The following question may seem philosophical. I can assure you it is far more fundamental and profound than you may believe. Please read it carefully and then respond if you wish.

“Businesses are like people—if you don’t constantly reevaluate where you are and plan for growth, you can stagnate. Think of your practice as a living entity that needs constant care. Making New Year’s resolutions is a great way to make improvements, grow, and thrive into the future.”
-David Caddell

Know Your Practice Stats: Before you can think about the future, you need to understand the past. You can’t make plans to increase revenue, number of patients, or visits if you don’t know what your numbers are now. Take the time to do a detailed analysis of your practice financials and productivity.

Identify Areas for Growth: Once you finish your analysis, you should be able to easily identify areas that need work. If you consistently have open appointment slots, then set a goal to increase appointments and/or patients. If you are struggling with high patient A/R then look at focusing on bringing that number down. Seek out opportunities that will have a big impact! You only need to pick one or two and over the year you can see meaningful results.

Identify New Opportunities: If your practice is in tip top shape then maybe 2014 is the time to look at new opportunities. You could spend 2014 evaluating what types of new services you might add or how you could build your practice through new marketing or other growth strategies.

Don’t Give Up: If you get off track for a bit, don’t give up. In a smaller practice where resources are limited you may have times when you can’t focus on your goal(s) but that doesn’t mean you give up all together. Come back and evaluate your progress regularly and adjust your goal as needed—up or down. If you have achieved your goal to increase patients 5% then increase that another 5%. If you haven’t made it, look at why and figure out how to overcome whatever challenge is standing in your way.

A common mistake that practice leaders make is that instead of developing a shared vision for the team, they implement policies and procedures without providing a context for them. New tasks are introduced because “we have to do it for” NCQA recognition, HITECH, or HIPAA, not because they improve quality of care, patient satisfaction, or safety. Physicians who practice in some large organizations will recognize this error, since they are often at the receiving end of this excessive focus on process instead of desired outcomes. The less-than-perfect implementation of performance measures, patient satisfaction surveys, and practice guidelines are examples.

Like most of you, I am frequently annoyed by the “concrete thinkers” who worry more about metrics than meaningful outcomes. However, in our roles as team leaders, we are also at risk for thinking the same way and losing the buy in of our medical assistants, receptionists, and nurses when we forget the higher purpose of the changes that we make in our practices or fail to articulate them effectively to our staff.

We can avoid these pitfalls by first making sure that we understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. If we believe that it’s all about checking off boxes and documenting events in order to get paid more, then it is unlikely that we will give our team members the sense of higher purpose that they need to be as successful as possible. Once we have a vision of where we want our practices to go, then we can share that vision with our staff members and move on to other important questions, such as how are we going to get there, how will we know that we succeeded, who will do what, and what will it take for us to get there.

I’m looking forward to hearing your response.

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