Three Elements of Business Management I Learned From Successful Clinics
As an undergraduate student of Kinesiology at Western University, my primary focus was achieving excellent marks in the health sciences to maximize my chances of getting accepted into chiropractic college. With my elective options, I chose courses that complimented my educational portfolio that would prepare me for my intense chiropractic education, such as biomechanics, physiology, and anatomy. It never occured to me that taking business courses would translate into practical knowledge on how to manage a successful practice (and business) in the years to come.
Fast forward into my four years at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, where I was neck deep in learning how to become the best healthcare practitioner possible. Although school was a priority, I took on a part-time position at my long-time chiropractor and mentor’s multi-disciplinary clinic, working as a clinical assistant. My role was primarily patient management with aspects of their appointment that my chiropractor didn’t need to perform himself – escort the patient into the room, have them changed, and apply any modalities related to their treatment. I saw this role as an opportunity to learn more about the clinical diagnosis and treatment aspects of being a chiropractor. Why was the patient diagnosed with their particular condition/injury? What treatment options were you provide them and why? What I didn’t realize was the greatest lessons I was actually learning were the business management aspects of operating a busy clinic. This knowledge would eventually shape how I setup my own practice upon graduation.
One of the most critical aspects of business management when it comes to a healthcare clinic is how efficient your business processes run, or simply put, your clinical operations. When you look at how a clinic runs, whether it be a chiropractic, dentistry, or medical clinic, they all need to follow some degree of workflow that makes sense for both the patient as well as the practitioners. Your clinical operations should reflect some part of your value proposition – what value you are offering to your patients that is unique to you and your clinic. I see this breakdown in many cases, for example, where a clinic’s value proposition highlights a warm and comfortable environment, but the waiting room is cramped, patients are running into one another in the hallways, and the treatment rooms are loud and cluttered. It may seem obvious to many, but every detail from the moment the patient walks through your entrance to the time they walk out impacts the patient experience, and your clinical operations play a huge role in whether or not it’s one they tell their friends about, or quietly decide not to book back in for their next appointment. For clinic owners, operational planning starts in the conception phase of your construction floorplan. Look at your space and plan for efficiency with patient traffic, treatment space, and administrative resources. Don’t forget to plan for growth opportunities and consider how this space will function 5 years from now. Even practitioners working in a busy multi-disciplinary centre need to look at their own clinical operations as an entity within the larger organization. How many treatment rooms do you need? How frequent will you book your patients? How can you minimize patient wait time? What booking options do patients have to schedule appointments with you? Your clinical operations not only have an incredible impact on your bottom line but also on your ability to make the most out of your time, optimize revenue, and reduce unnecessary expense.
It’s obvious that communication plays an essential role in your ability to be an effective healthcare practitioner. What I find many practitioners forget to consider when it comes to communication in their clinic is all of the other channels of communication other than what is said from doctor to patient and vice versa. You can be extremely thorough, attentive, and informative with your patient’s diagnosis, treatment plan, and home care exercises, however, if the communication outside the treatment room is not consistent, scripted, and reflective of you and your value proposition, it translates into operational and administrative challenges you might not even be aware of. One of the most effective ways of ensuring your communication within your practice is consistent amongst all stakeholders is creating scripting of all of the major messaging that needs to occur in the run of the day, either directly (verbally) or indirectly (marketing channels) with your patients. Create telephone scripts, booking scripts, and treatment planning scripts, as even healthcare practitioners can stand to be more effective at driving home the clinical information to patients. This, in turn will in turn produce greater treatment compliance and less patient attrition. I have worked with many practitioners of various disciplines over the years and one of the most consistent trademarks of a busy, successful practitioner is in their ability to deliver a clear, consistent, and confident message to their patients. They also ensure that every other point of communication with that patient meets the same standards. Your team, whether it be one receptionist or a group of administrative staff, should understand the importance of communication consistency and be regularly refreshed on the processes and scripts to be adhered to.
As a healthcare provider, it’s easy to want to cast a net on the community around you and try to promote how much you can help everyone. However, your marketing reach will be greatly diluted in its effectiveness if you don’t implement a strategy focused on a segment of the potential patient market. I’m not suggesting that you only promote yourself as someone who works with sports-injuries, or children, or concussion management. Instead, take an outsider’s perspective on this. Look at the available patient-base in your area and consider the value proposition they would be interested in. Consider all of the variables (from their perspectives) that would encourage them to pick up the phone to call your office – location, treatment options, service fees, and degree of trust you instill in them with your messaging. Also, think about who these potential patients are – age, gender, income levels, educational levels, employers, etc. Now take all of this data about your potential patient pool and map out what information about your service offering that you want them to see. What forms of communication will be the most effective at delivering this information and how will it be different from the competition around you? In today’s world, the patient (consumer) has the ability to siphon through dozens of options of who they can see for their healthcare needs in just a matter of minutes. Make sure that your marketing initiatives are strategic, unique, and resonate with the patient, and you will see that your potential patient will quickly become an actual one.
These three essential elements of business management of your practice function with an invaluable interplay between them, meaning each and every component impacts the others. If one were to be ignored, it will have negative repercussions on the others and your overall effectiveness as a healthcare provider. Take a minute to step back and look at these elements in your practice and identify if there are any gaps. I assure you that each and every one of us can find a component of these processes that can be improved upon. Once you’ve identified what has broken down, implementing the solution is often the easy part.