You can’t control the economy, but you can control your practice.
By: Ken DeRouchie
I have recently been interviewing doctors around the country regarding how the economy has been affecting their practice and what they have been doing to keep their practice financially viable. I have found that many of the doctors I’ve spoken to have simply shrugged their shoulders and accepted the down-turn in the economy. Many say there’s nothing they can do about the economy and, because of that, are producing less and making much less money. At the same time, most of them who feel this way have done little to nothing in terms of making any changes in the management of their practice to combat the exterior forces that are impeding the growth and solvency of their business.
This brings to mind an old saying: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten”. Simply put, if everything is changing around you and you don’t change and adapt with it, you will be unable to combat the external forces – very real forces – that are slowing or stopping your practice growth. It is imperative that if you want to continue growing in the economic environment that we are all experiencing, you must be able to adapt the management of your practice to the current state of your area, your local economy, the changing demographics of your area, etc. Most practice owners can grow in a booming economy. We’ve seen that during good economic times. But only those who have sound management skills, either inherently or through training, can adapt successfully to difficult times.
In August of 2007 I conducted a user poll on The Practice Solution Magazine’s web site in which 169 practice owners participated. The survey question was “The economy of the past 6 years has negatively affected my practice?”. 51% of the doctors answered :yes”.
I decided to follow this up with another user poll in November of 2007. 171 practice owners participated.
The topic of this was “When there are slow periods of the year, I …”.
46% of the doctors replied that [they] “live with it until it picks up again”
24% of the doctors replied that [they] “do extra marketing/promotion to make sure we don’t lose money”
16% of the doctors replied that [they] “schedule vacations at that time”
4% of the doctors replied that [they] “have a hard time making payroll”
11% of the doctors replied that [they] “wish there was something I could do to counter this”
You can see that only 24% of the doctors surveyed were actually doing something proactive to handle the slow periods! Obviously, you aren’t in a position to change the country’s economy, but you can , if you know how, make effective changes in your practice to combat slow periods.
Realize that the above surveys’ were conducted prior to the recent economic collapse. I therefore conducted a third survey in the last few months in which 71 practice owners took part. Since effective marketing of a practice is essential during poor economic periods, I decided to ask the question “On your new patient/client forms, when you ask the question “How did you find out about our practice”, what do you do with the answers?”
65% said [they] “Do Nothing”
1% said [they] “Enter it into a data base then nothing”
20% said [they] “Send a thank you card”
2% said [they] “Too busy to do anything with it.”
11% said [they] “Use this info for future marketing campaigns”
As you can see, only 11% were doing something useful with this vital data!
From these 3 surveys I conclude that:
- Many practices across the country are hurting from the effects of the economy.
- Most of them aren’t doing anything about it.
- When they are getting new patients in they don’t even bother to strengthen or further the actions that got those new patients in.
- The ultimate result of all of this is most practice owners that are completely the effect of the economic environment and not in control of their practice.
If this in any way sounds somewhat or a lot like what you are going through, read on. .
Things that you CAN control:
The following list includes links to articles written about specific areas in your practice that YOU DO have control over. If you are feeling a negative impact from the economy, I highly recommend that you hunker down and dig in. There’s a lot of ground to cover here but you will find this time well spent.. You do NOT just have to shrug your shoulders and “live with it”, you CAN take back control of your practice! These articles and others in this issue of Solutions can help you.
– Your appointment schedule – Cancellations/No-shows-rescheduled appointments
– Giving Great Service
– Marketing (internal and external)
– Staff efficiency
- Providing A Firm Foundation Through Written Office Policy
- Developing Job Descriptions for the Staff
- Your Responsibility to Your Staff
- Setting and Attaining Goals
- Getting Your Staff on the Same Page:
- How Do You Get Your Employees To Think Like You Do?
– Collections and Receivables
- Collecting money at the time of treatment
- Discussing Collection Matters with the Patient/Client
- Making Financial Arrangements
- Steps for Collecting Over the Phone
– Staff salaries and production bonuses
If you get in control over each of these areas in your practice you can very effectively “out create” the external forces that are negatively impacting your practice. If, however, you simply keep doing what you have always done and don’t change your operating basis, you will find yourself on a slippery slide with a crash at the end of the ride.