Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nearing the End of the Road

I have never denied being America’s most successful hotel doctor. No one makes as many visits (passing 16,000 in 2012) or works at it exclusively. All others do it as a sideline.

Yet time is passing. I’m not the only Los Angeles hotel doctor collecting social security. A new generation is muscling in, displaying the energy of youth, fierce marketing skills, and a useful absence of ethics. All are concierge doctors, building cash-only practices that serve patients willing to pay to have a physician at their beck and call.

Even in Los Angeles, these are a limited resource, so concierge doctors have cast an eye on hotels, a major source of cash-payers.

“I guess no one’s been sick,” is the lie I hear when an employee explains why her hotel isn’t calling. I’ve been hearing it lately. Despite this, 2013 looks to be a record year with calls running twenty percent over 2012.

Partly it’s because my field is consolidating. National housecall services are expanding, and almost all use me. This is no news to my competitors, but marketing to these firms presents difficulties for a concierge doctor.

One obstacle is their spectacular fees: double or triple mine. This may strike you as terrible business practice, but it’s no problem with hotels. Hotels don’t care what a doctor charges unless guests complain. They rarely do.

In addition, when concierge doctors introduce themselves to a hotel employee, extol their virtues, and perhaps offer an amenity for every referral, they have a receptive audience. This doesn’t work so well at a corporate office.

Finally, concierge doctors are young and busy. Immediate 24-hour service is a concierge doctor mantra, but providing it is impossible for anyone with a practice and active social life. My leisure activities are reading and writing.

The result is that concierge doctors ask my help regularly. They send me to their patients but increasingly to my hotels and those of my colleagues. When I retire, it won’t be because business is declining.       

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