In this episode, Certified Online Curriculum Specialist, Sarah Tugender shares a way for healthcare providers to better educate patients and save time!
“That badge of honor to say that we finished something is going to be really big. So if you can build that or work with someone to build that into your programs, it’s a home run.” -Sarah Tugender
Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer talks with Sarah Tugender about helping physicians save time, serve patients better, and earn additional income by creating learning programs for their patients and followers. Sarah is a Certified Online Curriculum Specialist and she designs signature health programs for adult learners. You will hear about Sarah’s background and why she is passionate about helping physicians, and specific examples of how she can help you expand your reach and efficiency. Tune in to find out how Sarah can help you take your practice to the next level.
Find out more about Sarah Tugender and her services at SarahTugender.com
Sarah grew up around hospitals and healthcare practices, born when her dad was a first-year medical student at Tufts Medical School. She remembers bringing her dolls to the break room at Sinai Hospital, where her dad was a resident, to get stitched up with real stitches.
After graduating from Boston University with a Marketing and Advertising degree, it was a natural partnership for Sarah to help her dad with those services in his practice.
For 15 years, Sarah has helped healthcare providers increase their income and impact by using her passion for health with her drive to leverage time and teach others to do the same. As the host of The Health of Your Business podcast, Sarah has interviewed the most prominent experts in functional and holistic health today.
Sarah lives on Boston’s North Shore with her husband, Dan, and three children – Ella, Brody and Duke – where they live a plant-based lifestyle and take advantage of all New England has to offer.
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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran
Please enjoy the full transcript below
Sarah: That badge of honor to say that we finish something is going to be really big. So, if you can build that or work with someone to build that into your programs, it’s a home run.
Jill: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for being here on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, lead coach at DocWorking and today we’re going to talk about how you as a physician might be able to get better at teaching people what they need to know that you know. We’re really excited today to have Sarah Tugender as our guest. She grew up around hospitals and healthcare providers, her dad was a physician, and she went down a slightly different track into marketing and advertising. But now, for 15 years, she has merged those two parts of her life and helped healthcare providers increase their income and impact by using her passion for health and her drive to leverage time to teach others how to do the same. So, Sarah, thank you so much for being with us here today, joining us from Boston. So, what does that mean? What exactly is it that you are passionate about helping physicians do?
Sarah: Yeah, thank you. Everything I do is through the lens of my dad. My dad, who I grew up with. I was actually born the week he took his first exam in medical school. He went up to the board right before he sat down for that exam and wrote, Sarah born October 16th, seven pounds three ounces, he was so proud. I remember the medical school textbooks as I was in the first grade, I mean, they were giants. I would try to pick them up, and walk them around our apartment, and then how proud he was when he worked in the hometown where he grew up in a veteran community, Melrose Massachusetts. But I also saw the flip side of how hard he worked and how many sacrifices he made.
Everything that I do for physicians is with the understanding, if we’re going to do something and spend time on it, we’re taking away from something else. We’re taking away from other passions. That was his boat, and his fishing that he loved. Those weekends that he had to go to a course or he had to do something at the office and the boat was unused, or my volleyball game and being late for that, and what that felt like. When he couldn’t show up for his kids, I’m one of six kids. So, he’s had a really busy home life as well. So, if you’re going to do something and take the time to do it, don’t you want your patients and clients to be able to actually take action and make it worthwhile? That’s where the passion lies because I’m seeing that this online learning and just learning in general, is the next wave of us getting education out there. As physicians, you’re going to have to step into it. So, you have to learn how. [laughs] So, that’s where I come in.
Jill: So, give us some specific examples if you would of the kind of thing that a physician can do to use online learning specifically to benefit patients and frankly to generate more income for a practice.
Sarah: I love specifics because this will really spark some ideas for your kind of practice. So, a primary care functional medicine doctor, who was at a pretty high price point. He ran a concierge type practice and sold it out. He actually had a four-month waiting list. This caused two really big problems. One is that, there was a waiting list for people who couldn’t see him and the accessibility was tough. The other thing was affordability. Not everyone could afford to actually go to that type of model. So, together worked on writing the curriculum for a membership model, where he would come once a month and be able to answer questions, but also trained a few health coaches in his methodology. So, they would run workshops that were implementing the things that he was preaching. I mean, that was really great because he got that impact and also some additional income.
So, that’s just one example. It doesn’t have to be a membership. It could also be someone who’s in women’s health, and they’re saying, you know what, I really want to put together a mom nutrition program. It’s going to be 90 days, really around moms, because they’re the ones who do the grocery shopping and the cooking and that’s what I want to do. So, why don’t we put this together? Because my annual visits are just not enough in my women’s healthcare practice and I need that additional support, additional help, and that’s a really great way to scale an offer and leverage your time.
Jill: I have a lot of surgeon clients, but one recently who was saying, I really want to put together some kind of video or program post surgically for my clients because they feel like, “Okay, yeah, I’m better after six weeks post surgery, but I have XYZ things that are coming up” and they’re really standard but sometimes just giving people a pamphlet isn’t enough for them to get that post-surgical care. That particular surgeon realized that there was a need but then as she was trying to figure out how to do this, that was pretty overwhelming and outside her skill set up to this point. Do you find that often with physician clients?
Sarah: Yeah. Were we overwhelmed the first time we said we have to do a Zoom, what do you mean? I mean, I think back on my first times meeting people on camera and trying to do that, so technology can be a little bit overwhelming for people. I mean, good for her that she had a pamphlet. Sometimes, even that creation of a pamphlet, and then you go out because you’re overwhelmed, you just tend to hire the first person that says, they’ll help you and Jill, have you not found you’re like, “You paid what for what?” How did you get charged that amount of money for something that we could have sourced from the community, we could have made this more affordable and put our resources somewhere else? But yeah, it is overwhelming but it’s also so necessary and actually there isn’t much research that backs this up. I know my audience here as my physicians that are going to say, “Sarah, where’s the research?” Because we all know that there are those visual learners, those audio learners, those kinesthetic learners. But in actuality, the research doesn’t show that we can break it down like that, where Jill, you and I, there might be some situations where we might learn better in an audio format and other situations, we might learn better by doing. So, it’s not so much across the board. There’s a lot more crossover. But we should have something in a pamphlet, and in an audio, and in video series because it might be helpful. Gosh, I’m nervous at the doctor. I can’t sit on that paper and not get it all crinkled up. My dad always said, “What goes on before I come into the room?” Because it seems like, you’re waiting, and you’re nervous, and your palms are sweating, and then you want me to remember the most important thing you’re about to tell me about my surgical care. I don’t want to ask if I can record it but I’m not going to remember. So, if you gave me something that was beyond just a pamphlet that would be a really great teaching point.
You know what, I’m going to say, that’s actually one above and beyond, and that’s going to translate into what I call that wow factor, which is your testimonials, reviews, you’re going to get people that actually have better patient outcomes too which are better metrics that you can go ahead and tell people about what your surgical experience is like. Because we’re still in a very competitive world. It’s not just so much. “Oh, okay, I have this insurance. So, I’m just going to go to the first doctor listed in the directory.”
Jill: Yeah. So, you’ve given us some really interesting ideas about the benefits of thinking through why it could be meaningful to do some type of educational program or format. Number one is, you talked about with your concierge doctor, it’s another income or revenue stream that can come in. Number two, improving patient outcomes just by giving them varied forms of information that can reinforce things once they leave the office where it can be hard to take in a lot of information and hold on to it in a way that reflects people’s different learning styles and that they can look at repetitively, which can be extremely meaningful, and as a way to deepen patient and physician relationships, so that when they come in, they meet the person, they see the name, but then as they’re following up and hearing more information from that physician like, “Oh, this is somebody that really cares about me taking and integrating this information.”
That all makes a ton of sense and I can see how it might work for somebody to invest as a physician in hiring somebody like you to come in and help set up what a learning program looks like if they’re in that concierge model, but what about somebody that’s in practice and is more on the insurance model, does something like that fit into their practice as well?
Sarah: Absolutely, it does, Jill, because there are so many appointments that happen in series. Again, I am very women’s health oriented. I don’t know if it’s because I have three kids myself that are all young under the age of eight. So, I’ve spent a lot of time in my obstetrics office and working there. But it could also be that my dad was someone who delivered babies and was head of his department of obstetrics and gynecology for over 25 years. But I think about the women’s health journey, which often was just a global visit. It’s really set up so beautifully the way that they have it in trimesters. So, your first trimester patients need to have different information than your third trimester patients and there is this really beautiful arc of a journey that you can have.
Yet, it is also very individualized because now we need to subset. Maybe there’s one patient who is older, one patient who has higher risk with gestational diabetes, there are different things. So, you need the messaging to be very consistent, yet you also need to individualize the care at the same time. But Jill, you’ve mentioned some really great benefits to having these testimonials, and evaluations, and then better patient outcomes but the third thing that I also want to say is a benefit to having someone come in and help with your educational design in a global based care, let’s just say obstetrics. It could be surgery, it could be in weight loss, maybe bariatric care. When you have a program, this is also going to save you time. Gosh, the one thing that is so coveted that we can’t get back.
It’s going to help get less questions into triage. It’s going to help where you have resources because you’re saying the same thing over and over again about someone’s care and maybe you want to just direct them to a video module, which is going to help free up your time, maybe time in the office, time on the phone, time from your staff, who wouldn’t want that. So, you can also put this into an insurance model, I think, really nicely.
Jill: So, a lot of physicians have vast amounts of information, specifically, in their brains, specifically, about their areas of discipline, they also tend to have really high skills. Sometimes, physicians will be the first to tell us it can be hard to translate what they know in a way that is digestible to the patient and helps them understand the information that the patient needs to know in order to optimize their health outcomes. So, do you notice that in your work and how do you help physicians move through that obstacle?
Sarah: Jill, I laugh because I think my dad and mom are like that. I don’t need to know the backstory. There are times when I call him and I’m like, “Do you think I should just get a Z-Pak because I’m just feeling like I’m not feeling well?” He will give me the history of all of the different types of medications and why they exist. I’m like, “This was just a yes or no answer if I need to go and step into an urgent care today, dad?” Yes, absolutely. When we’re so close to it, we want to go through the whole thought process with the patient, the clients, your family member, whoever you’re trying to explain as to what the process is like. But again, when you think about it from a learning objective who you’re talking to first.
I’m just going to go back to that example of the pregnant woman because someone in their first trimester is in a different part of the journey than someone in their third trimester. It’s such a great example because it’s a very clear journey that most of us can understand and visualize. But this might be very true to someone who has had their first surgery versus someone that’s having a repair surgery or going back in for a second surgery. They’re in a different place on their journey as well. So, we have to think of who we’re talking to because if you’re boring people with the information, they’re going to stop being engaged, and then they’re going to miss the really important information. When we can have upfront what we’re promising people in what we’re about to deliver for them for information, and we can make it. So, they’re like, “Well, what is in it for me and what skill am I going to get? Is it that I’m going to learn a fact here? Is it that I’m going to have a skill or I’m going to be able to analyze myself to know using that example, again?”
The next time my dad was like, “I’m going to explain this to you, so then you’ll never have to ask me if you’ll need a Z-Pak again.” Now, maybe I’m interested in the history of medication that he’s about to tell me because it will help me with an analytical skill versus just I’m going to tell you the facts of something. Let me use a weight loss example. I want to teach you about macronutrients Jill, I’m not going to make myself lunch today and think about the macronutrients on my plate. That’s not how I’m going to build it. But are we learning that fact, are we learning a skill set that we can apply later?
Jill: Yeah, excellently said and I think that’s been my experience, too, in helping to coach physicians in situations where they really have just a very values-driven desire to get better information into the hands of patients for a variety of different reasons. But sometimes it’s just that natural tendency, we tend to think that other people listen and learn the same way that we do, and that is really often not the case between physician and patient. So, to really have somebody from the outside who can consult and say, “Okay, this is what we know really lands with patients. We know how to engage patients, so that the information that’s really valuable for you to get to them is going to be taken in any meaningful way.” As you said, I love the time saving thing. That’s one of my big passions is helping people to not feel like they’re so short on time all the time. I think that’s really important to understand that we’re just not in a healthcare model where physicians or even nurse practitioners, or PAs, or nurses in practices can answer the same damn questions over and over and over again to people individually and still deliver the healthcare that’s needed the way that system works.
Sarah: That’s the recipe to [crosstalk] burnout, Jill. That’s where burnout is. So, thank you for combating that every day.
Jill: Absolutely. Well, anything else that you feel our physician audience really needs to understand about delivering education programs to their patients that would be helpful and potentially inspire them to use this next year is the time to get this in place and get it rolling?
Sarah: Yeah. The one other thing I do have to say in the horizon, what I keep hearing and looking at, so, if you can think about ways to gamify anything. People have said that our attention spans are less than even that of a goldfish. I am going to disagree and say, “I don’t think so because, listen, I have seen people binge watch multiple seasons of shows all in one sitting. So, you tell me that people’s attention spans aren’t very long, yet at the same time you tell me these same people can sit down and watch television for hours and hours.” Just let’s make better content. Let’s do that and one of the big things that people are talking about also is that gamification, seeing the check marks like we do on Netflix to say, we’ve completed something that hook at the end, what’s going to be next, that badge of honor to say that we finished something is going to be really big. So, if you can build that or work with someone to build that into your programs, it’s a homerun.
Jill: So, for those who say, “Okay, I don’t really understand what gamification is,” in its simplest form, it’s when we’re delivering digitally content and information, it’s a way that I as the user of that content and information or I as the patient in this case gets to participate by saying, you can have multiple choice answers and show which ones we got right or wrong based on the information or there’s a way that you turn it into a game that helps us to feel more engaged and connected. Is that a fair description?
Sarah: Jill, it doesn’t have to just be digital. So, let’s even think about rehabilitation, you have to do your exercises. That’s not really a digital thing. You have to do your exercises to rehab. I think about my kids, they walk into the classroom and they have to put their coats on the coat hook, they have to have a certain routine that they have, and they also have sticker charts like, this is an adult sticker chart. That’s really all that it is for some kind of reward at the end.
Jill: Yeah. It’s just a way to increase that sense of motivation and drive to really engage with the information. Sarah Tugender, this has been inspiring. I think there is a heartfelt desire on many physicians’ parts to be able to get more meaningful information that is engaging, and motivating to patients, and to know that they don’t have to do it on their own, or start from scratch, or carry it solely on their shoulders the burdens to reinvent the wheel to figure out ways to do that because like you are out there making it much easier and meaningful for them to do this for their patients. So, for folks who say, I want to get some more information, I’m curious about this. How can they get a hold of you and learn more?
Sarah: Oh, please. Yeah, my website, sarahtugender.com. I’m @sarahtugender on all social media. But I want to give your listeners, I sarahtigender.com/freegift and it’s the seven things you should have in any health program that you’re putting together, and it gives you a checklist and a place to fill it in. So, you can even workshop this with your teams if you want to on all the things you need in your health program.
Jill: Oh, that’s so excellent. Thank you for inspiring us to think about ways that we can deliver health programs, and to just understand more about what’s happening in this world right now in ways that can help in exciting ways to serve patients and again improve outcomes and save physician times all very worthy benefits of thinking in these terms. It’s been delightful to have this conversation with you. Thank you so much for being here.
Sarah: Thank you.
Jill: And thank you all for listening. We love having so many physicians every week, listen to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Tell your friends, hop onto wherever you’re listening to us, give us those five star ratings, and until next time, we’ll see you and DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.
Jill: As a physician, your schedule is packed. There is too much to do and not enough time to do it all. That’s why you need proven time management tools and ideas that can help you get control of your time, help you get more done in less time, and help you make time for the things that really matter to you in your life. You need proven time management skills that have worked for doctors just like you. Plus, you need to learn about these great time ideas on your own schedule, on your own time when it works for you from the comfort of your own home.
Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you for being here. Please check us out at docworking.com and please don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thank you for listening.
Coach Jill Farmer
Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.
She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.
She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.
Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.
Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.