.

The MCC will show the certificate credit rate you will use to figure your credit. It also will show the certified indebtedness amount. Only the interest on that amount qualifies for the credit.

You must contact the appropriate government agency about getting an MCC before you get a mortgage and buy your home. Contact your state or local housing finance agency for information about the availability of MCCs in your area.

How to claim the credit. To claim the credit, complete Form 8396 and attach it to your Form 1040 or Form 1040NR. Include the credit in your total for Form 1040, line 53, or Form 1040NR, line 50; be sure to check box c and write “Form 8396” on that line.

Questions about Mortgages:

If you have any questions about refinancing your current mortgage or getting a new mortgage in connection with purchasing a home, feel free to reach out to Bob Cahill, Senior Mortgage Banker at Leader Bank, N.A..  At my firm, we frequently refer our clients with mortgage needs to Bob.



Get Your Deductions: Moonlighting and Professional Expenses Made Easy

Speaker Andrew Schwartz, CPA

Are you unsure what expenses you can deduct from your moonlighting income? Not sure what to track all year for professional expenses? Do you want to make sure you receive the maximum deduction allowed for work-related expenses? If so, this previously recorded webinar is for you! Learn what the most common expenses allowable for healthcare professionals are and how to track them to make tax time easy!

Recent Tax Law Changes and Basic Retirement Planning

Speaker Richard Schwartz, CPA

Are you looking for a recap of the 2013 tax law changes and how they’ll impact you? Do you need help navigating your retirement planning options for 2013? If so, this previously recorded webinar is for you! Learn what tax changes are coming in 2013 to capital gains, deductions, personal tax rates, Medicare and Social Security. Rick also covered how to choose the retirement vehicles that will bring you the most savings.




Income Taxes

Saving and Investing



  • To have your returns completed by 4/15, please get your information to one of the MDTAXES CPAs during March
  • Use your tax refund to pay off some debts, fund an IRA, and/or invest.


2012 & 2013 TAX FACTS

  • For 2012, the standard deduction for a single individual is $5,950 and for a married couple is $11,900. A person will benefit by itemizing once allowable deductions exceed the applicable standard deduction. Itemized deductions include state and local income taxes (or sales taxes), real estate taxes, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and unreimbursed employee business expenses.
  • For 2012, the personal exemption is $3,800. Individuals will claim a personal deduction for themselves, their spouse, and their dependents. 
  • The maximum earnings subject to social security taxes is $113,700 for 2013, up from $110,100 for 2012.
  • The standard mileage rate is $.565 per business mile as of January 1, 2012, up one cent from $.555 per mile since July 1, 2011.
  • The maximum annual salary deferral into a 401(k) plan or a 403(b) plan is $17,500 in 2013, up from $17,000 in 2012.  And if you'll be 50 or older by December 31st, you can contribute an extra $5,500 into your 401(k) or 403(b) account that year.
  • The maximum annual contribution to your IRA is $5,000 for 2012, increasing to $5,500 in 2013.  And if you turn 50 by December 31st, you can contribute an extra $1,000 that year.  You have until April 15, 2013 to make your 2012 IRA contributions. 


Need Help With Your Nanny Payroll?

This Month's Topics

Marketing Yourself Is Like Going to the Dentist

These Mortgages Provide Homeowners With A Little Extra Credit

Check Out Our Two Pre-Recorded Webinars

The FICA Refund for Medical Residents 

2012 & 2013 Tax Facts

Tax and Financial Planning Calendar for March 2013


Browse our index of previous months' newsletter topics

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In a shocking development, the IRS recently announced that they will be honoring the FICA tax refunds submitted by residency programs and individual doctors.  The catch is that only FICA taxes paid prior to 4/1/05 qualify.

For more information, go to our April 2010 Newsletter, our January 2009 Newsletter, or our February 2001 Newsletter or read through the IRS' Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum on this issue.

Let's work together to keep current on this hugely valuable tax break.  Please post whatever you read or hear regarding this FICA issue on our new Message Board we set up just for this topic.

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