Pursuing Medical Practice Success: The Heartbeat of Your Practice

    Posted by Dale Gentz and Katrina Slavey on Feb 15, 2018 2:29:00 PM
    Part of the Pursuing Medical Practice Success series:
    1. An Hour a Month Could Save You Many Sleepless Nights
    2. The Practice Manager as Change Agent
    3. The Heartbeat of Your Practice
    4. The Building Blocks for High Performance
    5. The Big Picture


    If you’ve been following along with our Pursuing Medical Practice Success blog series, you know why an hour a month can save you many sleepless nights. You also understand how important it is to hire and train a savvy practice manager whose main priority is to implement initiatives and follow through on performance objectives.

    What’s the next step?

    It’s time to develop a tool that helps your practice keep track of the initiatives the Practice Operations Council has agreed to implement. This tool, called the site-specific action plan, or SSAP, can help you act with intention as you implement practice initiatives and move your medical practice from average to superior.

    The SSAP becomes the heartbeat of your practice, creating the rhythm by which the practice manager, providers, and staff perform their daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. This living, breathing document—customized to your individual medical practice and reviewed on a monthly basis—provides a platform to help you

    • track the overall health of the medical practice,
    • develop a pathway for correcting practice problems,
    • maintain accountability for implementing medical practice initiatives; and
    • create synergy within the practice, where every staff member and provider are involved in making the practice successful.

    Perhaps the most important function of an action plan is that this tool allows for total transparency in your medical practice. With the larger purpose always in mind, providers, management, and staff members can stay on task and take full advantage of the hour a month the council spends reviewing medical practice operations and approving tactics for improvement.

    How Does a Site-Specific Action Plan Work?

    Let’s take a closer look at an SSAP in action, using financial operations as an example.

    As outlined in the agenda for the monthly council meeting, the Practice Operations Council reviews the financial operations of the medical practice. The practice manager leads the discussion, and both manager and providers work to determine strategies for enhancing revenue and reducing expenses.

    For revenue enhancement, council members might consider tactics such as implementing and promoting new services, adjusting schedules, improving exam room work flow, adjusting the fee schedule, reviewing coding and documentation, or perhaps improving the payer mix. For expense reduction, opportunities might include using staff members’ skills and roles to best advantage (highest and best use of staffing), eliminating overtime, and implementing group purchasing contracts.

    The council determines which of these tactics they would like to see implemented within the medical practice—and this is where the action plan comes in. For every approved tactic, the council (or the practice manager) should establish

    • a set of carefully considered action steps,
    • an accountable party (person assigned responsibility for the step or task),
    • a specific date for completion of the step, and
    • the financial impact of the tactic (dollar impact).

    Each month, the council reviews the action plan and determines whether 1) the initiative is working or 2) the plan needs adjustment in order for the practice to achieve the desired impact.

    Improving Medical Practice Operations

    Of course, the financial health of the medical practice is only part of the equation. With the providers and practice manager meeting monthly, your practice has the opportunity to review and assess all practice operations and incorporate newly approved tactics into the SSAP on a regular basis.

    For example, you may wish to evaluate your front desk to determine whether the phones are being answered in a timely manner. Or you might want to identify opportunities for improvement stemming from your recent patient satisfaction survey. Perhaps you would like to identify whether your practice is on track for all regulatory compliance issues. Or maybe you’ll finally have a chance to discuss practice-specific issues related to human resources (including staff appraisals). The possibilities are endless!

    The site-specific action plan allows you to see the areas of opportunity, develop tactics to achieve them, and guide your practice on the path to success with total transparency and accountability.

    In summary, a functioning SSAP will contain a set of goals or desired end results, tactics designed to achieve the goals, action steps to help you implement the tactics effectively, an accountable party, a planned completion date, and a dollar impact. In our next post, we’ll show you how to put these key elements together.


    Topics: Operational Governance, Physician Practice Management, Medical Practice Consulting

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