Lisa Merrill Discusses Her Dietitian Practice and Time Management

Interviewer: I want to welcome Lisa Merrill to the call. Lisa is a registered dietitian, certified diabetic educator and exercise physiologist. Lisa, thanks for coming on the call with us

Lisa: Thank you.

Interviewer: Lisa, I wonder if you could explain a little bit about your dietitian practice?

Lisa: I have a couple different things that I do. I work face to face with clients, and my initial session is about a two hour session, so it’s pretty intense. I do work with people diabetic, people that are eating disordered, either anorexia, bulimia, or one of my big specialties is binge eating disorder. We will create a plan of action together, we will create, you know, the meal plans together. If someone is trying to improve blood work we will, you know, make sure that the food’s helpful doing that and also kind of an exercise protocol to help improve that blood work too. I also work with people that are out of state and international and that way I do it over the phone, email, a lot of texting, and we create plans that way too. They have an intake form that they email me ahead of time and then we kind of create a draft for them and then we kind of tweak it as we go, and then I regular mail out, kind of, the info pack and some of the handouts that I would normally use with my face to face people. Then I also teach college.

Interviewer: Wow, it sounds like you have quite a lot going on.

Lisa: It’s busy!

Interviewer: I bet. Now, in your practice, what are some of the techniques that you use to get new clients?

Lisa: Word of mouth, I’ve been in practice over twenty years so that does help. I’m not new to this by any means but word of mouth is number one. Somebody referring a family member or friend or a coworker. I do work a lot with people doing the Overeaters Anonymous groups or different versions of that so new members that come into those groups either online or face to face get my name that way. Then I do get physician referrals, you know, people that probably more my diabetics or cholesterol or weight issues. I do get referrals from therapists, especially some of the eating disorder clients. That’s some of the biggest ways. Also online, you know, they just Google search, you know, dietitians in the area and I find them that way, or they find me that way too. I do no outside advertising.

Interviewer: Wow. That, that was leading into my next question, how do you market your business?

Lisa: I haven’t had to, I’ve done this for a while but one of the things that I still do do to actually, I am part of BNI’s networking group where there’s one person per profession in each chapter and so I’m networked with other professionals, you know, in the area, even though they may be insurance people or attorneys, or that, but just to get that bonding and that friendship, you know, and become kind of a gatekeeper for each other to listen for referrals. They’ve connected me with physicians they’ve connected me with their own clients’ family, you know, there’s a level of trust there. Other than that I used to send letters out to physicians, you know, “Hello my name is Lisa Merrill, here’s what I do.” Sometimes I’d have my rates in there, and then I would just send, you know, my fliers and cards that way. I used to visit some of the physicians. It got me started, I don’t have to do that anymore but that was definitely a way, and I think a lot of the advertisement now are people, kind of doing, some of their own research online.

Interviewer: Yeah, heard from a lot of practitioners who found the physician referral channel is good as long as they do it consistently.

Lisa: Yeah, and what I’ve found also the more you follow up with that physician, like sending them a letter or a fax after the fact, “Thank you for your referral, this person came in, here’s what we did.” You know, that takes time to do that but I find that that’s important too, so that they have that connection and that you are following up with them.

Interviewer: How do you efficiently manage your time throughout the day?

Lisa: It depends on the day. I feel like I’m doing a lot of triage unfortunately because I do deal with a lot of addicts, I deal with a lot of eating disorders and so sometimes there’s crises where you have to be a little flexible and know those kinds of things are going to come up, where a phone call that you might think is only going to be 15 minutes is going to be a little bit longer because there’s some, you know, some crisis or drama going on. I have to have blocks of time, there’s times you say, okay, these are my email times, this is, you know, obviously scheduling my face to face time, session time, and you know you have to try to find and make sure that there’s a little balance for your life too so you don’t get burned out.

Interviewer: Oh, exactly. It leads again into the next question, the last question. What’s the one thing you’d change about your practice if you could?

Lisa: Oh, wow. Know that one ahead of time. You know, some of the behind the scenes, you know, the time that it takes to prepare charts, you know, I have interns and I do utilize interns, you know, and I pay other people like students and things to help me with some of that but it still takes time for me to even get, you know, products to them. Probably some of the behind the scenes things that take a little more time. Also for payments, you know, when I’m working with out of state, people aren’t prepaid and I might need to start doing that just so I don’t have to keep, you know, follow up with them that way. Even a little more of the billing and definitely, you know, dietitians can’t take insurance when they’re in private practice with the exception of Medicare and a couple other, you know, ones who’ll pay, but there’s a lot of paperwork involved with that and it just takes some time so, you know, I try to pay people to help me with that.

Interviewer: Well that’s great, Lisa thanks again I know everyone really appreciates your views on practice. Thanks so much, you take care.

Lisa: All right. All right thanks.

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