Are you listening to your patients’ feedback?

Are you listening to your patients’ feedback?

With more private doctors being subject to reviews, Jane Braithwaite, Founder of Designated, highlights the importance of patients’ feedback and gives some excellent tips and advice on handling negative comments.

Patients’ Feedback

Most practices will be receiving patient feedback. This can range from the quiet chat with the receptionist or medical secretary to the – hopefully infrequent – irate phone call or email.

Measuring patient satisfaction and assessing areas for improvement is an important aspect of the Care Quality Commission assessment process, but it should also give you the opportunity to involve all your team members in taking responsibility for improving the patients’ experience.

Feedback sources

Particularly popular forums for online patient feedback can be your practice’s Facebook page or Google My Business account.

Positive reviews here can boost search results, they are easy to request and receive and they give potential patients good insights into your services.

Great reviews can be shared on your website or in articles, but you must ask for the patient’s express permission first to be compliant with GDPR.

On these public channels, there is the danger that a negative review can be widely seen but, if this complaint is handled promptly and professionally, it can often result in a positive outcome. Of course, sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day, and this is where we can help. We can provide social media experts to support you to manage complaints and enquiries quickly and professionally, as and when you need them most.

Many of our clients at Desig­nated Medical request patient reviews on specific medical sector websites such as Doctify, where feedback can be anonymous and complaints can be addressed.

Patients are sent a link to the website’s reviews page, or an iPad app is used to collect reviews at the practice. Similar review options are available on iwantgreatcare.org and My Health Specialist.

Satisfaction surveys

Clinics and doctors may choose to set up and implement their own in-house patient satisfaction survey and choose websites such as Smart Survey or Typeform

The results can be summarised into a report giving a focus for practice imp­rovements and could be reviewed at the monthly practice meeting and an action plan agreed to address any issues.

The ad hoc face-to-face or emailed feedback should also be consolidated to form the basis of your improvement plan, which can be used as evidence of listening to patients. We have a team of experienced administrators to help you create and deliver your unique surveys, and we can tailor our services to support your individual needs.

It’s important that an open and understanding culture be fostered within the team, with no fear of blame being apportioned, so that all feedback is actively shared and acted upon.

Use feedback to grow

Positive reviews should be celebrated too, and a dedicated marketing professional can maximise the potential of good feedback. 

This article is part of a series from the Independent Practitioner Today where Jane Braithwaite writes a regular feature. Download full article here.

Should you need support and advice for your private practice, please get in touch 020 7952 1008, or info@designatedmedical.com.

Is your private practice ‘all systems go’?

Is your private practice ‘all systems go’?

 

TopTips2There are so many facets to running a successful private medical practice. Jane Braithwaite’s second article in her practice management series focuses on the functional aspects. She looks at what IT systems you might need to run your practice efficiently and examines mapping the processes that you must streamline for a well-run practice.

As with any business, you will need to give detailed consideration to your IT needs. The difference for a private medical practice is the kind of data you will be storing.

Old computer on a wooden table

You don’t just need to think about the number of PCs you might need as well as printers and other peripherals. Medical records, patient notes, scans, bank details and even recorded phone calls are all considered personal data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Even before GDPR was introduced, there were specific requirements for data storage in healthcare. There have previously been some worrying data breaches by companies who stored patient data unencrypted, and GDPR has added punitive fines to ensure that all companies take the issue seriously.

The NHS’s guidelines on using public cloud services such as Google Drive and my previous article on data should be helpful resources.

Outsourcing storage

You might be wondering if it would be easier to outsource data storage, and this is certainly an option. There are many companies offering systems that can assist with this as well as with financial management, appointment scheduling and more.

These systems can also provide remote access to practice information and may integrate with your other software. Healthcare is big business and there are dozens of companies offering solutions.

One main difference between off-the-shelf solutions and bespoke systems will obviously be price. But you must be careful to look beyond the price tag to the implications for your practice long-term.

Many consultants start out thinking they can manage everything themselves with the help of their medical secretary. Some will achieve this, but you need to consider what happens when your practice grows.

The amount of data will grow too, but you might find that your set-up does not scale without significant time and investment. Hopefully, you’ve also taken my previous advice on executive information and anticipated this, so necessary changes can be made without disruption to your patients.

Process mapping

Without making this article seem like Business 101, have you thought through all of the processes that will enable your practice to run optimally?

I’m a big fan of simple solutions, where possible, and an even bigger fan of a paperless office. But these both rely on well thought-out solutions to everyday challenges.

Process mapping means defining your business activities, partly to understand who takes ownership at each stage. This means that you won’t miss important details that could impact on patient satisfaction or business efficiency.

Process maps are visual, as you might expect, and there are plenty of specialist software packages you could use, some of them free. But if you’re looking at processes within a team, starting with A3 sheets of paper is a great way to capture information.

As an example, let’s look at the journey for your patients. Do they come to you via referral by other consultants or directly from your website? How are follow-up appointments confirmed?

Who is responsible for communicating test results and within what time-scales? Try to map every part of their journey from the first contact they have with the clinic to a successful outcome – whatever this might mean for your specialty. You may find the NHS process mapping model helpful for this.

The patient journey is the most important process for your practice, but it’s by no means the only one. What are your processes for finding a new supplier, recruiting a member of staff or carrying out appraisals?

You must ensure the processes you’ve identified and mapped pinpoint who is responsible for each activity and which systems are involved. There must be no confusion over who arranges for feedback forms to be sent out or when patients are advised of the cost of a consultation.

My motto is ‘mind the gaps’, because I believe that taking care of the details is what ensures a well-run practice. But to take care of the details, you must be very clear on what they are.

Top Tips

Systems update: Just because you’ve had the same system since you started doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you now. Be open to demos from alternative suppliers and keep abreast of new developments

Why paperless works: As well as being environmentally friendly, more secure and cost-effective, it will mean that your important documents will always be to hand. And, longer term, you will not have the costly problem of storing copious amounts of paper securely

Spend to save: There are companies who can advise you on choosing practice management systems or the pros and cons of outsourcing. It’s worth considering what they can do for you

Use the right tool: Specialist software mapping tools such as Microsoft Visio or Lucidchart could work well for you once you’ve captured all the relevant data

Review regularly: If you’ve been in private practice for some time, chances are that processes can become bloated as tasks and documents are added. Take time to review and see how you can streamline

Ergonomics matter: Processes aren’t always digital. Is it as simple as re-organising the office layout or how forms are stored?

Get value for money: Many businesses only use a fraction of software features – could a little extra training mean you get full use out of the systems you shell out for?

Resident expert: Is there someone on your team with secret streamlining skills or a hitherto hidden passion for processes and IT? Take advantage of their enthusiasm

 

Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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You don’t need a diploma to run a practice

You don’t need a diploma to run a practice

Diploma or Certificate Premium Design Template in Raster

 

Managing your own practice is a huge challenge, with so many variables to control. In a new series of practice management articles for Independent Practitioner Today, Jane Braithwaite covers all the aspects that you need to master to have a perfectly-run practice.

 

Do you have an MBA? Perhaps a Diploma in Business Management? If not, you’re in the same boat as the vast majority of doctors who decide to start their own private medical practice, which is, in fact, a complex business like any other.
But don’t worry. In this series, I will be looking at managing complaints, business development, systems and processes and more.
These are all important aspects of practice management, but the two areas you absolutely must get right at the very start are: planning and people.
So here is what you should start doing:

Strategic planning

Being clear on goals and ambitions for your practice will help you achieve them. Allowing regular time in the calendar to step back and look at the bigger picture will keep your business on the right track.

There are four steps to successful strategic planning:

  1. Manage performance;
  2. Determine your position;
  3. Develop a strategy;
  4. Build your plan.

1. Manage performance

Taking this approach means you won’t miss any gaps. Ideally, garner input from anyone who contributes to the success of the practice and ensure that all your stake-holders are aware of your plan.

2. Determine your position

Like any other business, the leader of a medical practice needs business intelligence to survive. As the one in charge, it’s critical that you have access to executive information which shows analytics, forecasting tools and reports.

I’ve written about this previously in this journal with some suggestions on how to create a dashboard which shows the ‘big view’ of your business. I would strongly suggest you allocate time to setting this up so that you will easily be able to access trends.

For example, you should be able to see at a glance the split between self-pay patients and those with insurance over the last six months and how it compares to the previous six months.

You should also look at what changes are coming in business or medicine. If your practice is dep­endent on international patients, is there a downwards drift for certain countries?

The more insight into strategic issues you can gather, the better your planning will be. Combine all the data you’ve pulled together and document it.

There are many business planning methods and tools that you can use, and each has its pros and cons. The format is that important; the key is to have a short statement that you can refer to and change over time.

3. Develop a strategy

Diploma or Certificate Premium Design Template in Raster

This is something you probably did when you first set up your practice, but you need to keep repeating the process to ensure your practice continues to grow in the direction you want it to grow.

We are often asked to have a five-year plan, and while it is difficult to have clearly defined goals for five years, it is possible and valuable to have goals and objectives for the coming two years.

When thinking about the longer term, a business mentor advised me to think of ‘the view from the beach’. Imagine yourself in five years’ time relaxing on the beach and envisage what you would like to have achieved by that point.

How will your practice look? How will the finances look? This becomes your longer-term goals and allows you to focus very clearly on the next two years and what you need to do now to ensure your reach ‘that view from the beach’.

You may already have a long-term plan, but when did you last review it? Does it need amending?

Can you distill your practice ambitions into four to six long-term objectives? Is your financial forecast still accurate? Try to add as much clarity as possible so your goals and priorities are accurate.

4. Build your plan

This is the nitty-gritty – an operational plan that ensures your practice achieves what you want it to. It’s important that you work with your team to come up with achievable goals and that they have an opportunity to feedback on plans.

Depending on the size of your practice, you might choose to allocate goals to specific areas; for example, the administration team answers 85% of calls each week. What does success mean? An increase in patients or a decrease in patient complaints?

No matter the goal(s), make it as easy as possible to measure progress and keep on track by defining what success looks like and sharing it with the team.

Manage performance

It’s essential to communicate your plans, objectives, decisions, and results to everyone working for the practice.

Not only will the team feel pride in being a part of the practice, they will feel as though they are working towards something meaningful. That’s an incredibly motivating factor.

Managing staff

The principles of managing a happy and productive team apply whether they number five or 50. Employees value an open and supportive culture with clear line management.

A Harvard Business Review article I read recently had some interesting things to say about what makes people happy at work. As a leader of a team of over 50, I have found much of this to be true.

Let people be themselves

Getting the best out of individuals means valuing them for their skills and embracing differences in perspective, dress and habits. This allows for diversity and shows another side to the much-vaunted flexible working which is so prevalent in business today.

I have found that the more flexible I am with my employees, the more commitment I have from them. Does one of your team harbour a secret talent with Excel? Can your medical secretary turn her hand to graphic design?

Snap up the opportunity to expand the practice knowledge-base at the same time as helping develop your employees’ careers.

Show how the work makes sense

This is when business intelligence and good systems can combine to energise your team. Patients are at the heart of any practice and sharing positive outcomes helps everyone in your team see that their efforts make a difference.

Not only will they feel pride in working for your practice, they will feel that their work is meaningful. Find a simple way to share patient reviews and feedback with everyone who helped make it happen.

Achieving (near) perfection in practice management takes an enormous amount of hard work. But all that hard work must be directed towards the right goals, or it’s pointless. With proper planning and dedicated staff, you will ensure that there are no gaps – just triumphs.

 

Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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Ask a Gynaecologist: Four common patient questions

Ask a Gynaecologist: Four common patient questions

Harley Street Gynaecologist Mr Jeffrey Braithwaite is one of the top gynaecologists in London. He has amassed a wealth of professional knowledge and experience. Mr Braithwaite has been in private practice since 2000 and working as a gynaecologist for over 25 years. He sees patients from his clinic at 25 Harley Street and performs surgery at The Portland Hospital as well as the Weymouth Street Hospital. Mr Braithwaite has generously offered his expertise to answer common patient questions about gynaecology and obstetrics.

What is gynaecology? And what’s the difference between a gynaecologist and an obstetrician?

Gynaecology is the care of everything to do with the female reproductive system, including fertility, female cancers and the menopause. Obstetrics deals with pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care. Many gynaecologists are obstetricians as well, as I am, and so can provide care from pre-conception to after the birth. In the US this is so prevalent, doctors in my field are called OB/GYNs. For example, I can advise on fertility issues and carry out prenatal testing and ultrasound scans.

What problems do women usually see a gynaecologist about?

Women can encounter gynaecological problems from adolescence right through to their 50s or 60s. Gynaecologists can investigate and treat issues such as pelvic pain, ovarian cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, period problems, cervical cancer and fertility concerns. Whilst I can do fertility investigations and carry out procedures such as follicle tracking and hormone tests, I will refer patients if they need to pursue IVF.

What can a consultant gynaecologist do that a GP can’t?

General Practitioners do not have the specialist training that gynaecologists do. Some GPs have passed the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists exam and will have the letters DRCOG after their name. This means they have an interest in the area, but will not have studied it in the depth that a consultant has. Consultants focus entirely on gynaecological issues and often have access to specialist scanning equipment and tests that GPs don’t have.

To book an appointment with Consultant Gynaecologist Mr Jeffrey Braithwaite, call 020 7224 5292.  You can also request an appointment with Mr Braithwaite via Doctify.

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What’s after Brexit?

What’s after Brexit?

How will Brexit affect private healthcare? Jane Braithwaite examines the areas that might catch out independent practitioners.

Group of business people with team leader standing in office

There has been plenty of doom and gloom about Brexit and how it might affect healthcare, but it is entirely possible that private healthcare may see some benefits from the increased competition.

While the impact on the NHS has been keenly analysed since the referendum result was first announced, there hasn’t been as much dissection of how the private sector might fare. Of course, factors which affect the NHS could also have an impact on private healthcare.

Many commentators have highlighted the risks that Brexit poses to the UK economy, but it is somewhat impossible to predict at this point what repercussions of any Brexit-related economic downturn might have on healthcare.

By contrast, it is significantly easier to assess the following key areas of healthcare which are likely to see significant changes: the workforce, health tourism and the regulation of drugs and devices.

There is so much concern over Brexit’s impact on healthcare that a number of organisations banded together to issue a plea for the UK and EU governments to prioritise patients. This article highlights some of the issues mentioned in the policy statement that are likely to affect the private sector.

How Brexit might affect: The Workforce

Recruitment and retention have been flagged as significant problems for the NHS, but the private healthcare workforce is much more variable.

Although the NHS can exactly pinpoint how many of their staff were born overseas, similar statistics do not exist for staff working privately in the UK. Anecdotally, though, many may agree that London’s private hospitals and clinics feature international teams.

Even conservative estimates mean that there could well be issues for private practices keeping and attracting medical and administrative staff.

There were chronic shortages of doctors across all specialties even before the referendum and applications for medical school and the foundation programme continue to drop.

Around 10% of NHS doctors are EU nationals and the dramatic fall in the number of EU nurses
registering to work in the UK is additionally cause for concern – applications dropped by 87% in 2017.

The private sector needs to become an even more attractive prospect for trained and experienced staff. This might mean turning more to external recruiters and adopting more modern recruitment methods. Could your training and education plan do with a refresh to benefit current and prospective staff?

Finally, providers need to consider succession planning – if they haven’t already – to help avoid a recruitment crisis.

How Brexit might affect: Health tourism

After a strong period of growth in 2013-15, revenues from overseas patients slowed somewhat in 2016-17.

Spire Healthcare cited a reduction in health tourism as a factor in the decision to shelve plans for a private hospital in London.

But if the pound weakens further, London and other major cities could become more attractive to overseas visitors. It is already a popular destination for patients seeking world-class care and specialties not available elsewhere.

The Middle East market is a particularly important one for the Harley Street Medical Area and Birmingham’s Edgbaston Medical Quarter, who have exhibited at the Arab Health Exhibition two years running.

But it is not just Middle Eastern patients who may need to access private healthcare in coming years. If Brexit means that EU citizens can no longer receive NHS treatment, might they turn to private medical insurance instead?

Citizens of the European Econ­omic Area (EEA) living in the UK may have little choice but to take out private medical insurance as individuals, or there may be a rise in corporate insurance for EU companies who stay in the UK.

How Brexit might affect: Regul­ation of drugs and devices

When Brexit finally takes effect, the UK’s influence in the approval and regulation of drugs may decline significantly. The Euro­pean Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently based in London and the UK has considerable influence – 20% of the EMA’s activity comes from the UK.

The EMA will relocate to Amsterdam after Brexit and some commentators believe that the shift may mean the UK will also lose its influence in getting new drugs and devices to market. This could mean that medicines and innovative devices could reach the UK market later than they do now, which will affect private patients just as much as those in the NHS.

Another regulation issue which has had a great deal of attention is the possible disruption to cancer treatments. If the UK is no longer a part of Euratom, which regulates the European nuclear industry, it needs to find another way to access radioisotopes that are used for radiotherapy among other treatments.

This could mean significant delays for treatment, and patients will naturally be affected.

London is currently a world leader for the treatment of cancer, with many specialist private clinics in Harley Street and elsewhere. If the UK Government does not resolve these issues in time, patients may start to look to other countries for medical care and private providers could feel the impact.

Top tips for BrexitConclusions

Private hospitals, practitioners and clinics in London are less likely to be affected by Brexit as the capital is well-established as an international centre of excellence for healthcare.

Outside of London, the long-term economic impact of Brexit may be what makes the most difference to the private medical insurance market.

Along with other industries, private healthcare is affected by the continuing uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations.

 

Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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