Designing a successful healthcare business strategy can be notoriously complex.
Private organizations must balance costs and revenues with the desire to provide excellent care and the best professional medical/research teams on the market. Managing financials for growth and profitability while also investing in first-rate talent and technology is a delicate balancing act—especially since human lives are involved. For-profit healthcare strategies must always remember that the patient is the top priority.
Public healthcare infrastructure must grapple with gaps in funding and overregulation that may limit innovation or dictate the strategic initiatives that can or can’t be implemented. All the while, the political pendulum makes future years even less predictable than in private healthcare. But you’ve got to work with the cards you’re given.
The eight ideas below can complement a sound business strategy in healthcare by addressing key areas such as employee engagement, cost reductions, leadership, and physician referrals.
Employee Engagement Strategy: Identify Opposing Mindsets and Give a Voice to the Front Line
Declining healthcare employee engagement has put the healthcare industry under intense pressure to find productivity solutions and cultural motivators. Salaries, wages, and benefits are often a healthcare organization’s most significant expenses, but still, the industry continues to report engagement at a low level (only 44% of the U.S. hospital workforce overall is highly engaged, for example).
MedStar Health, a large healthcare organization with 10 hospitals and 100+ clinics and offices in the Maryland and D.C. area, is fighting this trend. They’ve invested significant resources into “soft skills” training for leadership to help provide consistent cultural shifts that motivate employees to buy in.
Here’s another possible example of a soft skill strategy to help: At your next meeting regarding a patient experience initiative, ask the assembled team, “What beliefs do you have that could prevent this from succeeding?” Give the night shift nurses, techs, custodial staff, and other critical front-line stakeholders in the room a safe forum to voice their opinions. By learning about their beliefs and mindsets, allowing them to weigh in, and addressing those needs in the plan, you’re more likely to affect a consistent and lasting change.
Also, consider making the goal-setting process collaborative and intuitive with well-integrated software linking employee evaluation to top tier business strategy.
Cost Reduction Strategy: Increase Wellness/Prevention Resources
Food is the number one cause of poor health in America, with dietary habits causing an estimated 700,000 deaths each year from heart disease, diabetes, immune function, and more. And yet, federal research spending only devotes about $1.5 billion on nutrition, compared to about $60 billion on drugs, biotech, and medical devices.
To save costs in healthcare, try to focus on a strategy of reducing the primary drivers of poor health. Increase the resources you devote to wellness, nutrition, and prevention initiatives/education for patients. PwC Health Research Institute reported in 2016 that patients want advice on weight management and diet therapies. Fitness and smoking cessation programs, among others, are a powerful strategy for long-term cost reduction in healthcare.
Patient Satisfaction Strategy: Audit Front Desk Processes
Your front desk is often both your first and last point of contact, which means it is a critical part of reaching your potential patient satisfaction in healthcare. Follow-up calls after appointments can go a long way to improving the patient experience in hospitals, building positive relationships, and encouraging word-of-mouth referrals.
Consider these elements as you audit your front desk process:
- Training time for staff
- Length of phone hold times
- Any evidence of patient confusion/misinformation points
- Calls-to-action that get patients to book appointments
- Reminder calls and emails for follow-up appointments
- Speed of scheduling system
- Personal touches (e.g., birthday cards, asking about their families)
Leadership Strategy: “Double-Hat” Top Talent When You’re Short on Leadership Prospects
In a smaller healthcare system, you might be able to rely on a strong team of four or five “rock star” leadership executives who manage one to two hundred employees. In most cases, a smaller team in such a setting is more agile and likely to stay on the same page.
Larger organizations with perhaps dozens of hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and more require a much larger leadership umbrella. A hierarchy of leaders takes ownership over each of the discrete elements in the system. While it’s best to have a terrific person in every role, the reality is that you sometimes find yourself with more leadership positions than great leaders.
Don’t shy away from “double-hatting” your top leadership talent in these cases. An experienced Chief Information Officer (CIO) with incredible discipline and drive may be well-suited to also act as the Chief Risk Officer (CRO). Rather than rely upon two less-than-stellar leaders managing each department separately, you’d have a versatile individual with great potential overseeing both until another worthy leader arrives in your system.
Marketing Strategy: Optimize the Online Patient Experience
Today’s healthcare environment demands a responsive website that adjusts to a variety of devices and has a consistently impressive and intuitive first impression. As a result, it’s crucial that your online patient experience has the pieces in place to prevent patients from leaving and looking for another practice where the website is easier to understand (or quicker to get them to the information they need).
As you perform an audit of your online patient experience, don’t forget about these necessities:
- Optimize for mobile
- Test the load speeds on each page
- Devote time to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Backlink to main pages to keep patients on the site
- Make sure the user can navigate to what they want in only a few seconds/clicks
- Write copy and use images that resonate with and represent your target patients
- While you’re working on digital strategy, gather healthcare marketing ideas for a catchy online campaign
Referral Strategy: Hire a Physician Liaison
A consistently top strategy for organically bringing in new patients is through doctor referrals. The front desk staff in a healthcare setting is too often asked to network with the doctors you’re hoping will refer your practice. There is simply too much outreach, phone triaging, information management, data entry, and record keeping in the front desk’s day-to-day for them to properly focus on this important initiative.
A full-time physician liaison can maximize your potential by doctor referrals. You can best maintain positive contact with your top referral sources by having one individual whose sole duty each day is to meet with (or go out to eat with) prospective referral bases and travel between hospitals and outpatient offices. Have your physician liaison schedule a steady flow of visits, calls, and meetings that will fuel clearly defined quarterly goals to show referral growth.