Every so often, you get to talk with a person who is so knowledgeable, kind, and insightful that when the conversation is over, you feel grateful that you got a little bit of their time.
That’s how I felt when I got off the phone with Khalilah Filmore, CEO & Founder of MEDkeen Solutions – a consulting company (and LOCALiQ client!) that helps doctors and healthcare practices accelerate growth through training, concierge medicine, digital marketing, and more.
Filmore took some time to talk with me about her business, what it’s been like navigating the pandemic as a business owner who works with medical professionals, and what she hopes will result from initiatives like Google’s Black-Owned Friday and Facebook’s #BuyBlack campaign.
Hi Khalilah! Thank you so much for talking with me today. I’d love to start out hearing a little bit about you, your story, and your business.
Five years ago when I started my company, there was a huge decline in private practice physicians, and that was due to various economic and political factors from a decrease in insurance, the Affordable Care Act, an increase in patient collections, and then this huge demand for mandatory administrative tasks placed on physicians, which in turn, took them away from patient care.
I had been working in healthcare since 1999 and over time saw firsthand how private practice physicians were struggling
And I kept thinking, “How can I fix it? How can I help?” And, I knew there was no way I could help physicians working for a large institution. So, I stepped out on faith and started MEDkeen Solutions.
My healthcare consulting firm, MEDkeen Solutions, provides affordable cost-saving services to independent physician practices for those aiming for independence, and we do it nationwide.
MEDkeen Solutions offers a portfolio of customized solutions from revenue acceleration, new practice startup concierge medicine, digital marketing, as well as staff training.
Wow, that sounds like a lot! What was it like when you started your business five years ago?
You know, it was much easier than I anticipated – maybe because I just said, “you know what, I’m just going to do it.”
So, I applied for my business license and started working. Because I’ve worked in the Central Florida area since 2000, I had a plethora of physicians to reach out to, so I started my business off word of mouth.
The word of mouth really got out, and people already trusted me because I helped them in various roles that I had worked in, so getting clients was pretty easy. I already had that trust from working with physicians, so it was a smooth transition.
Actually running a company was something I had to get used to. It’s not like I had a set schedule like when you work in corporate America, right? Now the budget is on me – and it’s my actual money that we’re spending. Everything is my responsibility! Being CEO is not for the faint of heart.
I had to learn how to flow like water.
I like that. I can imagine that was a different transition going from being a nurse to owning and running your own business.
Right. So, even as a nurse, I probably did patient care for the first five years, and then I transitioned from patient care to administrator – I always wanted to eventually get to operations. That’s what I’m doing now as a consultant helping physicians run the operations of their medical practice.
So, obviously, you’re working in the healthcare industry. What has that been like during the pandemic?
Let me tell you, like most others, MEDkeen Solutions slowed down. And the reason we slowed down is because the physicians’ offices slowed down. So, physicians were allowed to keep their doors open during the pandemic, but the state was shut down, and patients weren’t coming in.
There was a lot of miscommunication that physicians and I had to work through from insurance companies on how to offer telehealth as well as dealing with patients’ fears. Not only were patients afraid and there was panic, but even physicians were afraid because no one was coming in – there are serious medical issues that many of their patients have and the doctors didn’t know how they were managing them because they weren’t able to get them in the practice to be seen.
As patients became more optimistic about COVID-19 and more comfortable with telehealth and were able to hear from doctors on what they’re doing in the office to keep everyone safe – wearing masks and gloves, sanitizing between patients, limiting patients in the lobby – they started trickling in, and that helps with finances.
Many doctors operate on a month-to-month basis, so when those patients weren’t coming in, it was really a struggle. Some of them are just now catching up.
And MEDkeen Solutions has started to pick up some. I had to rearrange our business model to do more digital consultations – I’m doing my own version of telehealth for physicians!
You’re in a unique position because 1) you’re in healthcare, 2) you’re helping healthcare practices with their marketing, and 3) you’re also marketing your business. What’s that been like?
A lot of digital focus and a lot of ad spending as well as direct mail campaigns like postcards and letters to physicians. And that’s what I am teaching my clients to do as well.
Get comfortable with marketing; do more ads, do more digital marketing campaigns.
As for MEDkeen Solutions, we are making sure our website is gaining as much traffic as we can, and try to keep people on our website and educate them on what we do.
But, let me tell you, in the beginning, it was intimidating because everyone is afraid, yet everyone was on their computer researching COVID, and I was trying to get them to learn more about MEDkeen Solutions while they were doing their online research.
So, when things slowed down a bit, you didn’t really slow your marketing at all?
No. The biggest thing I’ve noticed for myself and other companies is trying to find creative ways to get people to see us, so having to dig into that creativity box and not do things the same way has been a challenge. I have to creatively get physicians to come to MEDkeen’s website or call us.
How does MEDkeen come across as a thought leader or have some online authority in the medical space?
I want to go back to something you said earlier about trust. How important is that for businesses and how do you think they can build that trust?
So, for me, I embody the phrase “Transparency + trust + teamwork = transformation.”
And I think that’s important because you have to be able to have open communication and strategize. Always be honest. So, if something doesn’t look good or something isn’t performing optimally, you have to tell your clients you disagree with what they’re doing. You can’t be afraid to say “I disagree, I think there’s a better way this could be done.”
And I think a lot of people struggle with that, but if business owners could get really good at being completely honest and open, that’s where the magic happens because your clients know they’re not paying someone to be a yes person.
Teamwork is crucial to my company by having everyone engaged so it’s not just me coming in and bossing staff around. I work with their office managers, their medical staff, so we’re all on the same page. We must work together to crush goals. That builds trust, and once you have trust, it’s much easier for people to work together and transform the medical practice.
Switching gears a little bit – obviously, while this pandemic has been going on, there’s also been a lot of political and racial turmoil. How has that been for you as a Black business owner?
Yeah, it’s very disheartening to turn on the news and see the political discord, police brutality — and then go to work like everything is okay.
It’s kind of hard to have that on your heart and work. Yet for most Black Americans, we deal with these emotions daily.
I’ve been blessed in the sense that I have a very diverse clientele, and everyone is supportive of me and my talents. I can walk into any of my clients’ medical practices and know that I can be myself. I am a proud Black woman who is in the business of healthcare to make a difference.
My clients and the people who reach out to me, they know I’m Black, and they want to work with me because they know I’m knowledgeable, and they know I get results.
But it was hard when I worked in the corporate world. It was very hard to have things go on, and people say things around you that are rude, insensitive, or kind of racist. This was not the norm for me, but it’s part of the reason I knew I needed to be an entrepreneur.
By having my own company and working with my clientele, I haven’t had those negative experiences as of today. I’m able to show up, be myself, and get the job done without the stereotypes of prejudices. I recognize everyone doesn’t have that experience, and that’s upsetting.
I am appreciative of the companies that are doing the initiatives for Black businesses, whether it’s Black-Owned Fridays or BuyBlack, I’m just hoping it’s more consistent and it’s not a one and done. If it’s not consistent, how can it be trusted?
A lot of businesses have put a focus on supporting Black-owned businesses – especially right now.
Yes, and we need the consistency. And Black-owned businesses need advertising right now – some free ad spend from these companies would go a long way. I know many of them do that for nonprofits.
If there was a way that they could just take some of the Black-owned businesses that do little to no advertising and give them free ad spend, they can see the return on their investment in ads, because once these businesses see that digital marketing works, they’ll keep doing it. They’ll see the positive effects of marketing.
That’s a really great idea. As consumers, how do you think people can and should support Black-owned businesses?
Actually seeking out Black businesses or doing an internet search for Black-owned businesses is one way. But word of mouth when you use a Black-owned company and you have a great experience is just as important.
Tell everybody, give them a 5-star review, go on Yelp. I mean, whatever you could do to let people know that you had a great experience. That’s worked for me, and I think it works for Black-owned businesses because everyone reads reviews now – everyone wants to know if you’re recommending something you actually experienced. So, I think word of mouth is the way to go to make an impact.