How's Your Business, Doctor?

Physician's Money Digest, February15 2005, Volume 12, Issue 3

A small business often startswith one person who hasskills customers will hopefullyvalue and pay for. Whenthat happens, the business prospers. Asthe business grows, the businesspersonstarts to wear many hats—accountant,human resource specialist, marketingguru—filling roles they aren't trained for.

The business owner may then start tospend more time tending to businessissues, like staffing and cash flow management,and less time using the skillsthat the business is built on. Or they mayignore the basic business issues, threateningthe survival of the business.

The Business of Medicine

If this sounds familiar, it should. It'sunfortunately the model of too many oftoday's medical practices, and too often itproduces physicians who long for the"good old days"of medicine before theHMOs and malpractice crises.

According to a recent AmericanExpress survey, 58% of doctors spendmore than one full workday a week tendingto the business needs of their practice.They apparently don't find it easy, either.More than half say that running the businessend of their medical practice is"extremely challenging."More thanthree quarters of the doctors wish theyhad more time to spend with patients,and the vast majority (85%) think thechallenges of medical practice are goingto get worse over the next few years.

The findings point out a basic fact oftoday's practice of medicine: To prosper inthe health care arena, America's doctorsmust now have business skills and knowledge.Unfortunately, most doctors comeout of medical school and hospital residenciesunprepared for the realities of themedical marketplace. Business managementis rarely taught in medical school(even though 94% of the doctors in theAmerican Express survey think it's importantthat it should be), and courses in communicationskills have only just begun toshow up on medical school curriculums.

When you're immersed in the businessaspects of medical practice, you canhardly help being frustrated at time stolenfrom actually providing your patientswith quality medical care. One practicalway of creating more time to practicemedicine is to automate your practice bydeveloping systems that can operate withoutyour constant monitoring.

Make a checklist of office tasks andfigure out which ones need your activeinput. Delegate tasks to trusted staffmembers—including any medical proceduresthat can be done by a staff nurse.Reduce your role as the provider of skillsto those skills that only you can provide.

For many business issues involved in amedical practice, such as accounting,computer technology, cash management,and legal and regulatory compliance, youmay need professional help. Money spenton capable advisors who understand thebusiness of medicine and can help youunderstand it is cash well spent.

Becoming a Leader

For doctors, marketing a medical practiceis a unique issue that many avoid. Forsome, it may be a case of not knowinghow to do it; for others, it may be an issueof not knowing how to do so ethically.Whatever the reason, a good medical marketingconsulting firm can help you devisean overall marketing plan and show youhow to look at every facet of your practiceas part of your marketing effort.

The E-Myth Physician

According to Michael Gerber, authorof (HarperBusiness;2003), too often, the doctor in a medicalpractice fills the role of the producer,letting the roles of manager and leaderslide. Part of the problem is that the key tobeing a manager and a leader is the abilityto communicate, unfortunately an area inwhich many doctors fail.

The 7

Habits of Highly Effective People

The 8th Habit

Steven Covey, PhD, author of (FreePress; 1990), puts communication skills atthe center of his new book, (Free Press; 2004). Effective communicationis the most vital component of leadership,according to Dr. Covey, harkingback to a similar discovery made decadesago by Dale Carnegie. A Carnegie Institutestudy of successful people in 1935showed that technical skills were less than15% of the reason for success. Toppingthe list were good communication skills—lessons that are well worth learning now.