So you’ve surveyed the market, found the right business and sealed the deal – now it’s time to introduce yourself to your new employees and familiarise yourself with the business.
Let’s look at how a good business plan, innovative technology and a relentless focus on exemplary patient care can put you ahead of the game.
Your business plan
Like anyone starting a business from scratch, you could benefit from a business plan. A well-researched plan gives you a roadmap to follow from the outset and keeps you focused on your priorities.
It sets out what you want to achieve in the short, medium and long-term and charts the path to achieving those goals. You can benchmark your progress and where you fall short, apply remedies.
This should include all elements of a SWOT analysis: ascertaining the practice’s Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats.
It might, for instance, provide exemplary care (strength) but have a disorganised, surly front desk (weakness). Or it might not yet accept online bookings or use social media (opportunities).
Perhaps there’s a shortage of allergy specialists in the local area and you spy an opportunity to diversify (opportunity). Or your new practice specialises in treatments for which demand is falling or costs are rising (threat).
The business plan can map out your overarching vision, how to stand out in a crowded market and your plans for restructuring or diversifying, refurbishing premises, training and recruitment and so forth.
Your business plan, which will evolve over time as circumstances and priorities change, also makes it easier to raise finance from lenders.
Training and recruitment
There’s a persuasive argument for hiring as many doctors as your premises can accommodate.
“Contracting doctors pay about 30 per cent of their income to the practice owner to cover administration, staffing, and other costs,” Nathan Marris, relationship manager at Medfin Finance, told National Australia Bank. “Clearly, it would make economic sense to have four or five other doctors working with you but it can take time to find GPs that fit the culture of your practice.”
The medical workforce in Australia has for years become increasingly specialised. Hiring specialists
The practice manager’s role has become increasingly pivotal. Investing in training for your practice manager – in HR, marketing or customer service, for instance – or, if the previous owner shouldered those responsibilities, appointing a suitably qualified manager, could make a huge difference to operational efficiency and the patient experience.
Online booking and patient engagement
Until the medical profession and healthcare app developers have agreed on a way forward, you should perhaps focus on the latest innovations in patient engagement and treatment. “In my clinical practice, patients often show me information that comes from some form of self-monitoring device and computer technology,” wrote Richard Hays, professor of medical education at the University of Tasmania, on Australian Family Physician.
“New technology should be embraced as we work in partnership with patients to achieve better health outcomes. However, until proven safe and effective, some scepticism may be warranted about data accuracy and developers’ claims.”
Many practitioners are exploring how to harness digital communication technologies, so don’t get left behind. Online booking platforms and SMS appointment reminders are
More than 1.5 million patients use online booking tool HealthEngine every month, often booking appointments through their smartphone. You can share key information on the platform like contact info, practitioner profiles, opening hours and maps.
Provide a quality service and you’ll be rewarded with glowing patient reviews too.
It could bring in more young patients – but don’t leave your phones completely unmanned just yet. “Younger patients are more likely to use an online booking system and health apps, but older patients less so,” said one GP and medical practice owner we spoke to.
Facebook has the most users of any social platform and from a broad range of demographics. It’s also a straightforward and relatively inexpensive way to reach patients.
Here are three tips for effective Facebook use:
- Post content that is relevant to your readers and reflects the culture of your practice
- Use Facebook ‘insights’ to track the performance of your posts to optimise your messaging
- Always reply promptly to comments – whether they’re positive or negative (especially if they’re negative)
Customer service and patient care
Ultimately, the most effective form of marketing is word of mouth, so that means focusing on providing an excellent service – both in the doctor’s surgery and in the waiting area. “When people hear that a doctor is good, will listen and genuinely cares, people will travel from outside the area for treatment,” said the GP and practice owner we interviewed.
He suggests that even simple things like “making the waiting room comfortable, with up-to-date magazines to read, can make all the difference to people’s experience.”
Drew Stevens, a practice management coach at Stevens Consulting Group, told
“Should phones and direct contact be apathetic, aggressive or even impersonal, then it is possible the practice is turning away patients.”
He suggests that you “constantly review the demeanour and culture of the front desk by hiring external individuals to mystery shop the practice. Conduct surveys to uncover anomalies and create a better patient experience."