WASHINGTON, October 27, 2016 – Modern technology has transformed many business structures, pivoting professional offices toward a greater focus on consumer convenience. As an example, look at the airline industry and observe how technology developments, including online schedule access and booking features, have made it much more convenient to fly.
Surprisingly, however, our healthcare system is still lacking in some areas when it comes to technological advances focused on meeting consumer demand.
For example, almost 60 percent of medical practitioners do not have Electronic Health Records (EHR) that can help makes patient care easier and office procedures more efficient.
Consider as well that many practices do not invest in continuing education certifications, such as Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS), Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) re-certification, which can hinder staff potential and, ultimately, the medical practice as a whole.
Growing a small medical practice is doable when physicians or office managers are able to conceptualize running their practice as a business. True, they are practicing medicine. But they also need to become business experts at least on a basic level in order to provide the best overall value to their patients.
A key survey provided by the Survey of Health Care Consumers in the U.S. found that about 65 percent of patients would switch to a provider who gave them access to an electronic means to their medical records. Essentially, this means that if a practice is resistant to such change, it could lose 65 percent of its patients, which might be enough to shut the practice down.
There are steps practitioners can take to grow their medical practice while operating at an optimal state both medically and as a business.
1. Think like a patient
As a physician, you have valuable services to offer. To be these services to a larger audience, put yourself in the shoes of a patient searching for healthcare. What would you, yourself want in that position? What is important to you? What isn’t important to you? What would you search for online when seeking a practitioner?
A patient’s choice of a doctor is a very personal and sometimes emotional decision. For that reason, it’s important to consider your patient’s wants and needs in various aspects of your practice, including your website, office space, staff, wait time and follow up.
- Website: When it comes to your website, invest in building one that looks professional, with important contact information like phone numbers and the office address right up front and easy to find. User-friendly websites matter.
- Office space: Regarding office space, what first impression does your office make? Is it clean? How does it smell? Is it quiet or loud? Are patients cramped in your waiting room, or do they have some personal space?
- Staff: When you go to a practitioner yourself, don’t you like it when you are treated with respect and compassion? First class customer service can never overrated. Investing time and resources to build an excellent staff will help to grow your medical practice. As you already know, many patients come into your office burdened with anxiety and/or confusion. Be sure your staff is trained when it comes to greeting and spending time with each patient, something that can help greatly in easing patient anxiety. Additionally, evaluate just how busy your staff is and try to adjust accordingly.
If your staffers are super busy, are they still able to really give each patient the quality care they deserve? This question also applies to whomever answers the phone as well. First impressions are always important when it comes to business growth.
- Wait time. One sure way to lose patients is if they find they have to wait a considerable amount of time to actually see the practitioner. On average, how long is each patient waiting in your facility? How long would you want to wait to see a practitioner? Take a poll in the office to see how long your staff would want to wait? Work on cutting down wait time to less than 20 minutes and you’ll be more likely to have patients return rather than seeking another practice.
- Follow up. A patient is more likely to remember you and return to your office again (as well as recommending you to others) when they receive a follow up call or letter after each visit. Create a follow-up strategy that assures each patient knows his or her next healthcare step or follow-up visit. Also, be sure to give each patient a big “thank you” for entrusting his or her care to your medical practice.
2. Stay on top of technology advances
Growing your medical practice in the 21st century requires you to become tech savvy and embrace the newest promising technologies. Do you have fully-integrated practice management? How about Electronic Health Records (EHRs)? Can you order prescriptions electronically? Are you able to offer simple medical services in-office to save patients a trip to another facility?
3. Embrace continuing education classes
Patients want to attend a medical practice that is up-to-date in relevant healthcare areas. Be sure to stay on top of continuing education classes for nurses, physician assistants and physicians. For example, if your practice specializes in cardiovascular conditions, be sure your staff attends ACLS re-certification classes to stay current in systems of routine and post-cardiac-arrest care.
While continuing education offerings can potentially disrupt work schedules, many such classes are are now tailored to take only one full day or a half day to complete. Some are even offered now online.
Growing a small medical practice takes time, effort and patience. Take these tips into consideration and implement them as you can. If you’re struggling when it comes to growth, consider hiring an expert in the field that can assist you in strategically formulating a plan to grow.