- Embracing the entrepreneurial mindset
- 7 steps to running your practice like an entrepreneur
A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.ALBERT EINSTEIN
Although traditionally, it may not have been thought of this way as a physician’s training and education is primarily centered around patient care, rather than the business aspects of running a practice.
Therefore it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that the fundamental principles of effectively operating a business still apply to a medical practice. Recognising this can lead to better financial outcomes for the practice as well as improved patient experiences.
Due to the challenges facing the healthcare industry, It is becoming increasingly important to apply sound business principles and an entrepreneurial mindset to the operation of private practices. Embracing aspects of entrepreneurship doesn’t mean that you need to try and run your practice like an early stage tech startup.
Instead, the focus is on identifying opportunities where the mindset or characteristics of entrepreneurs’ can be utilised to help overcome challenges and improve processes to run a more responsive and innovative practice.
Entrepreneurs solve problems. They find better, faster and smarter ways to meet a need and this mindset can be very beneficial to a private practice because your patients have wants and needs just like any other consumer. Whether it’s the desire to receive more personalised care or simply shorter waiting periods, by asking the right questions and looking for inefficiencies, you can get to the real pain points of your patients.
“Great things don’t come from comfort zones.”Roy Bennett
Risk is a fundamental part of entrepreneurship and an essential part of the mindset needed for success in industries that are exposed to technological advances. It is therefore important to be comfortable embracing some level of risk, even if initially it can make you feel uncomfortable. Taking calculated risks opens the door to innovation and encourages strategic thinking.
“Ability will never catch up with the demand for it”Malcolm S. Forbes
Change in healthcare is to be expected, and it is better to foresee and adapt to change rather than have it be forced upon you.
By designing a practice with nimbleness and adaptability in mind it is possible to quickly respond to changes in legislation, regulation or patient needs. This is best achieved through research, forecasting and planning so that you have the confidence to anticipate change and have the capability to implement new approaches.
Expand your business and leadership skills.
Practices require effective leadership to successfully meet patient demands and deliver positive business outcomes but it is important to recognise that this leadership does not need to be in the form of top-down management.
In fact, recent research has identified the benefits of distributed leadership models where doctors and clinical staff share decision making for both patient care as well as business and leadership strategy. This has been shown to correlate with significantly increased patient satisfaction, reduced staff turnover, and increased net incomes.
“Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating.”SIMON SINEK
The aforementioned improvements occur because clinicians can play a far more active role in influencing both the business and patient outcomes of the practice through an expansion of their duties.
This is not merely the result of isolated decisions or input into a business plan, it is a fundamental shift in their professional identity and sense of accountability across multiple aspects of the practice.
A top-down leadership model is not sustainable in a complex or highly changeable environment like healthcare, whereas a distributed leadership model encourages individuals to make decisions locally that are guided by the practice’s overall goals, without the need for excessive bureaucracy or top-down intervention.
Essentially, the most successful practices treat all staff as potential leaders within their area of expertise. This helps to reinforce a culture where staff share in important leadership duties with the common aim of efficiently delivering the highest standard of patient care. This also leads to more focus being applied to patient needs by helping to create a shift toward not just clinical outcomes but also placing greater emphasis on the quality of the patient experience.
As an entrepreneur, a focus on business outcomes means a very clear understanding of what success looks. Implementing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is an important way of keeping track of your progress.
It gives you vital information about what’s happening now and it also provides a framework for target-setting that will help you implement your strategies for growth.
Knowing how the different areas of your clinic are performing is valuable information in its own right, but a good measurement system will also let you examine the triggers for any changes in performance. This puts you in a better position to manage your performance proactively rather than reactively.
One of the challenges with KPIs is selecting what to measure. The priority here is to focus on quantifiable factors that are clearly linked to the drivers of success in your clinic. Keep in mind that quantifiable isn’t the same as financial. While financial measures of performance are among the most widely used by businesses, nonfinancial measures (such as patient satisfaction) can be just as important.
Cloud-based medical practice management platforms often include reporting dashboards that track patient and clinician activities as well as important metrics such as patient numbers, wait times, and overheads. They also allow you to drill down deeper into the data to understand trends and gain insights in order to make smarter, long term business decisions.
“All great achievements require time.”Maya Angelou
Understand the patientand their journey.
The patient journey starts well before the patient walks into a practice and continues long after they have returned home.
Due to the rapidly changing landscape of the healthcare industry, the opportunities surrounding the provision of higher levels of care and improved patient experience are enormous.
It’s important to recognise that patient needs do not start and end solely with the outcome of their medical treatment, but instead they involve an entire journey that includes multiple factors such as:
By considering patient satisfaction as an ongoing series of experiences rather than just a singular outcome, you can identify the various touch points across the patient journey that hold influence.
Determine which business outcomes your practice should focus on (for example, patient retention) and then establish the factors that will best measure success across this objective.
Randall Lipps is the founder of Californian based Omnicell, a company that provides technologically advanced automation that enables healthcare facilities to acquire, manage, dispense and deliver medications and supplies more effectively.
Lipps founded Omnicell in 1992 after observing the inefficiencies of hospital management when his daughter was hospitalized at birth. Mr. Lipps believed better management of supplies and medications would improve a hospital’s standard of care by allowing clinicians to spend more time caring for their patients.
As the company’s leader, Mr. Lipps has guided Omnicell toward expansion and growth; Omnicell has since signed an agreement to purchase Bochum, Germany-based MACH4 Pharma Systems. The acquisition will create a comprehensive automated medication management offering for hospitals and retail pharmacies throughout Europe and other emerging international markets.
Develop a business plan.
A private practice is a business, and every business needs a business plan.
Developing a business plan for your practice provides two-fold benefits. Not only will a business plan allow you to more easily navigate changes within your own practice with minimum levels of disruption, but will also make it easier to attract capital from investors or receive finance from banks if desired.
By developing and implementing a business plan that all staff in your practice are on board with, it will allow your team to concentrate on the patient and not be distracted by ongoing issues related to expenses, staffing, or government mandated health policy. Your business plan should recognise and address these types of issues in advance, which helps prevents minor issues becoming major frustrations that can affect the productivity of your practice.
Business plans should be kept brief and do not need to be complex. If you can’t fit your business plan on one page then you are not adequately prioritising the major areas that you need to focus on. The added benefit of keeping a business plan to one page is that you can then put in on your desk or pin it to a wall to keep your goals top of mind.
Your business plan should detail.
This should be an open and honest analysis of what your practice already does well and where it could be improved.
This should be an open and honest analysis of what your practice already does well and where it could be improved.
You should detail the goals you want to achieve to separate your practice from the competition to create a longer-term competitive advantage.
Highlight the steps you will take in order to achieve your short and long term goals.
Quint Studer is the founder of Studer Group, an outcomes firm that uses evidenced-based leadership systems and practices to help organisations achieve, sustain and accelerate performance.
Mr. Studer has worked in healthcare for more than 29 years where he served in various management roles. Mr. Studer established himself as a strong advocate for change and improvement and as a go-to expert for management advice.
After repeated requests from organisations for help, Studer Group was born.
The Studer Group harvests, tests, refines and shares best practices with healthcare organisations through peer-reviewed journal articles, publications and products. In February 2015, Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group acquired Studer Group for $325 million in a deal that promises to extend Huron’s expertise in patient satisfaction and hospital-physician relationships.
Innovate your approaches to treatment.
A private practice is a business, and every business needs a business plan.
In order to meet the evolving expectations of patients today, practices need to be innovative in their approach to the provision of treatment.
While this can force you and your team to continually step outside of your comfort zones, it is an essential journey that needs to be taken to in order to provide the highest levels of care and patient experience.
One innovative step that practices can take is to provide patients with access to their EMRs. While still controversial among some care providers, 65 percent of doctors now believe that patients should have at least partial access to their EMRs.
This is because access to EMRs encourages the patient to take a more active role in the management of their overall health and wellbeing.
Many practices are leveraging patient portals that provide the patient with access to multiple functions. This includes the ability to update their personal information, view pathology results, and schedule their own appointments.
This not only provides patients with a more versatile and accessible source of information but also reduces the time pressures on practice staff who normally carry out these functions.
In some circumstances, these portals can also allow patients to upload or send test results and referral letters directly from their desktop of mobile device.
Although there are clear benefits in embracing these types of innovations, there is also a level of caution required in granting patients access to their medical records.
It is important to segregate medical information that could cause patients undue levels of stress or cause them to become disheartened by learning information that is better discussed directly with a doctor and described in conjunction with appropriate treatment plans.
It is also necessary that the information presented cannot be inadvertently or deliberately compromised by the patient or third parties, so information security is paramount.
Focus on providing patients with information that improves the quality of their care and enhances their relationship with the physician.
Dr. Joseph Sgroi, an obstetrician in Melbourne, Australia, quickly realised that the paper-based systems used on the job were outdated and inefficient. He sought a way to increase patient connectivity.
By adopting cloud-based practice management software, Dr. Sgroi was able to make patient communication and data more accessible to both parties.
The ability to view patient notes and reports directly from a mobile app allowed Dr. Sgroi to answer questions on the go more efficiently and led to an overall improvement in patient experience and outcomes.
Use a digital marketing strategy.
With the evolution and expansion of the digital realm, all businesses benefit from having a comprehensive digital marketing strategy in place. There are a vast number of methods to market your practice but the following summarises some of the most effective and easiest to implement:
Practices of all sizes shouldn’t underestimate the impact that their website can have. Particularly with recent simplification and cost reductions of website design and development, you should ensure your practice has a high quality, professional looking website that is kept up to date. Focus on presenting a genuine window into your practice’s location, services, team, and benefits.
This may seem obvious but with the constant evolution of search engines and mapping platforms, you need to ensure that your practice appears near the top of every search result for your area.
This can be secured by listing your practice in as many online directories as possible, establishing a direct marketing presence through Google or Bing, and listing your business location on Google Maps. It is also beneficial to boost your profile in the local community by joining local business networks or your local chamber of commerce.
The social media giant offers businesses access to a huge audience, and allows you to set up a marketing presence for free. It is a great tool for engaging with existing patients as well as spreading awareness of your practice to new patients.
Facebook also offers paid advertising opportunities where you can target your ads to your typical patient demographic. Having said that, ensure that you are socially and ethically responsible with your social media messages and never breach patient privacy.
Embrace technology and leverage data.
More than 30% of the world’s data storage is being used by the healthcare industry.
The enormous volume of EMR data risks exhausting the resources of medical practices that are trying to process, store, and most importantly, make use of it.
The financial impacts of data storage have partially been offset by the rapid adoption of secure cloud storage platforms such as Microsoft Azure. However this does not completely resolve the challenges presented by how to leverage this data effectively in order to improve business and patient outcomes.
The primary issue with EMR and other patient or medical data is not necessarily the sheer volume of data generated but the fact that it is usually generated in an unstructured, uncategorised, or difficult to use format.
For private practices, the best solution to this is to ensure that your practice management software captures data in automated sets and that doctors and clinical staff fill only the relevant parts of patient files.
This not only minimises data entry requirements but also allows doctors to focus their time directly on the patient. Your practice management software should be structured in a way that facilitates finding useful patient data (in the moment) and stores it in formats that allows it to be processed for analysis in the future.
When dealing with large data volumes, it is also critical to understand how customised data fields or dashboard views can support doctors in prioritising certain types of information as well as improving patient treatment by alerting doctors of any relevant or urgent information. This requires processes to be put in place allowing doctors to readily access urgent information so that they don’t overlook key details, especially as they are often required to work in fast paced or time critical environments.
Doctors need to be able to see both micro and macro views of data. This means that specific data points can be analysed where necessary and decisions can be made with the confidence that the full range of perspectives has been considered.
From a business standpoint, overviews of important clinical data such as patient numbers, average consultation times, wait times, and profitability need to be readily available.
Micro views are also important to allow for a comprehensive understanding of the processes within the practice and to help identify trends and changes in treatments, earnings, or referrals, which help to improve the efficiency of the practice.
Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, MD, has worked for the world-renown, $6.5 billion Cleveland Clinic for 40 years and has led the system as President and CEO for more than 10.
Even before his CEO appointment, Dr. Cosgrove was a leader and innovator at Cleveland Clinic. He was the first to perform a minimally invasive mitral valve surgery in 1996, a practice that is widely used today.
Dr. Cosgrove helped set up Cleveland Clinic Innovations, the technology transfer and commercialisation arm of the system, which has enabled nearly 60 offshoot companies to develop. NASA is one of Cleveland Clinic’s most recent partners under the innovation arm.
Under his direction, Cleveland Clinic has expanded across the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Cosgrove has spearheaded several initiatives that have propelled the Clinic to its current level of prominence.
These include the Clinic’s same-day appointment promise, the country’s first tuition-free medical center and the construction of the first-of-its kind Global Center for Health Innovation, a hospital supply showroom attached to the Cleveland Convention Center.
Be community or ecosystem centric.
There is an important transition being made in healthcare to move towards a patient-centric care model, enabling patients to become owners of their own medical data and active partners in their health care by participating in a connected care ecosystem.
This is being driven by recognising the influence of innovation and the rapid adoption of technology across the healthcare industry. It is also in response to a shift away from fragmented care models to far more integrated approach where organisations, communities, and providers all coordinate to deliver more comprehensive and effective care.
To facilitate the transition to a patient-centric care model, healthcare providers need to be part of this ecosystem that includes (but not limited to) GPs, specialists, allied health and insurance providers, with the patient as an active member at the centre of it all.
The benefits of moving to a patient-centric model.
Clear communication and access to information encourages compliance with treatment plans and helps reduce patient anxiety.
Effective treatment plans often require input and coordination between many medical specialists and ancillary services. Effective collaboration between providers leads to patients receiving more personalised levels of care.
Patient data does not become fragmented across multiple and incompatible systems and patients are given faster access to results.
This is achieved through the integrated care model by enabling improved timescales of patient treatment as well as helping to reduce inefficiencies.
Entrepreneurial thinking allows practices to adopt an innovative mindset without detracting from the core principles of providing high quality healthcare.
As an entrepreneur, you can:
Clinic to Cloud supports physicians adopting a business mindset in the operation of their practice by simplifying the day to day tasks and encouraging a more holistic and strategic view of patient care.
Our platform facilitates integrations between healthcare providers to create and sustain a more cohesive experience for patients, doctors, and clinical staff.