December 2019


Three ways to add new control to your business life

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

Successes and failures aren’t always under your control. External influence or internal under-the-radar surprises are always looming. Rather than ignore or worry about this lack of control, which most of us working in ophthalmology have a hard time stomaching, you can reduce the impact of stressful business surprises by periodically getting back to the basics of practice management.
Shake off the routine. Take your practice performance reviews off autopilot. Take a deeper dive into the details of the practice.
Here are three ways to renew your ability to see with fresh eyes the successes and failures hiding within the practice right now. Start with these three refreshers, and then think through other “back-to-basics” approaches with the rest of your administrative team.

1. Look with fresh eyes
Imagine you are starting your practice ownership or administrator position anew. It’s not unusual to stop noticing what has become familiar. It’s common to hear a new doctor or employee point out stained carpeting or question an outdated policy when everyone else became accustomed to overlooking the obvious. Take a do-over with a fresh on-boarding orientation for yourself. Pretend you were starting your present job all over again. What would you need to learn? With this exercise, assume you know very little about the practice and don’t skip any steps.
A typical orientation list for a new doctor-owner or administrator (make yours much longer) would include:
• Review all financial and patient accounting reports. The basics include balance sheets and profit and loss statements, accounts receivable aging reports, and utilization stats. Learn how to interpret each one. Assess whether each report provides data that helps the practice make decisions or if the report can be examined less often, eliminated, or refined. Determine whether each report is shared with the doctors, managers, and employees who need to see it and if others need to be added to or deleted from the distribution list.
• Review the practice’s meetings schedule. In mid-size and larger practices these would include general staff and departmental meetings, provider meetings, board meetings, and focused task force sessions to address acute problems. Do you have the right number and frequency of meetings? Do these meetings provide just the right amount of communication with all the right people? Especially as a managing partner, take the time to attend each meeting (even the ones you typically would not attend.) Revisit the purpose and goals of each meeting or committee. Ask attendees what value each meeting brings to them…and then fix the gaps your questions reveal. As we commonly see in the field, your practice may need a refresher course on how to run an effective board meeting. Or your managers may need a refresher course on how to prepare for, run, and then follow-up after a department meeting.
• Written communication is necessary, particularly in multi-physician practices. Operations manuals, policies and procedures, and meeting minutes all provide the clarity and direction needed to stay organized and provide confidence to employees that they are working in line with your expectations. These documents are used at many levels: on-boarding new hires, re-credentialing, refreshing outdated methods, and helping employees hear a clear and consistent message. All this written formality that helps to manage the practice actually saves time despite the considerable preparation and editing work. Take the time to review your practice’s standards for written communication. If practice scale has out-run the formality of your communication, make improvements in this area a priority for 2020.

2. Tune-up professional relationships
Your practice is not just built on training and equipment and a hefty payroll. Your practice is built chiefly on a complex web of relationships. These exist among workers up and down the chain of command, venders, payers…and, of course most critically, patients. Make time to step back and write out potential improvements in each of these domains. How can we be closer to patients? Is partner-to-partner discord holding us back? Do we only talk to vendors when we are unhappy, or take the time to thank them periodically for exceptional service? The more invested you are in the people around you, the more enthusiastic they will become in your interests.
• Prepare a list of all your professional relationships. These will include doctors, managers, employees, referral sources, vendors, insurance brokers, institutional associates (e.g., local hospital administration), and personal networking contacts.
• Create a written a plan for yourself with deadlines.
• For each person or category of people on the list include: The status of your relationship now (score it from 0–10 so you can better judge later on if it has improved), reasons for wanting to improve it, what steps you will take to accomplish your goals, and a deadline for taking the first steps.

3. Take action with what you have learned
This is not a brief exercise. It will take discipline and time to accomplish successfully. Gather what you have learned during this period of discovery and now prioritize the further actions needed. Prioritize and/or delegate item by item. You will now have the supporting data to either develop or update items such as hiring strategies, onboarding protocols, running productive meetings, and how to improve communication throughout the practice. Professional growth and practice improvements are the result of creating goals, applying discipline to push through some uncomfortable situations, including your team in the process, and taking action.

About the authors

Corinne Z. Wohl, MHSA, COE
President, C. Wohl &
Associates, Inc.
San Diego

John Pinto
President, J. Pinto
& Associates, Inc.
San Diego

Contact information


Three ways to add new control to your business life Three ways to add new control to your business life
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