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By Reed Tinsley, CPA
President, O’Neal, McGuiness & Tinsley, PLLC
Declining revenues, increasing competition, and proliferation of merger activity throughout the physician practice field is enough to make anyone feel they are faced with an uncertain future.
Practices can no longer afford a "business as usual" attitude. They need to decide how they intend to position themselves in the future in order to maintain their net income, grow their practice, manage cultural and operational transitions when mergers occur, and compete with others for patients and managed care contracts. In other words, medical practices need a strategic game plan.
So where do you start? The first step in this process is to meet to discuss how the practice intends to address the future, and whether or not a strategic planning meeting might be in order. Decide if planning for the future is important, and whether this process might get all of the doctors reading from the same page.
Try to set a specific date for the strategic planning meeting. All physicians and administrative personnel should attend. So as not to take away from patient care time, this meeting usually is held on a Saturday. Also, consider hiring a facilitator, such as the practice’s accountant or an independent consultant.
Before the meeting, gather input from everyone in the practice who will be attending about those issues they really want brought up and discussed. This usually is given to the facilitator, who then will use this information to develop the meeting agenda. (See a sample outline that can be used at the meeting, below.)
E. Thank you to all attendees
The next step after the meeting is to draft a strategic planning document. This document details and expounds upon most of the items included in the planning checklist above. Arguably, the most important portion of this document is the action plan. The action plan makes sure each task is started and accomplished on a timely basis.
Unfortunately, this is where the planning process usually breaks down. A meeting goes well, everyone is fired up, and then nothing seems to happen. The action plan keeps everyone focused and on track. It should be the practice manager’s or practice CPA’s job to monitor the implementation process and make sure every task in the action plan is getting done. It is imperative that the status of the action plan’s implementation is a regular agenda item at the physician meetings, and that progress is continual.