Sometimes medical groups need to make major decisions. And whether it’s adding an ancillary service, opening a new office or updating your practice software, there comes a time when the talk turns to action.
So when that day arrives, where do you start? How can you — already multitasking all day long — keep the workflow flowing and steer your medical group toward the right long-term decision?
Start by involving all your physicians in the decision-making process. For example, if you’re looking for new practice management software, engage the providers who’ll be using it every day. Get their buy-in early. That way, some won’t resist the change as much.
It’s about informing them at the same you help them through their fear of change.
So what’s the best way to do this? How do you get the consensus you want? And, ultimately, how do you get others excited about the new software/service/location?
Consider these strategies that worked for me as Practice Manager for a large surgeon group:
#1. Give Them Time.Build in enough time to clearly explain all the options to physicians in your practice. In my case, I had one year to switch our group to new practice software.
Your practice could decide quicker – maybe 6 months – if you have more resources to dedicate full-time to the process. But in most practices, the work that goes into long-term, major projects like these just gets added on top of everything else (read on for my advice on handling that).
Tell your providers and staff up front you’re going to show them different options, and that you’ll need them to take a look and give their opinion. Also, get everyone involved so you’re not the only one on the line if something unexpected happens. Hold monthly meetings, give updates, and communicate regularly.
Physicians are scientists, and they like to see specific numbers. Not just theory. When they see solid numbers in a spreadsheet, they make better-educated choices, and stay happier with their decisions.
#2. Present All Costs Clearly.Cost is very important. Physicians want to see all the potential costs up front, regardless of what kind of major change you’re planning for the group. How will the costs break down — on a monthly basis, yearly basis or as per-provider charges?
Once the physicians understand both the products and the costs, they are going to start helping you as the practice manager. They’ll help you make a better decision. If it’s new software, you’ll also get a better response later when they use the system, because they participated in the decision-making process.
But it’s a process. Do your homework, stay organized, and get them excited about the benefits of the new software, office redesign or new office site. That way when you make the change, everyone is ready, eager and embraces it.
#3. Stay Organized.We made our decision in a very methodical way. We contacted seven large software companies and I scheduled a demo once a month with a different one. Importantly, I told each vendor ahead of time what we wanted to see. Just scheduling a general presentation will be less helpful. Remember, you know your practice and what’s important to everyone.
As we went through the software selection process, I updated a spreadsheet with the most important considerations for us:
* Cloud-based vs. server based?
* Capital investment required?
* Maintenance costs?
* Long-term vs. short-term contract?
* And, finally, what are the pros and cons of each system?
#4. Choose a Champion (or Two).Identify a physician champion for change within the practice; this doctor can help the others along. When I sought buy-in, some of our providers were definitely more tech-savvy than others. The three more senior doctors were not raised in the generation with this technology, and it was harder for them to buy into it. The other two doctors kind of pushed them along. So it’s always good to have at least one physician champion to spearhead the change and excite the others.
After you get your physician champion(s) on board, also seek a champion on your staff. Leverage a staff member who is excited about your project. In my case, we had an individual who worked part-time doing regular IT maintenance for us. I got him involved in some of the legwork. Don’t be afraid to delegate; that way things get done and you carry out your goals. Which leads to my next tip, how to …
#5. Successfully Fit This in Your Already Overcrowded Workday.Instead of one big deadline, set smaller goals for yourself every week. Then engage your staff to help. Management may make the final decision, but make sure you involve the staff in the transition.
Hold weekly staff meetings and really listen to them. Encourage them to ask questions, discuss important issues and share solutions. These weekly meetings are very important whether you have a small practice or a large group.