I recently attended a conference in Las Vegas where I caught up with colleagues who specialize in healthcare operations and business strategy. However, like many destinations in Las Vegas, to get to the conference center, you must walk through the Casino.
They plan this. They want us to maybe get distracted by the blackjack table or the slot machines. Sure, there are signs and people who give directions, but there are also flashing lights, noises and other distractions. Walking through the Casino is when it dawned on me how much our industry is like Vegas.
We all have goals and destinations we are trying to reach, but in order to get there, we have to walk through a sea of distraction. We have webinars, conferences, and workshops to foster communication about the "next new big thing," yet we are still side-tracked by the urgency of daily operations and the fires that come with it. Much like the best poker players in Vegas, we all need a strategy.
Business Strategy is defined in a lot of ways, but the most basic being "a plan of action designed to achieve a particular set of goals." Strategy should be developed based on the ultimate vision of where you want your practice to be and prioritizing tasks and objectives to get you there. This is typically where many practices falter because few of them have a clearly defined strategy. This is not intended to be a jab at our office administrators and physician owners. The daily fires are real and essential, while the idea of strategy seems like a luxury. Strategy has resolved itself to being in the "if I have extra time" bucket for many smaller practices. But strategy can be your map through the sea of distraction.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Steven Covey specifies that the more goals you try to juggle, the fewer you will achieve with excellence. A defined strategy helps you focus only on the top priorities and attain desired outcomes.
In 2011, Berg Consulting Group wrote a blog about the importance of strategy, breaking it down to three simple points.
Understanding your Industry and how your company fits within it.
With the fast pace of change in healthcare, a full understanding our industry is not as easy as it used to be. Charting your course of action in response to new requirements, payment programs, regulations, and incentives is critical. Consider the return on investment and the ultimate impact to your practice before putting an action plan in place. As with most business decisions, a cost benefit analysis must be performed. Be strategic in determining if the "next new big thing" applies to you and how.
Adapting and Growing in a Changing World
Beyond identifying whether the "next new big thing" applies to you now, it is important to understand that it may in the future. A common mistake is to make a final determination about how your practice will be impacted today, but then failing to pay attention to how the situation continues to evolve. None of us can say for certain what will happen- but new trends in the marketplace are often easy to spot. We all know that if CMS implements a new rule, then the other payers often follow. Additionally, ACHE, HFMA, HIMSS, MGMA and other organizational meetings provide ongoing exposure to what those trends may be.
Creating a Direction for the Whole organization
No matter how large or small an organizational goal may be, your staff must understand their purpose and how they are supporting the intended vision of the practice. If the physicians, the practice leadership and the staff are working toward the same destination, then resources are effectively used and redundant activities are minimized. Communication allows an organization to move forward quickly and leads to a more engaged staff.
The process of creating a shared vision and business strategy can be overwhelming. It also requires time and engagement from others at all levels within the practice who may not have an interest. Considering the three points discussed above, it is often easier to create strategy around specified topics as they become relevant. The strategies that you create will help guide you through daily distractions and ensure that your efforts are on the goals and tasks that mean the most to your practice.
The odds in Vegas will always favor the Casino. Strategy and vision moves the odds more in favor of your practice. By implementing this process, you will increase the odds that every hand is a full house.
Joni Wyatt is a Healthcare Advisor with Kassouf & Co.