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Medical Practices and Service-Oriented Business Strategies


The changes that come with Stage 2 of meaningful use and ICD-10 are just at the tip of a change iceberg. Here's how to strategize going forward.

I recently hosted a strategic-planning session for independent practices, and I was truly taken aback by the continued disconnect between practice leaders/healthcare providers and the concept that they are running as much a business as they are a medical institution. The traditional way that practices have been run has created a type of Saturday Evening Post mentality, where there is a longing for a time long since passed.

While there is a longing for such a bygone era, the truth is that the themes of personalization and value of service will remain the driving factors in a change-and-compliance society. You may have noticed that my posts, along with those from fellow contributors on this site, speak to a continuous state of change that represents healthcare in America. We know that the changes that come with Stage 2 of meaningful use and ICD-10 are just at the tip of a change iceberg that will continue to be aimed at today’s practices. Maybe it’s as simple as looking at some of this nation’s corporate champions for the answers to long-term, sustained success.

Can you imagine if a company like Starbucks ran a medical practice? What type of patient demographic would they have? What type of medicine would they practice, and how would they deliver it?

In speaking with practices looking to take more of a strategic control of their future, pondering whether they are more CVS or more Starbucks is a way of turning the practice-management mentality from incident focused to service first. Just think of what that means for a second. We are talking about a time and place where a practice looks at their operational aspects and makes an altering decision that the status quo does not work, and that there are better examples available.

Let’s also consider how one of my favorite things to talk about - technology - plays into the mix. Based on the patient portal requirement with MU2, and the interest in connecting to physicians via text, instant messages, or e-mail, the patient-provider relationship no longer begins at the waiting room door. The consumerization of technology has taken both information and endless resources to an individual’s palms, further changing traditional knowledge barriers. 

While the advance (and acceleration) of technology in the practice has been well documented with the decade-long electronic records push, a natural internal battle has been put in place, forcing providers and office managers alike to determine the type of role that technology will play. In particular, technology’s role as a tool (versus as a solution) can present the biggest determining factor in the types of processes that will be implemented for patients.

Let’s think back to the Starbucks example for a second. At some point in their illustrious history, an executive team had to decide how the coffee chain would approach technology, and whether it would be a tool or the solution. Now, if you are running a medical practice, do you feel that the 'technology decision' is a one-time inquiry, or is it more of an ongoing dialogue?

Whether you see your practice as a template of corporate best practices, or an early adopter of consumer technologies, the basic facts remain that each practice must determine what its business DNA is and apply that mentality to business operations. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but instead a right-fit attitude.

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