Over the last several weeks, I’ve encountered a number of clinicians and administrators working both in inpatient and ambulatory settings who are very concerned about revenue. Okay, so I know this isn’t really anything particularly new, and you can likely point to many reasons why “business is off.” It is interesting, however, that more professionals seem willing to really open up and share concerns outside of the walls of their operation.
As I listened to these caregivers, one thing that came through loud and clear is how frustrated they are not only with the uncertainty of external factors, but also with seeing their practice or service-line move farther away from a proactive operation to one existing in a reactionary state. Ultimately, these conversations seem to always end with the same statement: “It’s hard to know what to do to improve business or our practice with all of these changes and unknowns coming from every direction.“
If this sounds all too familiar, then you are not alone. There’s a healthy dose of frustration in the marketplace and acknowledging that there’s a problem is an essential first step to addressing it. Yes, there’s a lot that cannot be changed right now — EHR requirements, ICD-10, slow-paying insurers. But there are a number of things that you can do to take control of your operation and be more proactive now.
While external factors cannot be controlled, risk can be mitigated. Opportunities can be anticipated, and possibly turned into revenue for your operation. In the end, those who have a solid strategy in place and take a proactive approach will not only survive. They’ll thrive.
Here are five things to consider as you begin that planning.
- Practice acceptance and get into the new reality. If you’re like me, it often takes a minute to go from an old reality to a new one, especially if the new one isn’t too familiar. This is true not only for me, but for my staff as well. Accepting that change is inevitable, understanding that change can be for the better, and then acknowledging that “business as usual” doesn’t work are all important initial steps. This is important because if you don’t like your bottom-line or results, then it’s time to re-evaluate your practices. Before doing so, seek consensus from both your partners and co-workers. Everyone has to agree that reality has changed. I’m often amazed at how many of us want to hold on to that old reality — even when it wasn’t all that great.
- Do an inventory and analysis of your operation. What is working today? What no longer works? Who are your patients, and which ones are your best patients? Where is your revenue coming from and where is it going away? What practices and providers net the biggest ROI? There are many, many questions to consider here. While you might not get them all answered in a day, the most important thing is to start the conversation. A lot of practices bring in outside professionals to help with inventories, analyses and strategies. Depending on your operation, this is something that can be done in stages and you don’t necessarily have to “farm it out” to develop an inventory or strategy.
- Analyze external factors. These are the things that you might not be able to control. However, you can develop a strategy to respond to them, even work them to your advantage. A good question to start with: “What has changed out there that’s impacting my world? What do I know of that will impact our practice, our patients and referral partners?” In addition to mitigating risk, external factors can represent opportunities. Consider government incentives such as reimbursements for wellness visits, or new businesses that might be opening up across the street, and how a good business strategy might incorporate these external factors to generate revenue.
- Clarify your vision. This critical step is often overlooked in the planning process. I like to refer to this as “where we want to go” or “what we want to be.” As simple as it seems, I find that in leading strategic planning meetings, we often spend the most time on developing a vision and vision statement. Why? Because rarely is everyone in the organization headed down the same path. Also, I find that once a vision statement is developed, it’s frequently revisited. If you haven’t done so, now might be a perfect time to revisit your vision statement. And do so before you lay out your strategy so your organization doesn’t end up down a road it never wanted to travel.
- Formulate your strategy. A sound strategy or plan will take everything into consideration and will be based on measurable objectives tied to revenue and outcomes. For example, perhaps you’ve realized that revenue has dropped off among one of your key audiences, one that has a lot of potential. How can you engage this audience more frequently? What is important to them? In addition to defining how you’re going reach them, you’ll also want to track results and measure effectiveness as you go.
Keep in mind that a strategic plan to move your operation forward doesn’t have to be overly complex, but it does need to be tied to the bottom line and address where your organization is, where it’s going and how you’re going to get there.
I don’t have a crystal ball. But I can tell you that the worst thing any clinician or administrator can do is to take a “wait and see” attitude relative to improving the bottom line.
While a strategic business and marketing plan may not have been essential for enterprise and practices of yesterday, it is critical to success in today’s environment. Going through the process can also provide you and your staff with a guide and more control to navigate uncertain territory.