Starting a private practice can be challenging, particularly if your training and education was spent solely focused on learning to become a PT, OT, or SLP. There’s a learning curve for first-time business owners, and even experienced therapists can get things wrong on occasion.
Fortunately, most of the common mistakes you might make in managing your private practice can be corrected. And who better than a therapist to correct what’s wrong and help avoid the same issues moving forward? That’s why we’re offering up some of the most frequent mistakes practitioners make in managing their own practices, and what can be done to correct them.
1. You’re disorganized.
Your ad-hoc system of reminders may work in your personal life, but it’s not up to the task of keeping an entire practice on the rails. You’re losing track of what needs to be done and when, and you’re not nearly as productive as you should be, or need to be to bring in the necessary cash flow. Important work is slipping through the cracks, and both your staff and the patient experience are suffering because of it.
The Solution: Practice Management
Not having concrete processes in place is a surefire path to mistakes and inefficiency, and not having tools in place to measure just about everything you’re doing keeps you from understanding what’s working for you. Strong practice management tools allow clinicians to chart, track, and measure everything they need in order to make sure work is done on time.
Ideally, your practice management software should handle:
- Documentation, and
- Outcomes tracking.
Consider this as the practice owner’s starter pack. (Unless, of course, you’re going the cash-pay route, eliminating the need for a billing solution.) With those tools bundled together, you can manage almost every aspect of a patient’s care in one location and analyze your metrics to understand where inefficiencies may exist as you’re making business decisions. Plus, this combination creates a great foundation on which you can add other enhancements, like digital patient intake, electronic benefit verification, or even a patient marketing solution.
2. You’re losing employees.
The past two years have seen tremendous upheaval in the employment market, particularly for healthcare providers, and you’re not immune to the effects. Perhaps you’ve had staff resign, and your remaining employees seem disengaged or disinterested in what you’re trying to accomplish.
The Solution: Engagement
Everyone wants to feel valued at their job, and to feel like they’re being heard when questions or concerns arise. Engaging with your employees and giving them input on things like your mission, culture, and new programs is essential to both getting them to invest in your clinic and combating burnout.
You can help to create a positive clinic culture by:
- Setting an open-door policy for any employee questions, concerns or problems;
- Talking to your employees about their goals (and helping them achieve those goals);
- Offering honest and transparent communication about decisions and changes, and
- Celebrating individual wins and giving thank-you gifts.
Engaging employees isn’t just about creating a positive culture at your practice; studies have shown that happier employees are more productive employees and that workplace wellness in clinics leads to better outcomes for patients.
A more engaged workforce offers greater opportunity for intrapreneurship: employees willing to take ownership and responsibility and introduce innovation to an area of your clinic despite not having an actual ownership stake. (If you’re looking to learn more about how to cultivate intrapreneurship in your clinic, check out this podcast episode with Ascend 2022 presenter Brian Gallagher.)
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3. You’re missing out on patients.
You’ve flung your doors open for patients to come streaming in… except maybe that stream is more of a slow trickle. You’ve put the work into building a strong practice that does good work, but most potential patients that aren’t referrals are unaware of your existence.
The Solution: Marketing
Marketing might not be your forte, but it is an essential part of any business that wants to attract and retain new clients. Marketing your clinic doesn’t have to be a major expense for practices operating on a tighter budget, either. There are some finance-friendly marketing strategies to boost your reach, including:
- Building an optimized, SEO-friendly website;
- Enhancing your business’ online profile;
- Promoting your services on Facebook and other social media;
- Emailing existing or lapsed patients to motivate them to return, and
- Becoming a thought leader in industry publications.
Marketing your practice also requires you to know who you are as a business and what kind of patients you’re looking to pitch your services to as you’re promoting yourself. There’s likely a number of other clinics in your area; why should prospective patients choose you over one of the others? It’s a question you need to be able to answer before you can expect patients to do likewise.
Give your practice’s marketing strategy the modern refresh it needs—or build your first marketing plan from scratch—with this free guide.
4. You’re burned out.
You’ve worked yourself to the point of exhaustion, and the only reward for your efforts is more of the same for weeks and months to come. For as much as you love what you do, it’s a struggle to make your way to the office for another draining day.
The Solution: Time Management
While it’s true that you play a vital role at your practice, you simply can’t do everything and be everywhere as you might like. That’s why it’s crucial for those in private practice to make better use of the time they do have, while also setting aside some amount of time for themselves and their mental health.
If you’re struggling with time management, you can check out this webinar on how to better manage your time. Some of the top tips are:
- Grouping your different types of work (or non-work) together during the week
- Determining what tasks you can hand off to others
- Hiring great people and putting the right team structure around them
- Empowering others to take on responsibility in your absence
It might seem counterintuitive, but setting barriers and doing less can make the work you’re doing better and more focused. And there’s a good argument to be made that both your staff and your patients deserve to get the best you have to offer.
Along those lines, you should be mindful to watch against burnout from any of your staff as well. You can implement flexible hours or additional PTO to try and give staff a chance to get away and recharge before coming back rested and motivated. Demonstrating yourself that it’s alright to step away when you need a break is an important part of setting the culture of your clinic.
You’re bound to make some missteps in the course of managing your private practice; whether it’s a startup or an established, successful business, no one gets it right all of the time. But as any small business owner can attest, the key to long-term success is recognizing mistakes, correcting them, and working to make sure you’re focused on improving.