There’s a lot of information online about how to build a successful medical practice.
But what about healthcare practice owners who aren’t physicians? What healthcare practice tips can you get that aren’t the same ol’ generic responses?
This article answers that question. We created it specifically for you by pulling insights from 12 non-physician healthcare practice owners, including insights from a survey we sent to Smiledog’s customers. Side Note: Our customers shared their advice anonymously so any thoughts we share from them won’t include their names.
Here’s what we’re not telling you….
We’re not telling you to work seven days a week consistently looking for new ways to bring in clients. That’s an unsustainable (and very draining) process. Instead, the advice we’re sharing will help you achieve work-life harmony while running a successful healthcare business.
1. Be clear on your boundaries, goals, and who you serve.
One of the chiropractors who participated in our survey has over 100 patients per month and achieved that success through implementing good systems. Here’s what he had to say about healthcare practice growth, “Be clear on your boundaries, goals, and who you serve.”
We’ll discuss boundaries in the next point. For now, let’s dissect his suggestions for implementing good systems, being clear about your goals, and being clear about who you serve.
- Good systems for your healthcare practice include clear processes for onboarding new patients, following up with existing patients, and providing the best possible standard of care to all your patients. These processes should be clear to all members of your team so that all your patients have consistently good experiences.
- Be clear about your goals. One of the most popular goal-setting strategies is SMART goal setting where goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Work with your team to create SMART long-term and short-term goals for your practice that align with your brand’s values. You can also use a goal-tracking app to monitor goal progress, break goals into manageable daily tasks, and assign tasks to specific team members.
- Be clear about who you serve. You should be as specific as possible about your target audience. Specificity helps you attract the right patients and charge premium prices for your services. We’ll discuss this further in the tip about reframing how you position yourself to potential patients.
2. Although your patients are your priority, it’s important to protect yourself from burnout and compassion fatigue.
It’s in your very nature to give your patients 100% at all times, even if that means extending yourself outside of office hours. You feel deep compassion and empathy towards their circumstances and want to do everything you can to help them. That’s what makes you a great healthcare practice owner but it’s also what allows compassion fatigue and burnout to start creeping in.
Zachary Lui, leading expert in Eastern metaphysics and owner of Wuji Xuan Life Wellness and Spiritual Performance Center, shared some interesting thoughts about compassion during a podcast interview,
You aren’t giving your patients the best standard of care when you overextend yourself and have few, if any, boundaries. You’re overworked, tired, and not being present with your loved ones. Here’s what you can do to begin establishing boundaries without jeopardizing patient relationships.
- Go on vacation and be present with your loved ones. Pass the baton to colleagues you trust. You need time to enjoy rest and relaxation just as much as anyone else. Trust that your patients will be in good hands while you’re away.
- Remember that you’re not responsible for your patient’s response to the boundaries you’ve set. Your responsibility is to communicate your boundaries in a clear and respectful manner.
- Set emotional boundaries. Strike the balance between being supportive and empathetic towards your patients while not becoming overly involved or taking on their problems and pains. Honor the fact that you’re a separate person with your own emotional needs.
3. Make patient satisfaction an ongoing process.
Patient satisfaction relates to the systems you have in place and how well you try to understand your patients’ perspectives. This is a particularly important consideration since 68% of patients believe their healthcare providers need to improve how they interact with patients.
Katie M. Owens, President of the Healthcare Experience Foundation, shared this important tidbit.
“Healthcare leaders must remember that they walk into any situation with a perspective (their own) which is tremendously filled with bias. Being vigilant to seek to understand affords the opportunity and humility to take the perspective of another individual. It allows you to make better decisions, demonstrate empathy, and build trust.”
Here are some tips to help you remove bias and better understand your patients.
- Take the time to understand the culture and background of your patients. But avoid stereotyping them. Treat them as individuals who are impacted by their cultures and unique backgrounds.
- Be conscious of any biases you may have so that you can make a deliberate effort to remove them.
- Don’t make assumptions about your patients. Listen carefully to what they say during your conversations with them without judgment. That information is what you should use to build your treatment plan. Patients want to feel understood, not judged.
4. Know your networking tribe.
Word-of-mouth referrals are good for the growth of your healthcare business. But networking can lead to greater opportunities.
Networking isn’t limited to events. You can find your networking tribe in the most unlikely places. Practice what Karen Alladin, owner of an acupuncture healthcare practice based in Lousiville, calls natural networking where you connect with other people through things you already do.
Alladin explained the process during a podcast interview. Here’s what she said:
“I kinda made it a goal to get to know people at our local LuLu Lemon because I was familiar with the brand. I knew they worked with people who were yoga teachers, fitness instructors, or people who work in health and wellness. They have a lot of foot traffic and like to talk to customers.”
Dr. Jacintha Romer, a therapeutic massage, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medicine specialist based in San Diego, also recommended joining networking groups.
Here are some tips to help you make the best use of the networking experience.
- Networking is about building mutually beneficial connections. Be genuinely curious and interested in the other person. During the conversation, identify things you have in common and use that as a springboard to build a long-term relationship. You’ll find ways to help each other as time progresses, possibly through a referral agreement.
- Understand what you want to gain from the networking experience. For instance, Dr. Romer wanted to meet people outside of her niche so that she had a broader network of contacts.
5. Upgrade to the latest healthcare practice management software.
Hundreds of healthcare practice management software tools are available that cover a wide range of healthcare business needs. But it’s important to know what to look for in healthcare practice management software. Any practice management software you use should have patient scheduling, insurance claims process, and reporting capabilities. This software should also securely store patient documents.
Here’s a list of some healthcare practice management software you can try based on your healthcare practice niche. As a side note, Simple Practice, Power Diary, and Better Clinics are three healthcare practice management tools that can be used for any type of healthcare practice.
Dr. Charmain Jackman is a psychologist who has used Therapy Notes. Here are her thoughts on how this healthcare practice management software can help a healthcare business.
Healthcare practice management software makes it easier for you to automate business processes and manage your business. There are many options available and your aim should be to choose the option that works best for your needs.
6. Expand your business outside of your healthcare practice.
The internet provides many opportunities for you to expand what you offer outside of your healthcare vertical. Dr. James Neilson-Watt, chiropractor and Founder of The Patients & Profit Club, only works in his practice 3.5 days per week. He has created another business where he helps other healthcare professionals get clients in the door.
As Dr. Neilson-Watt said during his interview with James Kemp, “You see a lot of practitioners doing not just what they need to do in practice whether it’s coaching teams, running retreats and workshops, or doing business coaching.” Taking this approach gives you more time to spend with your family and do things you enjoy.
The trick here is to find something that works for you. That’s something you’ll only discover through introspection. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to guide the process:
- What can I do really well outside of patient care?
- Are there enough people who struggle with this one thing?
- How can I reach these people?
- What type of product or service would they most benefit from?
- How much time and resources would I need to commit to developing this product or service?
7. Reframe how you position yourself to potential patients.
Yuri Elkaim, a holistic nutritionist, shared an interesting story in one of his Youtube videos. There was a physical therapist who, like many other healthcare professionals at the height of the pandemic, wasn’t sure what to do.
He was losing patients and getting into a financial wormhole. After consulting with a healthcare practice growth specialist, he realized he needed to reframe how he positioned his brand. He repositioned himself as a work-from-home specialist and soon wound up with thousands of patients who he trained virtually.
Don’t put yourself in a box. Be okay with adapting to the needs of your specific audience.
“Look at the current pain points in the marketplace and figure out how you can solve them.” ~Yuri Elkaim
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is there a specific group of clients who bring in the most revenue for my practice?
- What’s common to this group?
- What are the specific problems this group faces?
- How can I attract more people who match the features of this group to my practice?
As one of our Smiledog customers said, “Market a unique service so that you can provide a smooth patient experience. Really listen to every patient to understand their goals, not your goals for them. Provide individualized patient care.”
8. Build your team strategically.
One of our Smiledog customers, a naturopathic doctor with more than 10 years of experience and more than 100 patients monthly, said that his number one tip for business growth is doing what others won’t. He shared that the systems he’s established and his team have helped him achieve great success.
Hire staff who will help you achieve the growth goals you have for your healthcare practice. A healthcare practice manager and virtual receptionist are two team members who should be with you from the get-go.
9. Have consistent hours
This may seem counterintuitive but having consistent business hours helps your patients know when they can reach you and when they can schedule appointments. In fact, “70% of patients want their experience with healthcare providers to be as easy as brand interactions in other industries.”
One of our Smiledog customers suggested having consistent hours based on either early morning or evening appointments. The hours you choose depend entirely on your schedule, though. Just remember to be consistent.
10. Hire a virtual receptionist
A chiropractor who gets 51 to 100 patients monthly said that hiring a virtual receptionist has helped her operate in three locations with minimal interruptions. Other survey respondents also mentioned that hiring one of Smiledog’s virtual receptionists has helped make automation and patient onboarding seamless.
But should you choose a virtual receptionist or a full-time receptionist? Both answer incoming calls, schedule appointments, process payments, sort and distribute mail, and assist clients. The main difference is that a virtual receptionist works remotely while a full-time receptionist only works in-office.
But there are also other differences to consider. Let’s look at cost. A full-time receptionist costs far more than a virtual receptionist because you have to cover all the costs associated with having a full-time employee (regular salary, vacation leave, benefits, employee insurance, etc.).
Then there are the demands on a full-time receptionist. There’s so much for a full-time receptionist to do that she’s likely to miss some of the calls that come to your office. It’s different with a virtual receptionist since her only focus is on answering calls — an important point to consider because “62% of patients prefer to call and talk to a person when communicating with their providers.” Missed calls lead to missed opportunities that can negatively impact the patient experience.
But you’ll have to consider a few things before hiring a virtual receptionist. Virtual appointment setting success depends on how well you know your phone system, the ease of your booking procedures, the web-based booking software you use, and how well you and your team communicate with your virtual assistant. Get these four things right and your virtual receptionist will be a great asset to your team.
Wrapping up: The success of your healthcare practice is in your hands
There’s so much to learn about building a successful healthcare business. You’ve read the suggestions presented in this article. Now, it’s time for you to act. What’s one thing you learned from this article that you’re going to implement in your healthcare business in the short term? Identify that one thing and get it done!
Smiledog provides virtual receptionist and appointment setting services. Learn more about what we offer and let’s help you create the best possible patient experience.