Medical "Matchmaking"

Medical matchmaking? Why not? At a time when physicians are looking to promote themselves and the services of their practice to a wider audience, having a chance to meet with prospective patients in a relaxed environment is an opportunity to forge new relationships. And while it might resemble, at first blush, a night of speed dating, the focus here is on healthcare.

Medical matchmaking? Why not? At a time when physicians are looking to promote themselves and the services of their practice to a wider audience, having a chance to meet with prospective patients in a relaxed environment is an opportunity to forge new relationships. And while it might resemble, at first blush, a night of speed dating, the focus here is on healthcare.

Such was the case when physicians from Boston-based Hallmark Health System engaged in Match.doc, a unique information exchange where the public had an opportunity to meet some of Hallmark’s doctors one-on-one. Events were held at local restaurants in the Boston area in October and December, and according to Jesse Kawa, communications specialist for the healthcare organization, both were a huge success.

"Several of those who attended booked appointments [with physicians] and have since become part of our organization as patients,” she explains.

Physicians Get Out Into the Community

The events, which ran from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the evening, were free and open to the general public. Kawa describes them as fun, unique, and something people truly seemed to enjoy. But perhaps most important was that it brought physicians and prospective patients face-to-face for an informal meeting that might not otherwise have ever occurred.

“I think it’s important for people to sit down in a kind of less formal, more approachable environment, and put medicine aside and get to know the person,” Kawa says. “People want to be comfortable with their physician, and just being able to sit down and have a casual conversation is a good way to do it.”

The events also enabled physicians to get out into the community. “It gives them a chance to meet with prospective patients, and possibly bring new people into their offices,” Kawa explains. “I know through the people I worked with on the committees [that helped organize the event] that the physicians were really receptive, and were happy to participate. I think it’s a win-win for everyone who’s involved.”

Younger Professionals TargetedIn addition to meeting with physicians, participants had the opportunity to learn more about several of Hallmark’s services, including nutrition, imaging, physical therapy, diabetes management, and healthcare navigation. The events also targeted young professionals who may have attended college in the area but had not yet secured a primary care physician.

Prospective patients talk about their participation in Match.doc.“We want people to seek out healthcare, and to stay healthy in our communities,” Kawa says. “And a good start to achieving that goal is setting them up with a primary care physician as early in life as possible. By setting them up and getting them to think about their health early on, we hope that will continue throughout their lives.”

Participants received information on each doctor in attendance, including photographs, credentials, and areas of expertise. They also received materials for note taking, as well as suggestions for starting and engaging the physicians in different conversations.

Events Are Easy to ReplicateKawa said the idea for the events came from a newspaper article about a Texas-based healthcare organization that had run similar events. The idea was proposed, word and enthusiasm spread, and a committee was formed to begin the planning. That latter aspect, Kawa says, is the critical element for success for physicians who want to hold similar match-type events in their communities.

“The first thing is getting together a core group of people who agree [the event is] a good idea; who can see the vision, and see it as something that can be successful,” Kawa explains. “If you have that core group of people who are willing to do the work, that’s the first step. That’s really the key.”

Hallmark is a healthcare organization made up of two major hospitals, as well as off-site facilities including a cancer center, medical center, physician offices, and an employed physician group.