What your practice can learn from the Instagram effect on restaurants

Innovative technologies and shifting public expectations are altering the practices of many industries, particularly those that provide a service. Medical practices should take heed and recognize these trends or risk losing patients and market share to others more open to adopting new strategies.

How does one differentiate a high-performing medical practice from another that’s falling behind? And what are the forces that drive the discrepancy? What strategies can your practice implement to be among the high performers? CareCloud’s recent Practice Performance Index, a survey of over 2,000 practice managers and physician leaders, addresses these questions in detail.

To measure an outcome, you must define it. In this survey, a high-performing practice was identified as one that had seen increases in at least three of the following criteria: practice collections, number of locations, number of providers, patient volume, and provider satisfaction over the last three years. Note I said provider satisfaction and not patient satisfaction. Feedback from patients is sought more often by patients in high-performing practices, but the results are not used to differentiate the high-performing practices from those that are falling behind.

Practices designated as falling behind report negative performance over the past few years’ responses — their number of locations, collections, and patient volume are not growing. The providers are less satisfied.

When asked about this factor, the survey creator, Dan Sabido, shared my surprise: “We hadn’t really seen anybody else use provider satisfaction when talking about practice performance. I added that to the criteria because, at the end of the day, the practice business model is to deliver care, and so whether the providers are happy or not should have a huge impact on the kind of quality of care that patients are receiving. In the final results, provider satisfaction turned out to be far and away the biggest difference between high- and low-performing practices. Physician satisfaction is clearly strongly correlated to patient satisfaction.”

While studying the survey results, I started thinking about restaurants — not because I was hungry, but rather I was reminded of what it takes for a modern restaurant to be successful. A solid menu, consistent quality, and a friendly wait staff are no longer enough.

Why not? Instagram.

New restaurants hoping to be high performers are recognizing that the décor and lighting must be designed with phone-toting amateur photographers in mind. Natural light, bold colors, and food presentation are more important than ever. You’ve still got to do the basic things right, but to gain a chicken leg up on the competition, restaurants are responding to evolving technologies and customer expectations.

While our patients may not be posting as many photos of our clinics to their Instagram feeds, the same concepts apply. A high-performing practice should embrace new technology and adapt to changing patient expectations. We have additional burdens, including a transition to value-based care and higher out-of-pocket costs for our patients.

The survey results indeed show that the practices most likely to register as high performers are those that embrace new technologies, make accommodations to improve provider efficiency and productivity, and make their patients’ lives easier.

Technologies employed more by high-performing practices include a patient portal, tablet-based intake forms, telemedicine, check-in kiosks, and concierge medical plans.

Practices falling behind tend to have providers with lesser job satisfaction. They are likely to spend more time on administrative tasks, report a decreased level of support from vendors on technological and regulatory changes, and see lower provider and staff productivity.

The high-performing practices have adapted their collection practices as co-pays and co-deductibles have risen. They’re more likely to collect up-front, offer payment plans, and collect feedback from patients to better serve their needs.

Which restaurant does your practice resemble? Is it the bright, airy spot with tasty, healthy options and an app for online ordering? Or do you have the stodgy standby with a stale menu, relying on incandescent lighting and word-of-mouth? To be successful today and in the future, like it or not, your practice may have to embrace new trends. Change isn’t easy, but it could be the secret to better professional satisfaction and better practice performance.

“Physician on FIRE” is an anesthesiologist and can be reached at his self-titled site, Physician On FIRE.  

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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