Establishing the Tone of Your New Medical Practice

October 5, 2016

Preparing to open a new practice is the ideal time to create your professional brand. It is your opportunity to let patients know who you are professionally.

Preparing to open a new practice is the ideal time to create your professional brand and determine your medical mission. Here is a step-by-step strategy for developing the look, feel, and soul of your new medical practice.

Sights and sounds

The first thing patients will notice about your office is what they see and hear when they enter the door. You can express the personality of your clinic by deciding which element in each of these three categories feels most aligned with the character of your practice.

• Bold vs. understated. The nature of your specialty will help you determine the temperament of your office space. If you are a pediatrician, you'll likely be drawn to a bright palette for furnishings, art, and wall colors. Alternatively, an oncologist might be prone to choose more muted tones.

• Calm vs. energetic. You can generate the desired level of vitality within your practice by monitoring the noise level. Are you looking for a workspace that is lively or tranquil? Something as simple as whether or not to stream music in the waiting room will influence the experience your patients have. Privacy screens at the reception area will also change the vibe. It's up to you to establish a fitting ambience.

• Organized vs. chaotic. Patients can sense the level of order within a medical practice. Despite your best intentions, the operations of your practice can easily get out of hand, especially in the start-up phase. To minimize this risk, take time to systematize your processes, fine-tune your scheduling protocols, and structure your patient flow strategies.

Appearance and attitude

Not only is the appearance of your office vital to the personality of your practice, so is the appearance and attitude of you and your staff. Here are three more choices for you to make.

• Casual vs. formal. This is the perfect time to figure out the image you want to portray. From scrubs to suits, the gamut of wardrobe choices is vast. That's why it's so important to work with your team to develop a collective dress policy that accurately reflects your expertise, professionalism, and outlook. People who work in medical offices generally appreciate having guidelines to follow when it comes to their wardrobe, so make it easier by including everyone in deciding how you're all going to show up.

• Irritable vs. pleasant. The disposition of your practice reflects the disposition of you and your coworkers. Internal disharmony will radiate from the coffee room to the examination room and out into the waiting room. Have a positive attitude and nip any tension in the bud. Always keep in mind the enormous impact that your receptionist has on the mood of your clinic. Choose that person wisely.

• Proactive vs. reactive. Sooner or later you'll find yourself in the position of running behind, dealing with a complicated turn of events, or handling a staff shortage. All of these circumstances will have an effect on patients who are waiting for their appointments. This presents an opportunity for you to avoid potential anxiety and anger. Consider establishing a protocol for notifying patients of delays and schedule changes. These days it's easy to use technology to your advantage by texting, e-mailing, or auto-calling people to alert them to a delay or opening. Doing so is a show of respect for their time.

Principles and procedures

The time to establish the philosophical groundwork of your practice is before, not after, you open your doors. Your final three decisions include some soul-searching to ascertain the foundations of your new medical practice. The good thing about these options is that you get to have equal amounts of each selection.

• Teamwork vs. solitude. While on one hand you're the leader of a burgeoning team, on the other hand you're still a physician whose other priorities include family, friends, and non-medical activities. Remember to schedule private time. Opening a new practice is laborious and time-consuming. Your patients, staff, family, and friends all need you to be fully present. The only way to accomplish that is to focus on maintaining your relationship with yourself first.

• Partnerships vs. independence. Two of the most important elements of your potential success lie in the professional relationships you foster and the referral networks you build. Reach out to meet new colleagues, providers, and even patients by becoming involved in local and virtual community events. But maintain your independence, too. It's important that you're always comfortable expressing your individuality.

• Contributing vs. acquiring. When planning to open a new medical office you're in the acquisition phase, acquiring equipment, staff, and patients. Once the dust has settled, it's vital to re-enter the contribution phase of your practice. Benevolence can be shared in myriad ways, such as through teaching, volunteering, or offering gifts of meeting space or other resources.

As you can see, setting the tone of your new medical practice includes multiple options. You'll be miles ahead of the game by prioritizing your choices so you can get down to business.

Sue Jacquesis a professionalism expert who specializes in medical and corporate civility. A veteran forensic medical investigator, Jacques is a keynote speaker, author, and consultant who helps people and practices prosper through professionalism. www.TheCivilityCEO.com