Here's How to Do It in 3 Easy Steps When Running a Solo Practice
There are a number of different reasons behind starting a private medical practice. Some physicians find it motivating to be in full control of their business, and derive greater satisfaction from a solo practice than from work in another setting. Others enjoy the closer, intimate bond with patients and a more meaningful interaction, while they also see it is an advantage to be involved in all aspects of patient’s care, providing more holistic services.
However, it seems like the rewards of a solo practice have been dwindling in recent years. Doctors complain about the increasing competition from larger health care services suppliers, significant time constraints, and omnipresent bureaucracy that drive them away from patients and leave them exhausted, overworked, and occasionally burned out.
The Struggle for the Work-Life Balance as a Solo Doctor
In a survey conducted among NJ practitioners, the astonishing 86% of respondents reported an increasing administrative burden. Over ⅔ complained about spending less time with their patients. Statistics seem to confirm that, as according to the American Medical Association, for every hour of face-time with their patients,physicians spend two hours on EHR and clerical tasks. And that’s excluding the time spent on these activities outside of office hours!
Demonstrating commitment to patients in every single interaction, and providing them with an extraordinary care is crucial for solo practice doctors to survive. However, maintaining a focus on patients is becoming a significant challenge when physicians need to juggle clerical tasks, manage operations, deal with paperwork, and be available 24/7. One of the greatest issues that vex doctors today is the struggle to restore the work-life balance.
Solo Practices Declining
The grim reality is that many solo owners are overburdened with tasks and lack the time to provide patients with the care they demand. Doctors feel under constant pressure, which leaves them no room for enjoying their profession and developing new skills. Having to deal with all these demands is extremely challenging, which explains why the number of independent physicians continues to decrease.
We all have the same 24 hours, which is 1,440 minutes and 86,400 seconds. How to make the most of them, grow a solo practice, attract and maintain more patients, and enjoy free time?
3 Steps to Take Back Your Time and Find Peace of Mind as a Doctor
From the business perspective, running a healthcare practice is like managing any other company. That’s why applying proven business strategies can help doctors create the most effective work environment and deliver high-quality patient care, without the expense of sacrificing private lives.
Here’s how you can adapt the popular Eliminate-Delegate-Automate rule to provide competitive healthcare services and keep your patients content in three simple steps.
The first element of the strategy is plain simple but often overlooked. It comes down to the elimination of anything that makes your day to day business operations less effective:
Value over volume
Patients choose independent physicians as they appreciate the quality care and the doctor’s readiness to accommodate their individual needs. They want to escape the anonymity and receive full attention. If you fail to deliver on these expectations, your patients will turn to other providers. Yet this does not mean that you need to try to squeeze in every single patient into your schedule. Instead of aiming at getting more patients, think how to provide the best possible service to make more valuable patients.
If you neglect individual care in favor of admitting as many patients as possible, you will end up overloaded and your patients’ satisfaction will inevitably sink. By providing personalized services to a smaller, but steady group of patients, you are working towards their loyalty.
Prioritize your TODO lists
Write down outstanding tasks and activities to do in the next few weeks. Assign priorities. A list of tasks on its own does not help you with time management, it’s the prioritization that makes a difference.
Check if you can cross out some items or postpone them as they are not that urgent. See what you need to do on your own, and cannot delegate, and which tasks can be assigned to someone else. Identify the main obstacles to developing your practice and work towards their elimination.
Review your schedule
You’ve cleared out your timetable and got rid of the tasks that don’t need to be executed immediately. Now, eliminate gaps in your schedule to improve patient flow and find more time to allocate to other priorities.
On average, you can admit four people per hour, but if you maximize efficiency by grouping similar activities into blocks (e.g., flu shots or visits after minor procedures), you may be able to see more patients. A good computer scheduling system will help you here by arranging similar activities together and facilitating scheduling the visits.
Missed appointments generate losses, create idle time and introduce chaos into your workflow. Make sure you’re dealing with this issue effectively by confirming appointments.
This task can get labor-intensive, but you don’t need to perform it on your own. If you have someone to help you with your practice, assign it to them. Alternatively, research reliable client confirmation software (in the likes of SimplyBook.me). A good system will take care of your bookings, send out text or email reminders to your patients, and keep your appointments in check.
Improvement by elimination is the first step to get more hours in your busy day as a solo doctor. But it’s not enough.
Bookkeeping, handling calls, keeping your patients’ records up to date - these tasks cannot be simply crossed out of your schedule. How to deal with them? Read the second part of this post.