These are uncertain times for physicians. Under the looming threat of major Medicare reimbursement cuts, rising administrative costs and an increasingly complex regulatory environment, many of the physicians I speak to feel paralyzed in their professional lives. They are afraid to make capital investments in equipment or technology or recruit new physicians to expand their practices for fear that the government or third party payors may pull the rug out from under them. Physicians are desperate to change their situation but unable to see a clear path forward. If you share the above sentiments, consider that one of the best ways to overcome the anxiety associated with the present uncertainties in medicine is to develop a strategic plan for your practice. Developing a strategic plan requires that you take a hard look at where your medical practice is today and that you give real thought to where you want your practice to be in the future.
At a very basic level, a strategic plan should answer the following three questions:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
- How will you get there?
The more specific you can be in answering these questions, the more successful you are likely to be in developing and implementing your strategic plan. Moreover, a strategic plan need not necessarily be set in stone. Rather, you may find it necessary to modify your plan from time to time and, in fact, you should revisit the plan on a regular basis to see how you’re doing. A medical practice strategic plan should address at least the following key issues:
- Geographic service area;
- Scope of clinical services;
- Physician staffing;
- A managed care strategy; and
- Strategic relationships and referral sources.
There are certainly many unknowns in the practice of medicine today. One thing we know for sure however is that successful businesses evolve and you cannot get anywhere standing still. If you have never done strategic planning in your practice, consider picking a weekend in the next six months to meet with your partners for this purpose. Meet somewhere away from your practice where you can devote a significant block of uninterrupted time solely to developing a strategic plan. There are plenty of resources available online to help guide you in your efforts and, if you are still not sure how best to proceed, consider engaging a professional who regularly deals with medical practice development to help lead your strategic planning session.