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    Chris Harrop
    Chris Harrop
    The obsession with “disruption” has been in full force for more than 20 years since Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business was published, creating a new world order: those who can, disrupt.

    But to borrow a phrase from customer service expert Shep Hyken, “Disruption is not about disrupting an industry,” as countless business authors and speaking-tour luminaries suggest. “It’s about disrupting your competition. Doing something that is so noticeable that it pulls customers to you.”

    Take that idea one step further: You may have competition for patients. Is your goal to beat your competition or — as author Simon Sinek outlines in his talks about finite and infinite games — to outlast your competition?

    What better way to outlast your competition than to be a leader in customer service? This one area of your organization is not dictated to you by government regulators or commercial payers — it lives and breathes based on the culture and talent you cultivate.

    The request for patient access to their own health record data is increasingly a question fielded by practices, and the notion of patient as consumer remains important as consumers continue to shop for care along with the personal financial responsibilities they shoulder under high-deductible health plans.

    Chances are, most of the systems your organization employs to manage the administrative burdens of today’s healthcare industry are tailored to a mixture of regulatory compliance and operational ease. The addition of a practice portal might be labeled a “patient” portal, but the devil is in the user experience: Is this platform mutually beneficial for both the practice and the patient, or is it simply shifting time burdens to the patient for tasks such as submitting payments? In areas of high costs of living such as San Francisco, it’s not unheard of for restaurants to shift to cafeteria-style service because of the difficulty of hiring waiters. Is that how you want patients to think of your practice?

    Convenience needs to be a two-way street, and it has the potential to be a major influencer in how your organization is viewed by consumers. This culture of convenience also is not limited to the patients your clinicians serve. It just might be influencing your recruiting efforts.

    The most-recent Merritt Hawkins survey of graduating medical residents found 41% preferred to be employed by a hospital than any other practice. Another question found more than “one-third of residents (38%) said they are unprepared to handle the business side of medicine,” compared to 10% who said they are “very prepared.” And fewer than half (49%) “said they received no formal instruction during their medical training regarding medical business issues, such as contracts, compensation arrangements and reimbursement methods,” a decrease of 7 percentage points from 2014.

    As Howard Mandel, MD, notes in a recent editorial for Medical Economics, the regulatory and reimbursement climate for private and independent practices has changed drastically in recent decades, but the ability of private practices to fulfill the core needs of patients has not changed:

    It is an art as well as a science. It is a calling that needs to be nurtured and taught. It is imperative that those of us who mentor young physicians as well as those of us that teach in our great colleges of medicine advocate for and defend the private practice of medicine.

    As competition for physicians intensifies, as does the rate at which practices target medical students, physician practice leaders cannot ignore the shifting sentiments of care providers. It is an opportunity for practice executives to recommit themselves to a firm foundation in practice management to build and sustain a strong organization — the kind that can offer a measure of balance to physicians and other providers.

    Developing physician leaders who can work alongside administrative leaders is still a key component to a strong healthcare organization, but being at the ready to manage and lead on practice management is a form of convenience that your providers are looking for in their work-lives. Are you treating them the way you’d want to be treated as a consumer?

    When it comes to disrupting things, consider starting with the Golden Rule.
    Chris Harrop

    Written By

    Chris Harrop

    A veteran journalist, Chris Harrop serves as managing editor of MGMA Connection magazine, MGMA Insights newsletter, MGMA Stat and several other publications across MGMA. Email him.

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