CHICAGO—Medical practice consultant Owen Dahl, MBA, LFACHE, CHBC, looked out at the rheumatology practice managers and physicians, sitting around tables with white tablecloths, and asked what seemed like a simple question: “How many of you have a strategic plan?” he asked.
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Explore This IssueApril 2019
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A single hand was raised.
“One? How do you know where to go tomorrow when you don’t have a plan?” continued Mr. Dahl, who has consulted for and managed medical practices for 43 years. “How do you know where you’re going to be in a year if you don’t have a plan?”
In a daylong course meant to get rheumatology practices to run more efficiently and practice managers to think more strategically and be more nimble when hurdles appear, Mr. Dahl discussed strategic planning and ways to prepare for new regulations and competition. The session, held in advance of the 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting, included tips on moving to alternative payment models (APMs), compliance with fraud and abuse rules, and handling credentialing in a smart way.
Strategic Plans a Must
The first part of a strategic plan—a kind of roadmap that helps a practice do the things today that will help them get where they want to be tomorrow in terms of their size and scope—typically includes vision and mission and statements. These can be followed up with more specific goals and more detailed information about the practice. You’ll likely want to include include a SWOT analysis in which you identify your practice’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
A rheumatology practice’s strategic plan should also account for a variety of scenarios:
- In the consumed scenario, a practice is threatened by takeover because of such problems as changes in referral patterns and inconvenience to patients;
- In the collapse scenario, a practice is beset by a decrease in use of ancillary services, higher overhead, inefficiencies related to electronic medical records (EMRs) and other problems;
- In the thrive scenario, a practice is fueled by efficient use of extenders, solid leadership succession, successful marketing and other ingredients; and
- In the success situation, ancillary services are expanded via clear roles set forth for physicians and the increased use of advanced care providers; and data mining and information technology are used optimally.
For all of these situations—the good and the bad—practices should know how to respond, and a well-considered strategic plan gives a practice the tools to do just that.
“With each scenario, you want to think about your customers, your suppliers, your employees, your competition—what are they doing for you, or to you, or with you? What would trigger me to go this way vs. that way?” asked Mr. Dahl.
Because change—Mr. Dahl prefers practice managers use the word transition—is inevitable and vital for survival, the culture of a practice is crucial. He underscored the importance of a daily huddle to assess successes and hiccups as they occur; share positive stories; and listen to employees and understand their motivations.