By Michael Tetreault, Editor-In-Chief
OCT 1, 2013 – Most concierge doctors and direct care physicians are looking to grow their practice after the second or third year. The first year has it’s challenges but it’s more about stabilizing the new patient members, proving the pricing model locally and making several much needed adjustments internally. But about the 18-month mark, we’ve learned that for several physicians — success hits and it hits fast. So, how can you scale your medical practice without shedding the shared values and culture that helped make you successful in the first place?
Here are a few ways that you can keep your concierge medical practice’s small business values as your local clinic continues to grow:
Keep a local doctor’s/business owner’s perspective. When you initially change your business or pricing model to a concierge medicine or direct care practice, it is easy to empathize with the pains felt by your patients. Empathy is important in more than just patient support. You will also need your employees to all be able to step inside the small medical practice owner’s loafers or heels and focus on how to make your patient’s lives easier.
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Build an internal philosophy of shared, common beliefs. As many industry insiders will tell you, staff and spousal belief in the new business model is more important than signing a new patient. But why? Concierge Medicine Today (CMT) has interviewed physician after physician in many major markets and found that the results are the same. If you have even just one staff member in your practice that doesn’t think concierge medicine or your direct care pricing structure is a good idea – that this bad attitude will actually begin to lose you patients, revenue and your reputation.
The solution, find the bad apple (if you have one that is) and either reposition them to employment in the practice where direct patient interaction is not required or ask them to potentially move on to another place of employment. Every small medical practice, particularly in concierge medicine or direct care has its own culture. It doesn’t mean that all of your employees must think exactly the same way as you do. But by creating a set of shared beliefs, belief in your new business and pricing model, forecasted goals and celebrated achievements internally so that everyone employed has the same idea for how to accomplish their daily tasks, set priorities, make decisions, treat patients, and treat each other is crucial.
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Involve your spouse or at the very least, keep them tuned-in on your accomplishments at the practice. Many physicians and their spouses work together in the same office. The Concierge Medicine Research Collective (April 2013), found in the practices surveyed and of the doctors interviewed that — changing your business model to one that’s concierge or fee-for-care requires the joint agreement of both spouses, whether they work together or not, for the practice to succeed after month 18. If your spouse is not in agreement with the change, a transition to a concierge medical practice is not typically recommended by many consultants but may handicap the emotional state of the physician and ultimately the practice after the first year.
Create open channels of communication. Concierge Medicine Today reported in 2010, 2011, 2012 and now in 2013 that the majority of concierge medicine practices and direct care clinics employ 1-2 people inside the practice (approx.. 62%). When your practice is small everyone wears multiple hats and experiences the practice from multiple facets. As a concierge medical practice grows, communication among staff can become a maze and employees get pigeonholed into certain roles. So a unique approach to keep a small practice buzzing is to make sure everyone (doctor included) rotates through various positions within the practice from time-to-time, whether it’s the service window or in the exam room, when possible – remaining HIPPA Compliant of course. A patient might get the RN one day or an administrative accountant the next day. This unique approach we’ve learned gives the impression to patients that this is a family business and everyone is friendly and capable. This unorthodox approach also forces everyone within the practice to stay close to the patients.
Related Article: Instill Passion in Your Staff For Your “Concierge” Practice Model
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Develop your concierge medicine practice culture outside of normal office hours. If you expect your employees to love your patients, your practice must show love to your staff. To do this, it’s been suggested that doctor’s or owners of the practice build-in each year staff activities outside of the practice. For example, one day every year, take a scheduled work day off and take the entire practice staff (and their families if possible) on a group trip (a sporting event, volunteer opportunity like Habitat For Humanity or similar, amusement park, etc.) or take them out to dinner. Typically the best times to do this are not around Thanksgiving or Christmas (but those are important too), but suggested to be in March, May and October.
Keeping a small concierge medical practice or direct primary care business culture in your practice as it grows will help you keep practice strong and your employees happy.