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About Philippa Kennealy

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC is The Entrepreneurial MD Business Coach who wants to help you build your business!
meet Philippa>>>

 

 

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Friday
Sep072012

Back-to-business model and plan basics for entrepreneurial physicians

Wow, I guess I really did take the summer off from blogging. I didn't realize it had been a good two months since I last wrote. I was, however, prompted to put my thoughts together when I received an email responding to my "What is the biggest question you are struggling with at present?" inquiry. The physician wrote "my biggest challenge is narrowing down what I would like to do and creating an economic model to support my endeavors"

Great observation! And a challenge that I suspect many would-be entrepreneurial physicians face when filled with the urge to start a business.

While the question was too big for me to answer in one email, I found it encouraging that this person was even thinking about addressing steps that so many physicians and wannabe entrepreneurs fail to examine and optimize:

  • having a viable business model
  • then creating a business plan, however simple, to address the needs of a start-up business.

A long time ago, I wrote an article on what constitutes a basic business model. In short, you need to identify your:

a. Sources of revenue - what are all the sources of income for your business? Fees, sales of products, rental income etc.?
b. Cost drivers - identify your fixed and variable costs
c. Sources of capital for start up - money you put into your start-up, investment income etc.
d. Critical success factors - those items you would ideally monitor on a "dashboard" that indicted the health of your business
e. Risk factors - those factors internal to and external to the business that you need to be aware of and to mitigate.

 

By balancing all these factors in a way that makes coherent sense, you have yourself the beginnings of a viable business model!

Once you have your business model, then it's time to flesh it out in a business plan. Back of a napkin, on a scrap of paper, confining it to one page (a la One Page Business Plan) or using a high-priced software tool – the options are wide and the methodology less important than the thought that went into it!

My next articles will focus on (1) how to narrow down your ideas and (2) what I mean by a business plan.

Until then, I'm happy to back in the Land Of Blog!

Friday
Jul202012

Medical practice marketing: 5 simple tactics to get you started

Please don't cringe when I mention the words "medical practice marketing". Please stop for a moment and read my words below.

I hope to pleasantly surprise you with the realization that what I am about to describe is not used-car salesman tricks. Far from it! No ... I'm asking you to be yourself, show up in a way that you hope anyone you were buying from would show up, and do that exceptionally well!! 

Marketing isn't Selling. You are not going to push any creams or vitamins or extra procedures on any unsuspecting patient.

Medical practice marketing is, to paraphrase Wikipedia:

... the process by which your practice create value for your customers (patients, referrers) and builds strong relationships, in order to capture value from customers in return.
Marketing is used to identify, satisfy and keep the customer. With the customer as the focus of its activities, the marketing concept holds that achieving your practice's goals depends on knowing the needs and wants of your target markets and delivering the desired satisfactions. It proposes that in order to satisfy its objectives, a practice should anticipate the needs and wants of consumers and satisfy these more effectively than competitors.

The only things you need to pay attention to in that definition are my highlighted words. 

It's all about patient's desires and the desires of other "customers" such as your referring doctors.

With this in mind, here are my five no-brainer strategies to get you started:

1. Decide what your practice's promise is that you intend to deliver on
Do you want to have a generic practice just like all the others around you, where chaos reigns, the waiting room is full of irritated patients and the staff grumbles its way through the day because "it's a job"?
Or do you intend to plan to create intentionally and consistently a positive experience for your patients ... and your staff? Your practice's promise is part of its Brand -- what it becomes known for.

2. Be on time!!!
This action alone is a winning strategy -- it shows respect for the value of your patients' time, and makes for a much less stressful day for you and your staff. To get there, you may have to fiddle with your scheduling until you find the right mix of slots for walk-ins, add-ons, urgent referrals and scheduled appointments.

3. Insist that your staff greets people by name, smiles and makes eye contact.
Hire the right staff and then train them how to interact with patients, being friendly and outgoing, while respecting patient confidentiality. Remember - you will have to show up likewise. 

4. Ask your patients what their pet peeves and likes are. 
Find out what patients do and don't like about your practice. Use a simple anonymous survey (you can use a paper form, or an on-line tool like surveymonkey). Be willing to act on the information you gather.

5. Manage your physical space
How often do you go into your waiting room after hours and just sit there, observing, experiencing it, wondering how patients feel in it?
This little tactic will quickly reveal shabbiness, out-of-date magazines, faded prints on the wall, scuffed carpeting ... all those little "uglinesses" that leave a negative impression in the minds of the people who had to sit there for a while.
What about your exam rooms? How fresh do the walls and counters look?
And your office? Are there piles of charts and X-rays littering the surfaces? 
A clean, uncluttered physical space creates a sense of calm, for everyone.

I encourage you to take these 5 relatively simple actions right away, to begin creating an uplifting experience for your patients ... one that invites them back and encourages them to spread the word. 

By attending to these details, you may never have to give away another penny of your hard-earned money to slick marketers! 

Thursday
Jul052012

Preventing physician burnout - is there a secret recipe? Part 2

Preventing physician burnout Part 1 touched on an increased in pessimism amongst physicians in the United States about the practice of medicine, as well as what's happening inside our brains as we near professional burnout.  

Now it's time to explore ways to forestall this deadly mental, emotional and physical condition. I have 3 short tips for you today:

1. Do unto yourself as you are preaching to others 

How often does the irony of your physician counsel to patients strike you? There you sit (or stand, if you're a doctor in a rush) advising patients on exercise, healthy eating, and overall health improvement strategies, and your day consists largely of skipped meals, mostly non-cardiovascular activities and intense internal pressure.
What is it going to take for you to adhere to your own advice? 
  • a sacrosanct blocked-out appointment with the Self on your calendar that no-one is permitted to violate?
  • getting out of bed 30 minutes earlier to meditate, take a brisk walk, and/or eat breakfast?
  • opening up 3 or 4 slots in the schedule each day to accommodate those stress-inducing add-ons?
  • walking the flights of stairs in the hospital or your office building instead of taking the elevator?
Come on, friends… You know how to do this stuff!

2. Acquire the habit of mindfulness
 
Mindfulness is a trendy word at present, but instead of pooh-poohing it, let's explore what this means and looks like.
In this short video on the neuroscience behind mindfulness research, Oxford University Professor Mark Williams examines how certain practices restructure parts of the brain to damp down our responses to stress. Although he's addressing mindfulness as part of the treatment of depression, its use in preventing burnout incurs the same results.
This article on How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation by Karen Kissel Wegela, Ph.D. provides concrete steps to beginning your mindfulness practice.

3. Practice the art of saying "No"
 
One of my favorite books is "The Power of a Positive No: Save The Deal Save The Relationship and Still Say No" by William Ury, in which he provides 3 simple tactics for setting boundaries - Yes! No. Yes? Note – the punctuation is extremely important, and I encourage you to read the book to discover his invaluable lessons. They may just change your life!

Which of these 3 tips do you plan to implement today, to set yourself on the path towards a more satisfying professional life? Please don't tell me these are too difficult for you to incorporate into your days.

I'm picking the mindfulness one.
I'd love to hear your thoughts… 
Tuesday
Jun192012

"The Practicing Mind" -- a primer for physician happiness?

As a recent attendee at the Creativity and Personal Mastery program (CPM) that I have previously written about, I was tickled to receive and read a review copy of "The Practicing Mind" (A) by Thomas Sterner. His book is an active reminder of the value I derived from the program, as it echoes much of the content. It's also foretells the huge payoffs that come with learning how to "practice".

What does "practice" really mean?

If I were to focus on the intended outcome of this article, I would be thinking about and worrying whether you were going to read it, and how you might act upon it for your and even my good. That would have me focused on the future. And then I might interrupt my train of thought by fretting about how my last newsletter article was received, and whether any of this writing even matters. And I'd be consumed with the past.

Instead, as an adherent to Sterner's beliefs expressed in his book, I am "practicing". I am deeply engaged in the task at hand. Tapping out the words on my iPad, crafting sentences as I write, sifting through ideas as they flit into my brain, all the while strapped into my seat in a bouncy airplane flying home from a short vacation in New York City. I am doing this imperfectly, as I catch my mind wandering -- to our homecoming, to all the work I'll have awaiting me this week ... and on and on. But I keep returning to the exercise, and therefore I am practicing at getting better, training my mind to stay on task, learning how to do the "staying present" thing better.

Why bother with practicing?

In his short and fairly pithy book, Sterner writes:

"Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. In fact, life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort of refining our motions. When the proper mechanics of practice are understood, the task of learning something new becomes a stress-free experience of joy and calmness, a process which settles all areas in your life and promotes proper perspective on all of life's difficulties".
High-flying stuff indeed! But Sterner should know -- he is an accomplished musician, concert piano technician, pilot, student of philosophy and sports psychology, archery practitioner and golfer, all of which have demanded discipline, focus and enormous amounts of practice!

What he writes is the following:
  • The principles of practice include picking a goal and applying steady effort to achieve it. There is no "add water and stir for instant results"
  • When we shift toward focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving the goal, instead of having the goal (the new car, the perfect job, the big salary, the ideal house), we have gained a new invaluable skill
  • the most useful skill to acquire is self-awareness, the ability to observe our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It is only with self-awareness that we are free to choose our responses and actions
His how-to's include (with my interpretations in parentheses):
  • focus on process, not product (I'm on this plane writing my reactions to this book and wanting to share some of Sterner's insights)
  • be deliberate and act with intention (I'm going to think this through, and be done with it before we land)
  • think of this as creating new desirable habits -- much repetition is required (despite my distractions, I'm going to keep coming back to my writing)
  • use his 4 "S"s:
    simplify the task at hand (I'm using a few notes I made while reading the book)
    - break the goal into small steps (one paragraph at a time)
    - keep the time you devote to practicing short at first, maybe 45 minutes (ok, so this is going to be written in 45 minutes!)
    - do things slowly by working at a pace that allows us to pay attention to what we are doing (the blessing of being trapped on a plane is I have nowhere else to rush to and no other pending tasks)
  • practice by using DOC  -- do, observe, correct.
    Be the person who throws 100 balls at the hoop each day, making tiny adjustments each time he misses the hoop. Or the writer who diligently writes the three "morning pages" daily just to get the blood flowing before settling down to write the book. Or the physician who methodically works through a long list of patients or procedures each day with the intention of achieving both professional satisfaction for herself and her patients.
I highly recommend this book for those of you looking to escape the mind's minefields of "not good enough", "I need it now" or "I'll never be able to do that..." I suspect that is most of us!
BTW, here's a link to the inspiring book trailer for The Practicing Mind if you are interested to learn more. 
Friday
May252012

Death of a vision spurs entrepreneurial physician to dream anew

Most physicians graduate medical school, or later from our residencies, our heads and hearts filled with idealistic aspirations. We carry internal visions of what we hope to do with this hard-earned degree ... make a difference, do special work, earn the respect of our colleagues and love of our grateful patients...

What we didn't expect was how hard it would be to face the realities of starting a practice, developing our own following of patients or physician referrals, and making a living.

This shock was no different for Jeffrey Hartog MD - a South-African born plastic surgeon who started his career training as a dentist (we discovered we were classmates in South Africa for the one year that dentists and medical students trained together!) and went on to retrain several times as a maxillofacial and then plastic surgeon. His dream - to become a highly specialized pediatric cranio-facial expert.

Instead, he faced the reality of needing to support a growing family and setting his sights on new and different goals.

To indulge his entrepeneurial spirit, he built his own surgical clinic. To appease his restless spirit, he began several years ago to explore the newly-developing field of fat-grafting, resulting in the development of his own FDA-registered fat back, which he describes as follows:

Liquid Gold™ combines an FDA registered lipobanking with state-of-the-art techniques to produce lasting results for a broad range of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures

In this 18-minute podcast interview, I explore with Jeff the challenges and opportunities that being an entrepreneurial physician has dished up.

When you have finished listening to this interview podcast, please add your comments here.