At the beginning of the year, it's always a good idea to review your operating plan and craft a new direction for your practice.
Typically this time every year I advise my readers what financial reports they should run, review, manage, and analyze. I also mention the importance of re-verifying all current patients' insurance coverage - since most deductible accruals start over on Jan. 1. But I think I'm going in a different direction this year.
While I don't often make New Year's resolutions, I do like to document my business experiences, plan for new growth, and implement changes. I do this a few weeks into the new year while the previous year's experiences are still fresh in my mind, and enough time has passed that we can see how insurance plans are going to behave in the new year. It may be hard for some people to be patient and "see what happens," but I think it's a critical step in creating a positive battle plan.
Review major changes. I think a good first step is to review changes and big decisions that were made in the previous year: Were you caught off-guard by suddenly going out of network with one of your patients' major insurance providers? Did you lose critical staff members suddenly? Did you make any goals for last year that did/did not get implemented? Even if this answer is yes, it is not a sign of failure, but opportunities to hone this process even more for this year.
Collaborate with colleagues. Next step is to have some conversations with other members in your group. Do you know what the business plans are for the coming year? Do you plan to expand, perhaps adding another office or just focus your marketing efforts in your current market? Knowing the big picture plan is critical for even the smallest department in the practice. You will need to align your goals and plans with the whole practice in order to be successful with your implementation process.
Get creative. While you're gathering that information, start making what I call a "wish list." It can vary from immediate needs to what your dream office would be and how it would run. Be creative, have fun, brainstorm with others. This is part of the process that keeps you motivated and able to enjoy the job you are in. If you have reporting staff, be sure to include them and hear their wishes.
Consolidate plans. Now that you have stated your practice's goals and wish list, start merging the two. This takes a little bit more time and creative brainpower, but it's so worth it. This is the implementation period where your thoughts can become reality. Don't worry if you only get a few of the items implemented over the course of a year. Change is hard for a lot of people. If it's easier, start with your department and make smaller more manageable changes. Once other staff members see how well your department is running, they'll be more willing to try some changes themselves.
This whole process can take a few days to a month, so don't rush it, but definitely do it!