One factor that frequently arises in small, owner-operated practices is the need for a high level of self-management acumen. This sounds easier than it really is, for several reasons that have to do with human nature. Without high levels of self-management in place, a practice will tend to develop structural problems that are fixable, but require some sort of organizational change and adaptation.
There are a few key components here that are necessities in any self-managed business.
- Use of cloud based calendar
- Use of smart phones and remote access tools
- Regular business hours showing accessibility, consistency and reliability.
With the plethora of options available today, all doctors should have their contacts, calendars and any management tools available through cell and wi-fi networks. You should never have to feel that you don’t know what you’re doing when if you are away from a single desktop computer. Getting the accessibility set up can be a challenge and sometimes an additional expense, but it is worth the bother.
If more than one schedule has to be coordinated, such as with a spouse, a key employee, a business partner, etc., all parties can have access to a shared data set to avoid misses, wastes or redundancies.
For the treating doctor, the things that should be scheduled on this type of calendar are your non-patient care time. Patient contact time can just be blocked off and treated as a single entity. The details are housed within your practice management software, so no need to reproduce them elsewhere (especially in a non-secure environment like a cell phone!)
An unanticipated consequence of our cellular revolution is that non only can you connect from nearly anywhere, other people expect you to respond promptly if not immediately! How do you deal with a home office, being available while travelling, being able to deal with things during weather problems and the like? Through remote access to wherever the data is housed.
Simple solutions are to use applications like log me in, pc anywhere or back to my mac. These programs access the primary computer through the internet, and allow you to view and manipulate the information, just as you would if you were sitting in front of it. The plus side is that these are cheap or free. The minus side is that while you are remotely accessing the computer, no one else can use it, and there are time delays involved to allow for the signal to be processed through the internet, so it’s not an exact analog of the real thing.
Amore involved and expensive solutions involve the use of private cloud computing, also called VPN or virtual private network. In this arrangement, all the data is housed on a single, backed-up server, and any enabled device can log onto the server through a browser. Any number of users can be in the program at the same time, and it’s simple and fast to operate once you are set up. Servers to handle this are not just ordinary PC’s, they are different beasts, with different specs, operating systems, etc.
This area seems quite self-evident, but is frequently not observed. In a service business, you have to open when the majority of your clients can most easily get to you, not when you most want to be there. Your schedule from week to week should vary as little as possible so patients can come to know your hours. Routines are important to most people, and they do not like having to re-invent the wheel every time they use your services.
The afore-mentioned topics are just pieces of the puzzle that adds up (when done well) to greater accountability in your office or clinic systems. An outside entity, such as a consultant or a board of directors in a larger organization, provide a level of accountability that is difficult to obtain when the owner is also the manager and technician. However, there are a few methods you can use if you are flying solo:
- Write goals and objectives that pertain to the direction and achievements of your organization. These must have time frames, and must be reviewed to track progress.
- Delegate carefully and thoughtfully. Be sure that all delegated tasks are described, tracked and reviewed.
- Read outside your field. All doctors have technical information that they are required to be fluent in. Unless you work for a much larger entity and your duties are circumscribed to your specialty only, the field does not stop there. An honest assessment of your weak areas, or simply responsibilities you do not like, will help you identify where your efforts at strengthening must be directed.