I have registered for a couple of conferences in the next couple of months (the BAAPS and ISAPS conference in London and CATBBAS in Belgium).
These conferences are enjoyable because you get to see old friends and you may pick up a titbit or a nugget that you can take back to your practice.
However, I am becoming more and more frustrated as I look through the programs of these conferences as I think they are missing a huge area when it comes to practice development that none of these conferences really tend to address.
There is a small section about practice management where clinic owners talk about their experience of owning their own clinics, and of course this is of interest to me because I own my own clinic, but I don’t think it is particularly helpful for the majority of surgeons who do not have the desire to have their own clinic.
It is not about owning your own clinic
…the struggle that most of us are facing can be boiled down to one sentence –
how do I get and keep customers?
Since opening my clinic, I had to rapidly start thinking of my practice as a business.
I spent a lot of time going to seminars and meetings with other business owners, and I have realised that it doesn’t matter what business you are in you need to spend time working on getting and keeping customers.
This is true for car mechanics, shopkeepers, accountants, lawyers, builders and doctors.
When it comes to getting and keeping customers, of course doing a good job is a crucial part of it.
…and medical conferences cover this aspect very well.
However, the gains that you come away with are marginal and will often be aimed at making your clinical work more efficient or easier in some way
…only rarely will there actually be a tangible effect on the outcome experienced by the patient.
I would like to see more time spent on looking at the patient experience as a whole.
This would encompass a much wider remit and would mean looking at all aspects of customer service,
- how enquiries are dealt with whether they are by telephone or e-mail
- what can you do if you miss a call or can’t get hold of someone
- what your system for reminders are
- what details are sent to patients before consultation and before their procedure
- how patients are treated during and after their consultation
- what ongoing contact you have with patients before, during and after their operation
These are areas that we never talk about but I strongly believe will have a much more profound impact on your patient’s satisfaction and ultimately your patient’s result.
The stunning thing is, that by looking at these aspects and by engaging with patients at every level, you will actually achieve a better outcome.
This is because, results are so often subjective,
…so it is not enough to just give good clinical outcomes,
…it is important to make the patients feel they are being treated well and that they are being looked after
…and if you combine this with a good clinical outcome – rather than just having a happy patient you will have a raving advocate that will spread the word and promote your services better than any advert ever could.
We all spend a lot of time learning how to do surgery and perform procedures, and I think it is quite right that we continue to develop professionally and keep up-to-date with the latest techniques and products.
However, in my experience, most patients are happy with the results of their surgery and whether we like it or not, the fact is that most patients will get an average surgical result.
I have found that the difference between the poor, average and good results, comes with the other aspects of their care.
- if they have spoken to someone on the phone or at the hospital who has been rude or unhelpful
- if they haven’t been sent the right invoice or been treated well on the ward
- or haven’t got the appropriate information following their discharge
…these are things that can turn a good surgical result into an unhappy patient
…and the flip side is true, that an average surgical result can be turned into a happy patient when all of these things are done right.
I am constantly thinking of ways that I can get and keep customers and dedicate large portions of my working week to this end.
Yet I find that many doctors give absolutely no consideration to this aspect of their practice at all, and are subsequently delivering less than optimal results for their patients.
I believe that this is all part of good medical practice and that doctors in the independent sector need to spend a lot more time considering the service that they are delivering and making sure that their patients are happy with the whole process.
It is the lack of this kind of support and information that is currently available that has led me to offer support and mentoring to other consultants in private practice.
If you are interested in finding out more and would like to come to a discovery day at my clinic in Birmingham, you can find out more here and we can arrange a time to talk.
In the meantime, I am looking forward to the conferences, but am not looking for any major breakthroughs.
…the only major breakthroughs in my practice in the last couple of years have been from learning about how to run a business rather than how to do surgery.