We're approaching the halfway point of 2014. Yes, half of the year is over. Take a minute to breathe that in.
Over the past few months I have circumnavigated this country visiting more than 100 independent practices. It's been a tremendous thrill, but mostly an eye-opening experience. I brought with me a fair amount of conclusions and beliefs of what was happening in today's practice, and the result of my experiences meeting practices confirmed my understanding and provided more clarity as I traveled.
When I think of how today's practices are operating, I look at the confluence of rising costs and complexities being the number one factor forcing the hand of both providers and practice managers alike. Sure, patients have become more demanding and knowledgeable, but it's external regulatory factors and fixed costs that have sent independent practices down an unsustainable road. Too often, the practice decision makers find themselves focusing on near-term change as being a more troubling move than an achievable one, resulting in decisional paralysis. The top excuse is usually a lack of knowing where to start.
I've got a news flash for everyone running a practice: It is easier than you think!
Let's start by creating a plan, and we're not talking one of those overbearing multi-page plans — it's just too darn long! You need to start with a single-page strategic plan or just a single-page plan.
For those of you who are asking yourselves: "Does my practice need a strategic plan?," then you are in the other group of practices that need to begin a strategic thinking process. For the rest, you sit in a group that probably used a strategic plan as a practice-wide morale building exercise a few years back. You may not have realized it at the time, but the strategic plan was dead on arrival when it started if it wasn't actionable. Actionable, strategic plans for the practice need to be clear, concise and one page long.
Yes, it is possible to have a plan that is one page long (here's an example). Not only will it save on paper for the office supply costs, it will more importantly create a vision that is direct and actionable.
So, why do I stress so much about the length of a document that is focused more on business operations than patient engagement? Office-wide or practice-wide business messages are the difference between alignment and disorganization. By solidifying a concise vision, the entire practice can align to a forward direction that is clear and truly inspiring at its core.
With so much uncertainty currently permeating the independent practice culture, the onus is truly on the practice itself to see the existing change climate as beneficial to its own operations. While change will be consistent, and the strategic plan may have to be continually revised, today's independent practice must align and focus on a vision in order to embrace the culture of complexities and rising costs, and make a plan that is actionable.