Make Better Business Decisions at Your Medical Practice

June 28, 2012

Here are five steps to take before making important business decisions at your medical practice, taking a look from the outside in.

Business professionals make decisions based on facts much in the same way physicians make clinical decisions. Physicians make a diagnosis by examining the patient and, if the diagnosis or its extent is uncertain, they order diagnostic tests to provide clarity and a professional read to validate.

Business professionals follow the same process to make important decisions, particularly strategic and financial ones. Their version of diagnostic testing is a third-party research report with analysis by a specialist in the field being studied.

As with medical diagnostics, research reports can uncover or validate information critical to outcomes. While making the right business decision is not a life or death proposition, it is one that can have a dramatic effect on one’s financial health and future.

Surprisingly, many physicians who never hesitate to commit thousands of dollars to diagnostics to ensure they make a good diagnosis, go with their gut, assumptions, or friendly advice for business decisions. This includes business decisions with long-term high dollar consequences such as expansion, practice location, or property leases, to save the expense of getting the facts needed to make a good decision.

Medical practices are businesses, and one of the best business investments you can make is to lean on outside eyes to analyze and identify the potential of any major business decision or problem such as low patient referrals, collection or retention rates.

The concept is simple, but the execution is not. Here are some pointers, provided by HCP’s research team:

1. Share Your Vision: Before you embark on a comprehensive research effort, sit down with a professional team and air out your concerns. To ensure that all are on the same page, you must share the current direction of the business, what has been successful in the past, what has not, and what you realistically envision in the near, short, and long term for your practice.

2. Understand Your Patients: Your patients hold a lot of insight into your practice - insight that is likely untapped. While you know what you intend for the patients to experience, your patients are the individuals who can tell you if you are delivering.

3. Study Your Market: Study the demographics of those residing within a drivable distance from your practice. A good healthcare researcher will extrapolate conditions that are experienced in greater frequency within your region - helping you understand who to reach out to, to foster your referral network, and how to better position your practice to fulfill the regional need.

4. Be Aware of Referral Sources: You should know how many potential referring physicians surround your practice; foster relationships with these offices. The first step is acknowledging who is there. This information, combined with the over-indexing conditions within your region, will help you in reaching out to referring physicians, as you can more aptly position your practice as a resource.

5. Know Your Competitors: Secret shopping is a great way to reveal differentiating factors between your practice and your competitors. From the initial phone call to set the appointment to the time spent with the doctor, patients are developing a perception of your practice. Identifying things that other offices in your area are doing to enhance the patient experience is invaluable to you.

In some ways, this process may be an opportunity to come to reality about various aspects of your vision. Research will give you answers - but it may not be to your liking. If at the end of the process, the recommendations that you receive from the research (and you should always receive recommendations-not just data) conflict with your original vision, don’t throw it all aside and revert to your old ways. Take the data as a wakeup call, and an opportunity to enhance the long-term sustainability of your practice.

A wise person once said, “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” Call in the experts and break the cycle.

Find out more about James Doulgeris and our other Practice Notes bloggers.