Updated: Feb 18

Doctors: Don’t forget to take care of yourselves. That's a topic addressed by Dr Fred Pelzman on KevinMD.com. Healthcare workers tend to skip routine checkups because they just couldn't break away from taking care of their patients. As a result, many physicians and other healthcare workers go for years without going in for a physical, sometimes even putting off seeking treatment for an illness. As healthcare workers, we owe it to our selves and our patients to take care of our own medical needs so that we can better care for our patients.

Now let’s take a look at another very important health check that’s frequently ignored by healthcare providers - the health of your medical practice! When was the last time you paused to re-evaluate and compare your practice goals starting out, where you are at this time and where you would like to be in the near future?

This article addresses the need to periodically re-assess your practice to see what's working and what might need some fine-tuning to get you going in the right direction towards building a successful practice that will stand the test of time.

How healthy is your medical practice?

Are there “symptoms” or “clinical indications” that suggest your medical practice may be suffering from an “ailment” you haven’t yet diagnosed? To put things in perspective, think back to when you first established your practice, the excitement and enthusiasm, your idea of what kind of medical practice you want to build – what kind of staff you will hire, the work environment you want to create, the standard of care you want to provide, the financial reward of excellent service to your patients and yes, the nerve-racking thought of “What if the practice doesn’t do well?”. Keep these thoughts in mind while we go through the 7 signs because they will help you answer the 7 “diagnostic” questions.

1. Have you lost enthusiasm for your practice?

Remember how excited and enthusiastic you were when you first decided to establish your medical practice? You just couldn’t wait to open your doors for business! It took a lot of time, effort, sleepless nights and resources to get it going. Hopefully you had a well-thought out plan and strategy for how you would like things to turn out and how to go about achieving your goals. One sure sign your practice needs a health check is if you find yourself losing enthusiasm and coming to work everyday starts to feel like a chore. Lack of enthusiasm translates into disengagement. You can’t hide it, no matter how much you try. Your staff will notice the change and so will your patients. Needless to say if not taken care of soon enough, you may find your practice in big trouble.

2. Are your staff as enthusiastic as when you initially hired them?

Your staff were probably excited to come work for you. You created a very positive, welcoming and professional environment. For a while, your staff enjoyed working in your practice and provided excellent customer service to your patients and their families. Unfortunately, bad habits are easy to emulate, especially when it’s coming from the boss. Pretty soon your lack of enthusiasm and engagement will trickle down to your staff who in turn pass it down to the patients. I’m sure that’s not what you intended but you just created a monster you very well may not be able to control.

3. Are your staff completing tasks in a timely manner?

Do you get “I don’t know”, “I forgot”, “I thought Suzy will do it” or “It’s not my job” from your staff in response to questions regarding tasks that were not completed in a timely manner or not done at all? If you do, then that’s a sure sign you need to re-establish assignment of roles and responsibilities. No one can be held accountable if there are no clear definitions of who does what.

You would think everyone should be smart enough to know what to do and do it, right? Absolutely wrong!! Unfortunately, many in today's work force will try to get away with doing the bare minimum if you let them. Surround yourself with staff who are passionate about what you do.

4. Are patient complaints creeping up?

Your practice has always received praise from your patients and that’s reflected in your high patient satisfaction scores. You always knew there might be a few patients you may never completely please. Then by chance you find out there have been a lot of patient complaints lately and online scores for your medical practice show most of your patients are very dissatisfied and are not keeping quiet about it. This is a “911” call and hopefully it’s not too late to send your practice in for “triage” and “resuscitation”.

5. Is your patient load decreasing?

Are you wondering why you’ve gone from seeing 60 patients per week to seeing only 30? If patients become dissatisfied and get the impression that nothing is being done to fix the issues, they will switch to another provider. Healthcare has become very competitive, patients are becoming more involved in their healthcare decisions and there are many providers to choose from. The earlier you recognize and resolve patient complaints, the better you are able to prevent losing your patients to other providers.

6. Are you experiencing a high staff turnover?

When you initially established your practice, your job ads received more applicants than you could hire. Your practice has had the same staff for it’s first few years but within the last few months, you’ve had difficulty retaining staff and just when you think you found a good one, they're on their way out. It’s difficult to run a successful medical practice without a stable staff membership. It’s time to call in the “Doctor”, whoever that may be for you! If you can’t retain staff, you can’t grow your practice. In these kinds of situations, it's best to bring in an external adviser or consultant who can give you a frank assessment of what's going on in your practice and advance strategies to rectify the issues.

7. Do you know basic financials about your medical practice?

Granted, medical school doesn’t teach how to run a business nor does it teach basic accounting. When you open a medical practice, you are running a business and so you will do yourself a lot of good to know what’s going on in your business. So let me ask you, Do you know what your monthly operating cost is? Do you know your gross monthly revenue? How about your annual operating cost and gross annual revenue? Simply put, do you know how much it costs to run your practice every month or year? Do you know how much money comes in and how much is left after your monthly and yearly expenses are taken out? You don't have to be a CPA but you do need to know enough to ask the right questions and ensure no one is riding on your back to enrich themselves.

Did you find this article helpful? Do you have more “health-check diagnostic” questions to add to my list? Leave a comment, we'll love to hear from you!