Set out a plan for attaining your long-term goals

Here are some tips from an expert

You know all the ins and outs of your practice and what you want to do. How do you decide how to accomplish those goals? Here are some answers from Peter Lucash, president and chief executive officer of Lucash & Co., a Charleston, SC, consulting firm, and author of the Medical Practices Business Plan Workbook.

If the physicians in your office feel they are working too hard, you might consider hiring a new physician or limiting new patients. Or if you want to market your practice, you might consider low-key advertising or public speaking engagements by a member of your practice. One practice Lucash worked with decided to advertise with an emphasis on education. Among the advertisements were signs and symptoms to watch out for, reminders of immunizations, what to do when you have chest pain, and when you need to see a physician.

But if your practice specializes in elective surgery, such as cosmetic or ophthalmologic surgery, you might consider a different kind of advertising with a different marketing purpose. "There are multiple purposes in this kind of advertising. You identify yourself with people who will remember you when they are looking for a physician and you educate patients about when it’s valuable to come to you," Lucash says.

If someone in your practice enjoys public speaking, you might consider making him or her available to civic organizations or other groups in town. If problems are occurring in collections, emphasize the importance of good cash flow to your staff. "The staff needs the tools and guidance and direction to make your practice successful. People respond very quickly to wherever management puts the emphasis," Lucash says. For instance, if you emphasize to the staff that they should collect past-due bills, they will do it, he says.

Take a tip from other professionals and consider investing in tools that enable you to improve your practice, Lucash says. For instance, a dentist rarely lets a patient walk out the door without scheduling a check-up six months later. "Physicians don’t think that way, nor do they set up their computer systems to handle that," Lucash adds.

[Editor’s note: Lucash’s book Medical Practices Business Plan Workbook may be ordered from Lucash & Company, 4 Carriage Lane, Suite 406-C, Charleston, SC 29407. Telephone: (843) 401-0900. E-mail: plucash@awod.com. The cost is $55 plus $2.50 shipping and handling. Master Card and Visa are accepted.]