By Michael Curry
The overwhelming challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic caused medical practices all over the world to pivot their management strategies or accelerate ones already in the works. Although the emergencies attending the pandemic may be subsiding, many practices rightfully have their eyes on the future and are hard at work determining what their practice will look like in a post-COVID world.
As the CEO of Apex Physics Partners, a national medical physics company, I’ve seen firsthand how practices are changing, and I’d like to share some of my observations and beliefs on the future of medical practice management.
Absorbing Customer Feedback and Ensuring Transparency
Going forward, successful medical practices must have the willingness and infrastructure to collect and absorb customer feedback. While satisfying regulators’ requirements may have been enough at one time, it isn’t anymore. Today, practices must have systems that enable them to issue surveys, perform quarterly business reviews, and develop customer advocacy and advisory committees. It’s critical to get feedback from customers in real time, and it’s equally critical to commit resources to addressing feedback.
Transparency can be a tremendous asset. Customers see great value in understanding what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Technology can help a lot in this area. As we’ve seen at Apex, a digital format can allow customers to track in real time all the key components related to medical physics services we provide. Transparency can also help regulators see that your practice is not only meeting standards but exceeding them. Every practice has problems; instead of refusing to acknowledge them or hiding them from shareholders, a practice must show what it’s doing to address them.
Meeting the Demands of Size and Scale
The healthcare industry has reached a point where size and scale aren’t just “nice-to-haves” but must-haves. A report from Deloitte shows how health systems are rapidly consolidating—in late 2020, the top ten health systems controlled 24 percent of the market share. And as health systems are increasing in size, so are the scope of the conversations.
When I started at Kruger-Gilbert Health Physics, the company that would become Apex, the initial conversations we had with clients were at the facility level. That has moved to the regional level, and we’re even having conversations at a national level.
In these conversations, national organizations operating in multiple regions set expectations, and they want to make sure a health system has the resources, staffing, and systems to meet their expectations across multiple markets. In certain instances, these national organizations may request a health system to have the flexibility to offer bespoke programs that match the internal goals of the organization and meet or even exceed regulatory standards or standard operating procedures. Any practice that operates on a large scale or aspires to must be prepared for these conversations.
Making Subject Matter Experts True Partners
At Apex, we’ve seen a greater emphasis on medical physicists as an integral part of our management team. While some medical physicists seem content in focusing on their areas of expertise, many are eager to contribute their ideas on matters related to management. Getting buy-in from subject matter experts and making them feel like true partners can yield numerous benefits for any health system, including ensuring that the system is set up so that the medical professionals can do their best work.
Another way to raise the bar across a health system’s entire portfolio is to invest deeply in continuing education for medical professionals. Yet another is to develop and implement a peer-review process for medical professionals to ensure a higher standard of scholarship in fields that have previously not explored the benefits of such processes. Apex has implemented both of these strategies and received glowing feedback from medical physicists, who—as a result of these strategies—feel more like true partners.
Weaving subject matter experts into the fabric of management can also relieve some of the administrative challenges that any growing and consolidating health system might face. Being able to lean on subject matter experts in key areas is critical for any system growing in scope and complexity.
Increasing Prices as You Increase Value
Pricing is a sensitive topic in healthcare, especially given the resource-constrained environment we find ourselves in as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. People are looking at each budget line item with a more intense level of scrutiny, and that’s why, from a positioning standpoint, doing the bare minimum can be a risk.
People are willing to pay for value, but they’re not willing to pay more for the same. Thus, medical practices must prove that they’re adding value to healthcare delivery. The ability to provide coverage across a large platform and giving the client real-time visibility through a client portal are examples of value-adds that people are willing to pay for.
The past eighteen months have been enormously difficult for medical practices all over the world. A successful practice will not only bounce back from the challenges of the pandemic but also mine those challenges for valuable lessons on management and the delivery of care. What’s worked for Apex may not work for every practice, but we feel the management lessons we’ve learned in recent months and years can at least help move the conversation.