Lewis Carroll said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Without a plan or without setting practice goals, you risk blindly moving from week to week and month to month and before you know it, the year is over with few objectives achieved.
Don’t leave the management and growth of your practice up to chance. Q4 is the right time to think about what you want to achieve the following year. Here are 7 things you can do.
1. Put a diverse group in the room.
Good planning requires input and insights from multiple people on the team. Don’t just convene physicians and managers. Invite representatives from the front desk, billing, and clinical teams, and people from ancillary services if you have them. Employees are often highly motivated to participate, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the information and ideas they bring to the conversation.
2. Reflect on the year so far.
What has gotten done, what is still in process, and which high priority projects would you like to complete by the end of 2019? Review your calendar and your to-do lists and ask the staff involved in the discussion to do the same.
Consider that, although you’ve got a few months to address priority items before year-end, the holidays will be here soon, and that productivity may wane a bit given employee time off and schedule. Be realistic about what you can achieve by December 31; some projects may need to be moved to next year.
3. Set a vision for the practice’s future.
A good plan starts with a vision of what you want from your practice. What do you want for your practice in the next 1 - 3 years? For example, do you want to improve physician time flexibility by transitioning to a concierge model or adding telemedicine services? Add new services by opening a physical therapy department or recruiting a subspecialty partner? Increase revenue by partnering with the hospital in a new surgery center? Get your ideas out on the table, and refine them into a list of no more than three objectives. More than that can splinter your focus. Put the finalized list in writing.
4. Identify the business problems that need solving and set goals to address them.
Do you have old technologies that need updating? Is the practice experiencing growth that requires additional managers or staff? Are the days in A/R through the roof? These are examples of business problems that could be solved next year. Walk through each area of the practice and discuss which problems need to be addressed. For instance:
● Hiring/Workforce Planning
● Coding and Revenue Cycle
● Financial Management
List the issues in each area and identify the highest 1-2 priorities in each. Set goals for how you will address and achieve them. If you can, add a few details - such as a likely project lead for technology selection and implementation, or the type of roles you’ll need to hire for if say, you are planning to develop and open a second office site.
5. Ask probing questions.
If done well, planning discussions should foster rigorous discussion and questions about the direction of the practice. Don’t see disagreement as negative but rather as a way to get to a better quality result.
For the goals and objectives in the plan you might ask the team: What do we have to make sure we do right in order to achieve this goal? What tools/staff need to be in place to get this project done? Or, If we choose to pursue this goal in 2020, what are we going to have to give up - what are we deciding not to do?
6. Put 2020 goals and objectives in writing.
Putting the plan in writing makes it real. It does not have to be lengthy or complicated. Several pages or a short slide deck will do. Document your vision for 2020, the three objectives you chose, and the specific goals for solving key business problems. Distribute it to your team so everyone knows what to expect.
7. Remember that ‘pivot’ is not a four letter word.
The external environment changes, employees leave, and physicians change their minds. That’s just life. So review your plan quarterly to determine where you are on goal achievement, and which things need to be modified or eliminated because the practice didn’t have enough time, energy, or resources to get them done. “Pivoting” from the plan is a positive way to rethink your original assumptions and set new goals.