This article was originally written by Jane Braithwaite Independent Practitioner Today. 

As we head into 2022 and a promising new year, we have an opportunity to take stock and reset. This includes reviewing our more strategic plans and objectives and checking that the basics are well managed. Jane Braithwaite shows how to give your business a fresh start. From a strategic perspective, I take time to review and plan every quarter. I make the most of the ‘back to school’ feeling in September and at the start of the new year, which is an obvious time to reflect on everything in life including business. April and July are the two other times during the year when I pause to review progress and make plans for the coming quarter.

Over the last two years, with the changing environment caused by the impact of Covid, my strategic planning has become less proactive, and my focus has been on managing the ups and downs caused by the Covid crisis. But performing in ‘crisis’ mode for such a long time is not healthy for us in either our personal lives or for the success of our businesses. So the start of 2022 is a more significant opportunity than it might normally have been for all of us to take stock and set our agenda for the coming year. My strategic planning will involve reviewing my previous plans and assessing what has been successful, what we have achieved and identifying the areas where we made less progress than hoped.

Purposely parked
To be honest, due to the challenges of the last two years, there are a few objectives that I set for my business that was purposely parked and I am sure I am not alone. Due to a lack of time to focus on the more proactive side of growing the business and to allow time for the day-to-day management of the effects of Covid some activities needed to be taken off the agenda in the short term.

The start of 2022 will provide a great opportunity to decide whether the time is right to reset those objectives and restart progress. I am also addicted to business plans and notebooks, and I have used most of the widely known business plans/journals.

Currently, my favourite is the Clever Fox Planner Pro, which I highly recommend for anyone like me who enjoys structure and handwriting out plans. Clever Fox allows you to set your strategic plan and then manage it on a day-to-day basis.

The new year is also a good time to check that business basics are being managed well. No business, clinic or practice can succeed and grow if the basics are not well organised.

Good processes
Most importantly, good processes and systems ensure that the business runs smoothly and that patients, clients and employees are happy.

Conversely, poor processes lead to a drain on management time with time spent addressing issues and firefighting reducing time available for patient care and more strategic activity.

Over the last two years, it is possible that many of us have taken less time to review the basic operations of our businesses and this is a good time to check and act if needed.

In my experience, there are a number of areas that may have been overlooked in private medical practice and I have highlighted some of these below in an attempt to help.

Patient experience
Are you capturing and reviewing feedback from your patients? This is an activity that may have been lost in recent months and it is worth re-establishing good processes; firstly, asking your patients for feedback and regularly reviewing matters with your team.

Over the last few months, patient expectations may have changed and it is important to ensure that your practice delivers against its current requirements to maintain an excellent reputation.

Employee satisfaction
The challenge of surviving the Covid pandemic has affected everyone to a greater or lesser extent and, in private healthcare, employees have been under increased pressure to deal with changes in their working environment.

Now is a good time to assess how your employees are feeling and to ensure that their well-being is being prioritised by you as an employer. An employee survey is a good way to gain feedback in an anonymous way to allow you to get a realistic picture of the challenges your team is facing.

The information gathered can be used by you and your senior team to develop an action plan to address any issues and ensure that your team know their well-being is a top priority for you.

Pricing
Most businesses review their pricing on an annual basis to ensure they are competitive but also in line with inflation and the cost of running their business.

In private healthcare, the insurance companies restrict the ability to make significant changes, but it is important to review self-pay pricing and also review the costs of delivering the services you offer.

If the insurance rates have remained unchanged but costs of equipment or medical supplies have increased, then it is important to make efforts to try to reduce costs in some way to ensure profitability.

Marketing
Is your marketing in line with your objectives and how well is it delivering against your objectives? Now would be a good time to re-assess your marketing activities and ensure they are delivering the results you are aiming for.

Are all of your marketing and communication materials consistent in their look and feel?

Is your website working well from a technical perspective and is it compliant in terms of cookie policies and privacy? Are you communicating regularly with your patients and referrers via a newsletter and/or via social media?

Regulatory matters
Working in private healthcare requires adherence to numerous legal and regulatory regimes including the GMC and the Care Quality Commission. The new year is a good time to check that everything is updated, and you are adhering to the latest requirements.

One good example is the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), which has made some changes and launched a new website recently. All doctors need to ensure they have completed their profile on the new PHIN site.

Invoicing and credit control
In my experience, invoicing and credit control is the most overlooked aspect of running a successful private healthcare practice.

It is not unusual for me to meet a doctor who has recently discovered that invoices have not been sent to patients or their insurance companies. It is even more common to hear that a significant amount of aged debt has accumulated as a result of a non-existent credit control function.

I always suggest a monthly check of invoices raised and of aged debt to make sure your credit control processes are working and if this hasn’t been done for a while, then this is a good process to establish for the new year.

If you need any assistance with your fresh start in 2022, please feel free to get in touch. But, for now, I wish you a Happy New Year.

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