To Boost Medical Practice Performance, Be Accountable

October 8, 2013

Business expert and author Sam Silverstein urges medical practices to establish their beliefs, never stray from them, and to cut out excuses.

To have a successful medical practice, you need to eliminate excuses, eradicate justifications, and take personal accountability for choices, actions, and results. That was the message delivered by business expert and author Sam Silverstein at this year's Medical Group Management Association Annual Conference in San Diego.

Silverstein presented the keynote session on Tuesday, Oct. 8, entitled "No More Excuses," offering attendees realistic steps to start making their practice a better place for staff, physicians, and patients.

The key is to move away from excuses and toward choices - choices based on the beliefs and principals of your practice; with nothing else to cloud that vision.

"When we make choices versus excuses, that's when accountability flows into our lives," Silverstein said, and also for medical practice staff. "When you make excuses, you move away from accountability. Do you want more accountability at your office? Well then, start talking about it."

Silverstein stressed to the audience that they should take home the theme of accountability - especially being proactively accountable - to their practices to improve daily operations.

He listed five critical ways to achieve proactive accountability, beginning with doing the right things consistently. He advised practices to forget about "gray areas" and focus on the "black and white" reality of situations. "Sometimes we have a moral compass that tells us what to do, but we don't always listen," he said.

He said that practices should live their beliefs and values - not just saying it, but actually doing it.  And part of that is valuing patients and their time. So, for example, practices should stop making excuses for seeing patients late, and instead, focus on seeing patients on-time all the time.

"Once there are non-negotiable [beliefs], there is no more gray area," Silverstein said.

He stressed that practice managers and administrators sit down with their physicians and ask the question: "What do you believe?"

"That's a tough conversation, but that's where transformation begins," he said, adding that when new doctors or staff come in, that belief system is set and shared.

Another way to be proactively accountable is to "manage your space," he said, whether it is the physical space of the office you inhabit or the way you react to change.

"Change is not an option …it's what we can control," he said. "We can control our reaction [to change]; we can choose how we react."

Another key way to boost accountability is something you are likely already doing at your practice, but can always improve - relationships. "Be interested in the people you work with and they'll be interested in you," Silverstein stressed. "…It's about helping the people we work with be the best they can be …We are responsible to things, we are accountable to people."