As an administrative practice consultant of over 12 years, I have had the pleasure of working with practices that have a strong interest in growth and organization. These professionals make it their business to stay on top of consulting programs and follow them to the letter, regardless of personal issues, scheduling challenges, etc. There are those that make a concerted effort to improve daily operations and focus on organization, and others that seem to adhere to ideas that keep them mired in the past.
Since the turn of the New Year, I have been reminded of some of the key reasons some succeed, while others remain hell bent on mediocrity. As Jim Rohn once said: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse”. It’s true, isn’t it? If you agree with this statement, you’re probably at least moderately successful. If not, I ask you to take a hard look at how many excuses, reasons or justifications you made this past year. After all, it is a great time to reflect and to review what worked and what didn’t; and most importantly, formulate a plan to make 2019 your best year to date.
Practices come and go. What has become obvious in 2019 is that you must avoid the practice killers and bad habits you’ve been carrying along from previous years. It’s time to start fresh and STOP making the same mistakes.
Here are the five most common practice killers:
1) Little or no web presence / online image.
You would be amazed at how many practice owners are 5-10 years (or more) behind on this one! Sadly, the majority actually believe: “I have a website, and that’s good enough!” Nothing could be further from the truth – unless of course, you happen to be the ONLY doctor in town, or are one of only two or three in your entire area; an area you’ve done business in for 30+ years. What’s worse is that only a small fraction of practice owners understand the importance of a solid web presence and image, which DOES NOT include a subpar, template based website. Templates make you look like everyone else – and this bloated, clunky mess of code will, at best, give you limited visibility. Google has made it clear that template-based websites are more or less obsolete. To add to the madness, template-based sites have a shelf life of roughly one year. For image conscious practice owners, custom, tailor-made sites are the only way to go.
Shockingly enough, over 80% of practices still have not taken advantage of listing their practice in the many FREE business directories across America and the world. Over 50% of all practices still do not blog or maintain any social media channels. This has got to change, IF you really want to stand out.
Do the research! Don’t take my word for it!
2) Waiting times.
Now I know you think that because you’re a doctor and patients need care, that they’re totally willing to wait one, two, or even three hours just to see you. Of all the patients surveyed in 2018, over 90% said that any wait time longer than one hour is excessive. Still, we see double and triple booking (usually due to inadequate scheduling by front desk personnel) requiring patients to wait an average of just over two hours to be seen. It has been found that while patients may love their doctors, increased waiting times will cause dissent and many patients will simply go elsewhere next time – somewhere they are seen within that first hour. This is just one of many reasons we see urgent care facilities popping up across America. For the record, I have personally raised a fuss in practices that don’t take this seriously enough. I’ve seen doctors on the phone chatting with vendors, labs, other doctors, wives, and so on, while their waiting rooms are full of patients. Unacceptable! Get control of your front desk, CONFIRM appointments before-hand rather than double or triple booking! Long wait time annoys your patients.
3) Untidy appearance.
You may not think that your patients notice your reception area nooks and crannies, but they do. I am shocked at how grimy some practices are. When I started moving things around, I could see chairs and other seating that hadn’t been moved in what looked like months, or even years. Floors underneath were untouched, baseboards had not been scrubbed, paint was chipped, walkways were filthy. All these things are a turn-off for most. It’s estimated that roughly 50% of practices are NOT OSHA compliant…. until the day before an inspection. You know how it goes. This just won’t do! Find a good cleaning company and check their work. What your patients say would shock you. Used tissues, bloody gauze, you name it – I’ve seen it all. Please don’t make the mistake in thinking that just because no one has ever mentioned it, that it’s not a problem. It is a problem!
4) Overspending / Future commitments.
Yet another practice killer (overlooked a lot in 2018), is over-spending. Almost one for one, practices that have record months in terms of income, overspend or create liabilities for themselves by making commitments to payments on new equipment, gadgets, hardware, and software. While having the potential to enhance patient comfort or experience, this adds to overhead and monthly bills. Unfortunately, it’s typical for most that have a sudden influx of cash in the door. The tendency is to spend more than they should. Instead, what practices need to do immediately, is to pay all bills, no matter how large, or small FIRST! It’s also important to not commit to ANY future payments of any kind at this stage of relative instability. The TREND, not a momentary rise, on the income graph dictates when it’s OK to make a commitment for payments on the equipment or gadgets you need. A few months of “up” on the graph is NOT an indication of consistent growth. We can examine this in detail soon, but for now, let’s just say that consistency means you want to be up for at least six to eight consecutive months. Only when you are sure you know what caused the increase and can strengthen those actions, can you be certain the trend will continue. Make sense? The basic, long-term success principle is to obtain true assets, while decreasing liabilities. You’ve heard it before. Did you listen? Most of us don’t, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start immediately.
5) No surveying.
A staggering 97% of all practices did ZERO surveys! Only 3% surveyed patients, past and present, on issues such as why they liked the practice, what the practice could do to be improved, or what they would change if they could, about patient service, clinical treatment, appliances, hygiene, and so on. Now I know some of you are thinking: “I don’t have the time”, or “I can’t afford to pay staff to do it”. The thing is, these are the easiest surveys to gather because you already know and have a relationship with the person you’re surveying! More importantly, they know you and they’ll gladly give you 10 minutes for 10 to 20 survey questions.
Why is surveying so important? Just because your patients like your practice doesn’t mean there aren’t things about your practice that they don’t like – they’re just not telling you. They’re telling their friends and family, but not you. Here is your chance to find out all you need to know to retain the patients you now have, generate some new ones, and just maybe bring in the ones that you thought you’d lost, for whatever reason. You’ll never know unless you ask.
One thing I can promise you, is that hiring just one staff member to stay on call-out and do 100 surveys a day will pay for that staff member X 10, if the data gained in those surveys is put to good use.
This action is as strong as death, but not surveying at all can and will kill a practice. Assume absolutely nothing. Ask as often as possible, and use that information to strengthen your practice. Over time the tool becomes very sharp, and it may well be one of the most valuable in your toolbox.
If you’re unfamiliar with how to begin ridding yourself of these practice killers, call us. You really don’t need to struggle unnecessarily. We believe in creating great Karma. We also believe that you’re only as valuable as you serve others. You deserve a fighting chance and you don’t need to weather the storm alone. Take advantage of our free advice. Stop making excuses, dive in and make the big changes you need now.
Until next time, I hope you flourish beyond your dreams. Make 2019 your best year ever.