COVID-19 has been a challenging time for everyone, particularly business owners, including those who are trying to run a medical practice. This period has put the ‘acid test’ on a lot of systems and procedures that have otherwise been left unchecked, with many found wanting.
Here at William Buck, we’ve noticed a few trends among practices which seem to be meeting the challenge better than others. We’ve sat down with these practitioners to uncover their secrets to success.
Access to timely, accurate data
A common theme among the practice owners we spoke to was having access to timely data and information that they could rely on.
Some tips to ensure timely, accurate financial data include:
- Ensure your accounting software is appropriate and you are using the latest version
- Use bankfeeds and automation both within the software and by using appropriate add-ons, and
- Ensure transactions are processed and reconciled on a regular basis.
Once you have timely and accurate data, you’ll need to interpret it.
Some of our practice owners have done this with the use of dashboards. Dashboards take the data and produce visual displays which show how the key drivers of the practice are performing at a glance.
This has enabled them to make to make quick, informed decisions in a time of constant change and uncertainty. These practices have been able to anticipate changing circumstances and move quickly in response. By being ahead of the curve, they have been able to limit disruption to their practice.
Robust IT systems and processes
COVID-19 has made practices re-evaluate how they interact with their patients, particularly with the use of technology and telehealth services. This has tested the IT systems and capabilities of a lot of practices.
Some of our clients have embraced the use of technology and turned it into an advantage over other practices. These practices have been able to make their telehealth consults as similar to in-person consults as possible – increasing telehealth appointments and retaining patients.
Some tips to hosting a smooth telehealth consult include:
- Ensure your computer hardware (webcams, microphones, and speakers in particular) is up-to-date and suitable for the needs of the consultation
- Make sure your video conferencing software is secure (there are a lot of options available – do your research)
- Test your audio and video before each consult, and
- Encourage your patients to test their own setup prior to appointments.
Several of our clients were able to review the expenses of their practice, reduce unnecessary costs and negotiate better terms with their suppliers.
Some tips to reduce your costs include:
- Review your financing arrangements
- Review the costs of your consumables, and
- Benchmark your costs.
Some practices were able to negotiate a better interest rate with their existing bank by simply making a phone call. Others used a finance broker to help them find the best deals in the market. A review of your existing financing arrangements could save your practice a significant amount of interest and improve your cashflow.
Some practices have used the same supplier for their consumables for several years out of pure convenience. However, a review might demonstrate better deals. While these costs might seem trivial, they can add up significantly.
The most accurate way to tell if your expenses are too high is by benchmarking these against other practices. We encourage all of our clients to benchmark their expenses. This provides independent feedback on how their practice compares to industry averages and highlights opportunities for improvement.
Having a point of difference
A point of difference has and will always provide a competitive advantage. Understanding the business model of your practice is an important step in understanding your point of difference.
Some practices fall into a ‘default’ business model by choosing to differentiate by price (ie. bulk billing practice). Other practices have consciously considered their business model through some strategic planning and know exactly what it is that makes their practice unique. With this, they can drive the growth and profitability of their practice.
Possible points of difference include:
- Patient experience
- Reputation of doctors
- Proximity to other services, and
Of course, defining a point of difference is only a small part of the strategic planning process. As with any strategic planning or change management, success requires continual monitoring, review and improvement. There is limited value in a ‘set and forget’ approach.
The common theme among these practices owners is that they have spent time working on their practice, rather than in their practice. Their practices have certainly been affected by COVID-19, however they have been able to adapt to the changing circumstances quickly and limit the damage.