“The ability to set goals is essential to effective problem solving; and by default, is essential to self-management, and self-determination.” –The Brain Injury Resource Center, Seattle
The new year sees us setting personal resolutions and goals for bettering our lives. As clinicians, we start patient treatment plans by establishing realistic, measurable and timely goals. However, as businesses, we often let the new year pass by without establishing goals to improve our clinics’ business practices.
This year, my business partner—audiologist Melissa Wilson—and I challenge fellow audiologists and speech-language pathologists to take a moment to set long- and short-term goals for your practice.
We recently reserved an afternoon to create 2017 goals for our private practice. Much like thinking about personal resolutions for the New Year, we began throwing out idea after idea. We soon realized we needed a more narrow focus. This came in the form of revisiting our practice’s original mission. Our often hectic, day-to-day work can cause us to lose sight of our founding goals and direction.
We want to share the areas where we hope to improve this year and hope they help others make business goals for this new year!
Space refresh—de-clutter and organize.
Item number six of The New York Times article “11 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2017” is simply, “Get rid of stuff.” One of our original visions was to create an open space where patients and their families feel relaxed and comfortable. We took this article’s missive to heart by de-cluttering and organizing our space. We, too, felt more relaxed and prepared for busy clinic days.
- Consider making the move to an electronic medical record (EMR) system to cut down on paper waste and build-up.
- Search for “IKEA hacks” online for clever ways to make storage look more like streamlined pieces of furniture.
- Switch to Bluetooth/wireless devices when you can (hearing aid programmers, keyboards, speakers).
- Sort treatment materials and donate items you don’t use. We also found toys we forgot we owned that are now new favorites for clinicians and clients.
- Take inventory of supplies, find a “home” for each item and work with everyone in your office to make sure all items go back into their designated spaces.
Technology upgrade—set a timeline.
We keep a list of system improvements—scheduling, storing patient files, internal/external communications—and complete an annual check-up for possible tech upgrades. This process helps us determine if and when we can improve our systems. Adding or updating technology can feel like a huge change, but setting a timeline helps tech upgrades become part of an annual routine and budget.
- Create a checklist of internal and external communication systems. Can you automate any simple, yet time-consuming tasks, such as automatic text appointment reminders tied to a scheduling program?
- What are current diagnosis and treatment best practices? Do you need new assessment tools? Ask product reps for help.
- Consider an EMR to reduce paper waste and save time.
- Can you upgrade systems you already use? Sometimes a simple firmware upgrade improves efficiency.
Marketing efforts—make them measurable.
A goal’s most crucial characteristic is measurability. We we try to diversify our marketing approach each quarter and create tangible goals. By setting measurable marketing goals, we actively work throughout the year to grow our practice. For example, in 2017 we plan to:
- Visit, drop off information or hand-deliver reports to (goal number) medical offices, schools and allied-health professionals.
- Schedule (number) provider lunch meetings and/or presentations with those same professionals.
- Hold (number) open houses and hearing aid events throughout the year.
- Send out (number) direct mailers.
Online presence—get specific.
Review your website for touch-ups or a total makeover in 2017. Then search for other digital avenues where you can reach out to prospective clients.
- Build your brand with social media using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. If you’re already active with social media, take stock of the frequency and engagement of your posts.
- Check your search-engine ranking and, if needed, consider hiring someone to help you with search engine optimization.
- Start a blog!
- Think outside your practice—look for online resources related to your practice where you can post your information. Approach local bloggers or school and provider sites and ask them to link to your practice website.
Relationships—keep cultivating them.
Fostering patient relationships is key! In addition, knowing other providers and professionals in your community helps you provide holistic care.
- Make patients feel special by sending birthday cards, back-to-school treats and thank-you notes for being part of the clinic.
- As we wrote in a previous post, partner with a local audiologist or SLP to co-evaluate, discuss cases and cross-refer patients.
- Show appreciation for your top referral sources with fun gifts.
- Consider starting a networking event with local practitioners to discuss research, insurance coding, local concerns and successes in owning your own practice.
Time for yourself—relax and restore.
It may seem obvious, but taking care of yourself helps you take better care of your patients. Combine work and a little play in your clinic for emotional and physical well-being.
- Make time for staff outings to build morale and create a sense of fun—we schedule group exercise classes, volunteer experiences or outings.
- Unplug and take lunch away from the desk or out of the office.
- If you set goals for your practice, why not plan fun rewards for when you meet those goals?!