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Coping with Change: Squaring Away Your Physician Marketing and Personal Goals

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Thumbs up on "Professional Development Plan" infographicIn a quiet, reflective and personal moment—something doctors rarely seem to find—it can appear that everything about healthcare is changing. Maybe "total turmoil" would be the view of many professionals.

The feeling of not having a solid footing is unsettling. Much of the provider world is shifting from private practice to hospital employment. Expenses are up, reimbursements are down, or prospective patients don't seek treatment or slip over to the competition. The once predictable competition is rolling-up into a larger group, or the once reliable professional referral sources are...no longer reliable.

We see these and similar shifting sands in private practice and medical group situations. But the earthquake is also beneath the feet of hospitals, specialty clinics, fee-for-service providers and others as well. In fact, we don't know many medical providers who are unaffected.

Healthcare providers, administrators and marketing professionals confide in us that the business of being a doctor today is quite different than just a few years ago. And from our perspective, we see three ways that individual doctors and surgeons are dealing with change in the healthcare delivery system.

  • ROLL OVER: For some doctors, the coping mechanism is to retire from active practice. Perhaps they are at a stage of life where they would rather go fishing, take up teaching, become a consultant or they change careers entirely. For those individuals who are of a mindset to do so, they move out of the fast lane and head for the off ramp.
  • ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES: For many physicians and surgeons, change is a challenge. Not everything is out of their control, and they dig in to make the most of opportunity. Where the "roll over" crowd leaves a void, they jump in. Where uncertainty exists, they drive a stake in the ground. And where last year's marketing plan is off target, they recalibrate and come out swinging.
  • FROZEN IN THE HIGH BEAMS: The lowest risk, some individuals believe, is doing nothing. While it may be appropriate to wait for the right moment to take action, being paralyzed is seldom productive. Most often, doing nothing produces nothing. (We should add that physicians face and make tough decisions daily, but organizations can get hung up in analysis paralysis or an overabundance of caution in unfamiliar territory.)

For the purposes of this article, we're generalizing a bit with the list above. (Please let us know if there's an additional category that we should add.) But before you decide which course of action is best for you, use your elusive quiet moment to reflect on your business and development goals.

So...what exactly do you want to do now?

If there are absolutely no dynamics at work in your professional world—and everything is just perfect—there's no need to review the following checklist. On the other hand, if you are not ready to "roll over" or if you want to break free from the "high beams," consider which of the following goal statements most accurately reflect your goal. (Hint: There are no right or wrong answers, and you should check all that apply.)

I would like to...

  • spend a greater percentage of time on cases that take advantage of my (our) specialized expertise.
  • enhance our reputation.
  • spend more time treating, not administrating.
  • win more doctor (or other professional) referrals.
  • attract higher paying cases.
  • attract elective and/or cash cases.
  • increase the number of patients we attract.
  • target specific insurances.
  • reduce my reliance on low-paying insurances.
  • reduce our over-reliance on a small number of referral sources.
  • create more volume to feed new partners, associates or extenders.
  • make sure our new location (or newly formed group) is successful.
  • answer aggressive competition that has emerged in my area.
  • build up a business I recently joined or purchased.
  • take our business to the next level.
  • enable the organization to support charitable causes or provide community services.
  • take more time off of work to spend with my family and/or other interests.
  • become recognized as a leader in my field.

We are fond of the thought that "a goal without a plan is just a wish." If your goal isn't included in the list above, we'll add it if you send us a note. But to set a course in the choppy seas of healthcare, you'll need to devise a plan to get you where you want to go.

We've found that the first steps on the road to success are grounded in only six fundamental building blocks. We talk about that in this related article. And if you'd like to dig deeper with this marketing assessment, the questions continue on this page on our website.

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