June 2019

IN THE PRACTICE

Simple Practice Tune-Ups
The many ways relationship building influences your practice


by Corinne Wohl, MHSA, COE, and John B. Pinto

“Many relationship problems are rooted in a communication breakdown. These can be as simple as not really hearing what the other person is saying because we get caught up in our own fixed perspectives.”
—Sumesh Nair

A significant underlying quality recognized leaders possess is the ability to build relationships. Being a strong relationship builder takes more than mere networking. To some practice leaders, it comes naturally. For others, it takes all they can muster to build the momentum to proceed with the task.
If you are not naturally gifted in relationship building or you’re ready to take relationship building to the next level, you may need to be more intentional. It’s worth the effort: Deeper relationships with staff, vendors, colleagues, and patients can supercharge your professional life.
Here are a few basics of relationship building to help benefit your practice.
• If you are shy, you may feel uncomfortable reaching out to referral sources or sharing a meal with them. Consider it a task that needs to be done for the benefit of the practice, like reading up on new surgical maneuvers or attending conferences. Many public figures are outwardly sociable but inwardly reserved.
• Noticing details and remaining positive can make a big difference in relationships, especially with subordinates. It helps to recognize an employee’s work effort and tell them what you have noticed. Also, don’t sweat the small stuff and focus on the bigger picture. This doesn’t mean overlooking details that need correction but rather limiting the negativity. Not: “Your pressures are all way off this morning, Ann.” Instead: “Your pressures yesterday were more accurate than I’ve ever seen, but you’ve slipped a bit today. Can you please try to reproduce yesterday’s great accuracy? Thanks!”
• There are two kinds of people: givers and takers. Givers make more and better relationships. Give more than you get. It always comes back around to you. Being a giving person attracts other giving people to your practice. Your patients will benefit and so will your office environment.
• Be an excellent listener. Be open-minded enough to consider ideas that are not your own. If you are thinking about the next thing you want to say while someone else is talking, you are not really listening.
• Build trust by being honest and not withholding things that need to be shared.
• Take charge and resolve conflicts quickly; don’t let them corrode a relationship.
Here are some specific ways to help you create and maintain excellent relationships with the various categories of people you work with.
Partners and the Board of Directors. The strongest practices are those with the best working and personal relationships between owners. Strong partners share interests outside of the office. Even if you and your partners don’t socialize, create a culture of mutual respect and the accommodation of reasonable differences. Even the most successful providers will feel better about their practice and their profession if they get a lot of positive feedback from peers. Young partners who are still struggling to fit in will value your mentorship and support for the rest of their careers.
Associate physicians. Non-partner doctors are vital to practice owners, either as a source of passive income or as part of a critical succession plan. Treat them as trusted colleagues and help them feel valued. If you do, they are more likely to stay in the practice, sustain their contributions, and care more for your practice and patients.
Employed staff members. Be sure to personally recognize staff for their work effort and accomplishments, and do not just delegate your compliments to their superiors. Encourage teamwork by being an active member of the team, celebrating practice “wins” with them. Also, share your knowledge about a new medication or piece of testing equipment. Be the doctor about whom staff say to their friends, “I’ve got the best boss in the world.”
Referring providers. Although it is obvious that having a great relationship with referring providers in the community has many benefits, too many practices take these relationships for granted. Keep in touch on a regular basis. Call to discuss a shared patient and take the time to ask if there is anything your office could be doing to make referring patients to
the office more streamlined. If you have (or want) significant co-management relationships, create a written plan to keep track of the number of times you contact each doctor or practice annually and what follow-up is needed for the relationships to stay tuned up. This kind of relationship building has a lot in common with politics and the deliberate building of a constituency.
Patients and your reputation in the community. The heart of your practice is your relationship with each patient. This is a classic “exchange relationship.” You provide expertise, caring, and great outcomes. Your patient provides payment and compliance with your treatment plan. But if that’s all that flows between doctor and patient, the relationship is very cold. In the best practices, something approaching genuine affection is felt between patient and provider. Successful practices intentionally build on this. Notes are kept about what’s happening in the patient’s life so the doctor can ask about it at the next visit. The front desk is all smiles, even on the toughest days. By providing great care and caring, patients stick around long enough to be a part of their doctor’s life, and vice versa.
Local healthcare leaders. These include hospital administrators and senior executives and the medical directors of large local clinics. They are in a position to know where your local healthcare delivery system is heading in the future. And they are remarkably easy to develop a relationship with because in their leadership position they are eager to hear about what’s going on. A majority of our largest clients make it their job to meet periodically with their local health system thought leaders. Through these relationships they can keep tabs on local competition, gauge the pace of managed care development, and find partners for special projects.

About the authors

Corinne Wohl, MHSA, COE
President
C. Wohl & Associates

John Pinto
President
J. Pinto & Associates

Contact information

Pinto
: pintoinc@aol.com,
619-223-2233
Wohl: czwohl@gmail.com,
609-410-2932

The many ways relationship building influences your practice The many ways relationship building influences your practice
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