Year-End Medical Practice Review: 4 Strategies

December 17, 2014
Carol Stryker

Mid-December is a great time to celebrate the year's successes and focus on what went right vs. what went wrong at your practice.

As an action-oriented person, my focus is generally on the future. What are the threats I need to mitigate and what are the opportunities for which I need to be positioned? I find the present interesting, asking: "What is working and what is not?" For the most part, I ignore the past because I cannot have an impact on it. That, to me, is intuitively efficient.

There's the rub: It is efficient, but ignoring the past at your medical practice is ineffective in dealing with both the present and future of your business.

Here are four strategies to review at year's end to prepare for the future:

• Perform a value-neutral review of unexpected results.

We have all heard that he who ignores the past is doomed to repeat it. That's about half of the story. We can and should learn from past mistakes and failures. We can learn even more from past successes and serendipitous events.

Some unexpected results will have come from statistical variance; they just happened. The root cause was probably out of your control in the first place so there's not much you can do to prevent or cause a recurrence. All you can do is rue the disasters and enjoy the successes.

Other unexpected results will result from a hole in your processes, systems, or training. The hole failed to prevent either an error or a stroke of genius. Given that upside anomalies have historically been neglected, they probably present the best opportunity for your medical practice to make significant improvements in patient satisfaction, risk mitigation, and the productivity of all kinds of resources.

• Plug the holes that pose a risk to the practice or its patients.

Do this from a completely analytical and dispassionate frame of mind. Recognize the negative event as a systemic problem. Fix the system and do not blame the people.

• Institutionalize the happy accidents.

This exercise also requires clear-eyed analysis. The fact that a repeatable positive outcome was unusual points to a flaw in the system. In this case, fix the system and praise the people responsible for the exceptional outcome.

Celebrate the unexpected positive outcomes.

You will get what you encourage. If you take positive note of commitment and constructive creativity, you will get more of it. What's more, the positive energy will eventually infect the entire office. Other folks will get on board or decide to move on; it's a win in either case.

(NOTE: I am not advocating a freedom from standard protocols. I am advocating  freedom within pre-defined limits as well as permission to suggest changes.)

The last half of December is a great time to celebrate the successes of 2014. Sit down with your practice staff and talk about what went right in 2014. Leave a conversation about what went wrong and what will be tough in 2015 for a different day.