Seven Reasons to Create Physician Partnerships

Physician partnerships are often a great idea providing you give thought to how you will structure one and why you wish to create a partnership. Sometimes physician partnerships aren’t so successful — so it is crucial to choose your partner well. This is somebody who you’re going to spend a lot of time with and who, like your spouse and your family, will probably see all sides of you, in full Technicolor glory! This person is going to get into your head and there will be arguments and misunderstandings. Here are seven reasons for creating a partnership:

1. Your partner has strengths that you lack, and vice versa.

Great partners band together to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, so that individually they can focus on using their strengths. Not only are you able to get more done, but tasks are done more efficiently because people have different skills and areas of expertise.

2. Partnerships promote greater creativity and can spur innovation.

It’s hard to brainstorm alone. Most people’s creative juices flow more freely if they can bounce ideas off others. And things get really interesting when you have partners who bring their own ideas and perspectives to the party — that’s often when the biggest leaps of innovation occur. A physician partner means more ideas coming from a different background.

3. A partner’s perspective can help you break free of your old way of doing things.

Sometimes it takes another physician’s perspective to shake a successful practice out of complacency and see an old practice in a new way. A physician partner can help you narrow down the list by offering unique perspectives and opinions that you yourself may not have been able to think of. This is a good thing and can save you time and money later on.

4. Partners can help you take greater risks.

A good partner can challenge you to take the kinds of risk that will help your practice grow. Partners also can encourage each other to be more daring simply because each partner figures the other will be there to pick up the pieces if the risk doesn’t pan out. Great partners help you attempt big things and pull you out when things go wrong.

5. Partners also can serve as a restraint in keeping you from risking too much.

A good partner will tell you when an idea is misguided and keep you from taking on too much risk.

6. Working together for a common goal is a lot more fun than working alone.

The business side of practicing medicine is a lot more fun when you can share it with someone else. There’s something exciting and exhilarating in facing challenges together, and if you’re blessed with a partner with a sense of humor that meshes with yours, work becomes like play.

7. Try playing good cop/bad cop when it’s just you.

Managing employees and a practice is exhausting. On the days when you just need a break, your partner is there to pick up the slack. A physician partner provides motivation and support. Not only can you ask each other questions and bounce ideas, but you can encourage one another and pick each other up in difficult times. Also, by having a partner, you will most likely work harder because there is pressure to perform and to not let the other person down.

Even if you’re not looking for leverage now, think about what a physician partner might do for you. What holes could he plug, what opportunities could she open up? Rugged individualism has its limits.

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Contact ABISA for healthcare consultancy support or speaking engagements.

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Fragmented EHR Market

According to a U.S. government report issued last year, only 56% of hospitals had received electronic records from other practices and just 40% of those had successfully merged the information into their own databases.  Moreover, less than 10% of hospitals say they’ve been able to trade records entirely through their digital systems.  As any healthcare provider will tell you, electronic health record (EHR) systems can be complex, frustrating, and time-draining.  Many countries with some form of nationalized healthcare system are essentially entirely paperless with respect to patient records.  Some more notable examples are Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, and Sweden.

Meanwhile in the United States, not only is adoption of EHR painfully slow, but the EHR market is highly fragmented, leading to interface issues as alluded to in the studies above.  Medscape recently produced a report on EHR usage in the U.S., based on a survey of 15,285 physicians in 25 specialties.  Here are some key takeaways:

28% reported using Epic, 10% Cerner, 7% eClinicalWorks, and 5% NextGen

Independent practices specifically, reported 12% using eClinicalWorks, 8% using PracticeFusion, and 8% using NextGen.

62% of those surveyed found e-prescribing to be most helpful.

57% stated that EHRs reduce face-to-face time with patients.

50% claim to have a reduction in the number of patients they can see.

Less than 1/3 of those surveyed feel that EHRs improve patient service, clinical operations, or collections.

No EHR had an overall score of 4 or higher.  Nevertheless, 81% of those surveyed plan to keep their current EHRs.

Practice Fusion and Amazing Charts had the highest satisfaction ratings.

MEDENT, Practice Fusion, and Amazing Charts ranked top for vendor support.

Regarding the cost of purchasing and installing EHRs in independent practices, 41% stated they didn’t know the cost, 23% reported spending over $50,000, 21% reported spending $10,000 — $50,000, and 15% stated they spent less than $10,000.

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Contact ABISA for healthcare consultancy support or speaking engagements.

The Importance of Strategic Planning

The term strategic planning has become very popular in recent years. Many healthcare entities now talk about doing strategic planning rather than long-range planning, yet the difference between the two is not intuitively obvious, nor universally agreed upon. Strategic planning is generally considered to place a greater emphasis on strategies (on how the practice will achieve its vision) while long-range planning places greater emphasis on determining the vision.

Long-range planning: The process by which the practice leaders determine what the practice wants to look like at the end of a specified period of time (usually three to five years). They should then use that vision to establish multi-year goals and objectives which describe what the practice wishes to accomplish, and develop programs, tasks, and timelines for achieving them. Long-range planning predicts future conditions and realities, internal and external, and plans how the practice can function effectively within them. Because it involves multi-year projections, it cannot be as specific as short-term or operational planning, which generates a work plan with detailed annual objectives, tasks, methods, timelines, and responsibilities. However, it tends to be more focused on specific objectives and timelines than strategic planning.

Strategic planning: The process by which practice leaders determine what the practice intends to be in the future and how it will get there. To put it another way, they develop a vision for the practice’s future and determine the necessary priorities, procedures, and operations (strategies) to achieve that vision. Included are measurable goals which are realistic and attainable, but also challenging; emphasis is on long-term goals and strategies, rather than short-term (such as annual) objectives. Strategic planning assumes that certain aspects of the future can be created or influenced by the practice. Additionally, strategic planning is an ongoing process.

There is broad agreement among healthcare leaders that planning is a critical component of good management and governance. Planning helps assure that a practice remains relevant and responsive to the needs of its patients, and contributes to practice stability and growth. It provides a basis for monitoring progress, and for assessing results and impact. It facilitates new program development and enables a practice to look into the future in an orderly and systematic way. From a governance perspective, it enables the physician owners to set policies and goals to guide the practice, and provides a clear focus to the practice administrator and staff for program implementation and management.

Most practices understand the need for annual program objectives and a program-focused work plan. Many find it practical to define objectives for a 12-month period, and to design strategies and programs to meet them. Longer-range planning (planning beyond the next year or two) often seems more difficult and less rewarding. With the healthcare industry changing so rapidly, how can we expect to develop plans that will remain relevant? With so little control over external events, how can we hope to influence them in a way that benefits our patients?

In fact, planning is no less important in a changing environment; it may well be more important. Practices need to be very clear on community needs and then work to address them through similarly clear practice missions, priorities, and objectives. The challenge of delivering patient care has become greater with changes in the healthcare industry, and it is here that strategic or long-range planning can be most helpful. Planning is designed to help a practice define its vision for the future and then determine systematically how it will get there, understanding obstacles and figuring out ways to overcome them.

There is an important caveat. Longer-range planning requires some level of practice stability. It is very difficult to plan in a crisis, and unrealistic to look five years ahead unless a practice has some confidence that it will exist next year, and that most of its key staff and its physicians will continue to be affiliated with the practice. Leadership also needs the time to plan, and with the daily challenges in a practice, it is extremely beneficial to engage a healthcare consultant to assist in that process. Moreover, while planning provides increased practice definition, a sound base for planning should include consensus around a well-defined mission statement and/or practice goals. These must often be developed as a foundation for longer-term planning. It is also difficult to plan if the practice is so young or its leadership so new that they do not have a good sense of the community and of the competition. Most new practices find that they do best by first attempting to reach consensus on a practice mission statement and then doing shorter-range planning, usually for a single year. Learning from that experience, they can begin a longer-term planning process.

Planning that focuses on a period of three years or more requires an organized, serious effort which takes time and energy. Moreover, planning is not a one-time effort; any plan needs to be reviewed, monitored, and updated. The benefits to a practice can be significant — a clear focus, a sense of joint purpose and agreed-upon priorities, consensus on strategies, and a basis for measuring progress and impact.

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Contact ABISA for healthcare consultancy support or speaking engagements.

UK Physicians in Crisis

“General practice is in crisis” notes a recent report by the British Medical Association (BMA).  Healthcare demand is growing in the United Kingdom as the population continues to age on the backdrop of a shortage of general practitioners.  In an effort to assembly-line healthcare services, physicians have been allotting a mere 10 minutes for appointments.  The result has been extremely taxing on the general practitioners.  BMA’s report found that physicians are sometimes seeing 60 patients per day and thus not allowing enough time for those patients with complications.

Dr. Brian Balmer, a member of BMA’s general practice committee executive team, stated

“General practice in the UK cannot be allowed to continue being run into the ground. It’s time for positive change that gives patients the care they deserve.”

The National Health Service in England has quickly stated that there are no national mandates on the time spent with patients.  The BMA report suggests that the maximum number of patients a general practitioner sees each day should be 25.  Consequently, the report recommends physicians allot 15 minutes per patient.

The BMA report, titled “Safe Working in General Practice,” can be found here.

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Contact ABISA for healthcare consultancy support or speaking engagements.