When your primary task is to treat all manner of sickness and disease, and to even save lives, running a smooth and efficient business probably isn’t at the top of your daily to-do list. After all, if you’re working long days with a full list of patients, how do you have time to also manage the nuts and bolts of your practice?
This is a key question for many professionals. Most doctors don’t enter their profession with the intention of being a business manager, yet that is exactly what they are, and often this can overwhelm them. In fact, a 2012 CNN Money report found that an alarming number of doctors in the US were going broke. While this was mainly due to a number of external factors, poor business management also played a part.
Simply put, doctors are rarely entrepreneurs. Their reasons for entering their profession are not usually to make money, but may include a love of science, problem solving and helping others.
So how can you be both a successful doctor, and a good business manager? Here are a few tips and strategies to help.
1. Accept medicine and business are two different skills
As they say in 12 step programs, the first step is acceptance. It’s important to recognise that your expertise in medicine won’t necessarily translate to being a good business manager. Have a look at doing some useful short business courses, subscribe to current business practice journals and blogs, and consider hiring specialists to help with different areas of your practice. Look at what knowledge and skills are needed to run a practice, and where your skills shortfall is.
2. Hire a consultant to look at your current business model
It’s worth hiring a professional accountant or business consultant to come and look holistically at all your income streams, outgoings, payment methods and billing schedules. They may pick up areas that are costing your practice dearly. For instance, is your billing cycle too long? Is there a significant gap of time between your income arriving and the bills you’re paying? Are you overspending on office supplies? Is it worth hiring a part-time or full-time office manager to run the practice effectively? The consultant will look at the history and projections of your business to determine the overall financial trajectory and where the weaknesses are.
3. Have a back-up plan in place for when you’re not there
A common failing of small business owners everywhere is that they assume they are invincible and will always be available 100% of the time. However, even doctors aren’t immune to getting sick, and they need to take holidays or personal leave.
It’s important to have a back-up plan so that you don’t lose patients along the way. There are many excellent services that provide locum doctors for when you’re unable to work.
4. Get patient feedback wherever possible
To ensure you’re considered locally as the best medical practice you should do what all successful businesses do – seek feedback and adjust operations accordingly. Remember that your patients are also your customers, and you might be surprised at how many customers are open to giving feedback. This is partly because of the highly personal nature of their visits, and the fact that they want a good experience.
You can leave forms in the waiting room for customers to take with them and fill out at their leisure. A more sophisticated online survey sent to their personal email address is another option. Either way, once you have data on where the business can be improved (from first point of contact, to waiting times for example) you’ll then be able to refine your operations. The better the experience of coming to your practice, the more you’ll be able to retain patients.
5. Get on top of the paperwork and stay there
One of the big bugbears of small businesses is keeping tabs on all the paperwork. It’s far too easy for business owners to drown in a sea of BAS statements, bills, invoices, and payroll and other expenses. There are many tools out there that can help you keep up to date with your paperwork. For example, sophisticated cloud accounting programs can help by automatically paying bills, setting up reminders and tracking your finances, including incomings and outgoings. The other advantage of a cloud accounting program is that all your data is kept up to date, and is accessible from anywhere that you have an internet connection.
6. Use external help to reach more customers
While you need a locum service to cover your holidays, you can also use a locum to offer an after-hours service to your patients, making your practice very client-friendly. This extends your reach and promotes your business brand. Remember that most patients are highly loyal to their doctor, so once they’ve used your services and are happy they’ll most likely continue to use your practice for life.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that we live in an age where there are a large number of tools that can make life easier and help you run the best medical practice possible.
Sophisticated online systems can streamline and enhance your business management, as can using external specialists to cover some of the skills shortfall in your practice. The less time you have to spend running your business, means the more time you can spend on your core interest of medicine.
And if you do need to cover your holidays or a skills shortfall in your practice, Best Practice Medical can help. We’re medical recruitment specialists, so why not give us a call today?
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