Signs that healthcare practices are facing big business risks in the coming years are all over the news as more and more physicians file for bankruptcy or join large hospital systems. But is life really over as we know it for private-practice physicians? Here are 10 things medical practices can do right now to not only improve their odds of survival, but come out on top.
1. Implement an “I Own It” culture: Do you have to remind your staff to do certain things? Moreover, do your patients? Create a culture of ownership that improves both morale and your bottom line.
2. Define how decisions are made: Who has the authority to decide what and when? In small medical practices, physicians are used to leading their teams and making decisions for the practice, but as a practice grows, it becomes essential to define partner level decisions, partner agreements, management decisions and organization charts. For private practices with over 10 partners, it also becomes essential to define how partner decisions will be made so that you don’t get stuck in “analysis paralysis.”
3. Create a system for getting things done: If you sit in partner meetings, staff meetings, or chart rounds where the same complaints are made ad nauseum, your practice likely lacks a clear system defining goals, action items, issues and who is accountable for each.
4. Operationalize: Most companies have six to 10 core processes that make them flow, or not flow. Define and document those processes, and reduce them to a system that is easy to understand and access. Assign clear accountability and backup responsibility. This will save you in training, medical audits, HR lawsuits and emergency situations.
5. Digitize: Can a computer do it better? Then let it. Gone are the days of photocopies. If your medical staff keep their own paper files of new patient forms, surgery prep sheets and other patient information, you not only look unprofessional but you are opening yourself up to extreme liability. Centralize form access on a server, and implement a process to review and update forms at least twice per year. Ensure your online patient forms are downloadable, “fillable form” PDF files, not low-resolution scans from the copy machine with misspelled words and whiteout marks.
6. Allow for online scheduling: 63.6 percent of patients 18- to 24-years-old want to schedule their medical appointments online, and over 40 percent of all patients under 44-years-old prefer to schedule online. Is your practice set up for success or failure in the next decade as these patients make up the majority of your patient volume?
7. Use financials: It amazes me how many physicians don’t have proper, systematic bookkeeping, budgeting and financial practices. If you are a partner in your practice, you need to understand the difference between cash flow and profit. Growing practices face the highest risk of being profitable but cash flow negative, which means going under. Run your medical practice like the business it is.
8. Perfect your patient message: As practices grow from small groups of one to five physicians to larger groups with multiple physicians and locations, you have less control over the message your patients are receiving. New staff don’t have the benefit of knowing the history of the practice like you do, and they can’t be expected to articulate your story unless you package it in a storybook of sorts that everyone can remember. From phone scripts to locations, doctor bios and company facts, manage your message so that no one else does.
9. Update your marketing and patient materials: If your business cards, referral forms, patient intake paperwork and education resources look sloppy, you may portray an unprofessional image. Your marketing material is the only thing that can speak for you when you aren’t around to speak for yourself. What does yours say about you?
10. Optimize your website: If patients can’t find you online, they won’t ever find you in person. Keep your website up-to- date and optimized.
For more information visit www.cynEXconsulting.com or call 210.910.6266. Cynex Consulting is located at 311 Bowie Street, Suite 1806 in Austin, TX 78703.