More broadly, health care in general has already been through this. Three things stand out as critical attributes of health care practices that weathered the disruptive environment that began in 2008:
- They recognized the need for — and delivered — an exceptional patient experience
- Their leadership modeled and invested in a strong practice culture
- They had strong financial management practices
Create a Satisfying Patient Experience
Would it surprise you to know that:
- 75% of patients are not satisfied with their health care experiences?
- Providers overestimate the quality of the patient experience their team provides by over 20%?
- Patients are more than three times more likely to change providers if they’re not satisfied with their experience?
That’s a strong wake-up call to ensure the experience you deliver aligns with your patients’ expectations. How do you do that? By actually following the patient journey for yourself.
Get a fresh perspective
Walk through your practice with fresh eyes to see what your patients see. How do they find your practice? What do they experience when they walk through the front door? How does the provider bring the patient back into the consultation room? Do you have a process for this? How do you ensure each provider delivers an exceptional patient experience?
Be intentional about process
Consider the businesses that stand out in your life. Your consistently positive experiences aren’t by happenstance. These companies leave nothing to chance — they hire, train, and develop their staff using consistent processes to provide that exceptional level of service from Day One. It’s easy to forget that the little things are what build trust and credibility over time.
Set yourself apart
Every touchpoint contributes to your practice’s brand, and in a competitive marketplace, differentiating your brand can be the key to thriving — not simply surviving. Today’s consumers embrace convenience and demand excellence.
Let’s review the key points:
- Consider your practice’s patient journey from the perspective of patient expectations
- Review and adjust your investment in staff training and development
- Build your brand to differentiate yourself – don’t look to others to define you
Ultimately, how your patients feel about their experience in your office matters most. Research shows businesses that optimize emotional connections outperform their competitors by 85%.
Now let’s move from thriving patients to thriving staff.
How can you get them to come back and refer their friends and family?
Develop a Healthy Practice Culture
This is crucial. Your team should work well together, and each team member should appreciate — possibly even enjoy! — how they contribute.
We’re not talking about lip service, annual team bowling, and an annual company picnic. These things are great, but creating a winning practice culture involves aligning your team around common principles and goals. Let’s take a look at the three powerful steps you can take to build alignment.
Mission and Vision
The first step is creating a mission and vision. A mission is a statement of purpose for your practice. What inspires you toward patient care? A vision, though closely related, is different. It’s a statement that defines your short- and long-term goals.
But don’t develop a mission and vision, put up a poster, and forget about it. Equally important is to make sure your team understands them and recognizes how they can contribute to them. That’s where the second step comes in.
Develop an intentional schedule of meetings and transparency. It’s all too easy to let the busy day-to-day of your practice rob you of essential communication time with your team.
The ideal combination is a regular schedule of:
- Formal team meetings
- Informal daily huddles
- One-on-one meetings
The format for these meetings isn’t too important. It’s critical, however, that they model the culture you want for your practice, one of open communication and discussion of goals.
Like many things leaders deal with, this could be outside your comfort zone. It’s especially tempting to avoid one-on-ones with challenging team members. But this is where true impact on culture happens.
Receptivity to change
The third step is to be receptive to industry change —to embrace it, even. It’s natural to be concerned, but losing focus because of it keeps you from gaining momentum toward goals and team alignment. The most effective way to embrace change is to be transparent with your team about it. Acknowledge that change is inevitable — as well as an opportunity. Your team will rally around that.
Maintaining an open mind takes effort, especially in the midst of industry news peddling fear and loss of control. It may be against your nature — you’re a health care provider, which means you anticipate, avoid, and mitigate risk. Changes that have no defined outcome are uncomfortable.
That’s why you’ve already put in place your mission and vision, and you’ve put in place processes to establish the ideal patient experience. Ensure the team is accountable to each other, and focus on controlling what you can control.
Build Financial Stability
Knowing how you stack up financially is imperative. Or, as the oft-quoted adage goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” You need complete transparency about any area of your practice that has a financial outcome. You also need to know which key performance indicators drive your business.
Financial concern is what often drives fear of change and disruption. If you’re already feeling stretched financially, how will you fare amid industry disruption? A proactive approach can make all the difference. There will be no more waiting till month’s end to check your financials, only to be surprised by the results.
Understand how you drive revenue
Cash is king, so learn how your practice drives it. Track the following, then develop what needs it:
- Patient flow
- Conversion of calls to appointments
- Percentage of hearing aid candidates who received treatment
- How you’re attracting your patients
Look at other high-performing practices to determine, for example, how many staff members you need to generate revenue or what a reasonable measure of expenses is for a practice your size.
Look to general business recommendations
A private practice should have three to six months of cash reserves, per best practices in business. The COVID-19 pandemic is a strong example of why this is. At a moment’s notice, your ability to operate was significantly hampered — in some cases, eliminated. But businesses that have reserves have the flexibility to make goal-based decisions, not just quick decisions to get the bills paid.