Why adaptability must be part of your practice strategy

Much of this week's issue of FiercePracticeManagement focuses on evolution--of patients, healthcare organizations and the tools at their disposal--to adapt, re-strategize and update themselves again.

For physician practices that believe they do a superb job of caring for patients, as they have perhaps for generations, the pressure to emulate the likes of Walmart and Teladoc may seem unfair, insulting even. How can a doc-in-a-box (or literally an image of one via machine) deliver the kind of hands-on, personal care as a doctor's office?

It's almost like comparing apples and oranges, yet even attempting as much could be a moot point for many of today's healthcare consumers. As reported in one of this week's top stories, patients who use Yelp, for example, base their ratings on how they feel they've been treated. Leading sources of dissatisfaction include long wait times, difficulty of getting an appointment, billing errors, poor physician bedside manner or unprofessional staff.

The new competitors on the scene have done little to reinvent medical care, but they have honed in on these well-known sources of frustration and developed solutions. It's important to note, too, that retailers have also faced, and responded to, market pressures to evolve.

For health systems, such as Geisinger in Danville, Pennsylvania, that moved into the retail space, adaptability appears to be a key component of their strategy. As Steve Tracy, associate vice president of continuum of care at Geisinger, told FPM for our recent special report, the system has paid attention to lessons along the way.

For example, he said, "we've learned that to deliver quality care, the retail site has to change. It's not just one room. It's more about having a healthcare setting within a retail setting. That's the best of both worlds."

In today's healthcare market, it's not necessarily the best use of your energy to try to persuade health consumers that one world is better. In other words, while it may very well be true that your practice offers experience and expertise patients can't find anywhere else, those differentiators might stay lost on people if you don't respond to what they're telling you they want.

Every practice, market and patient population is different. No two "best of both worlds" will look the same. To define that vision for your practice takes not just homework, but also a willingness to adapt based on what you've learned. It means taking criticism less personally and looking at it as vital information to help remove barriers from the relationship your practice could have with its community. Even if it's pretty solid as is, there's always something that could be better.

Remember, a call to improve is not an insult. Just as you might ask your patients to push out of their comfort zone because you believe in them and want to see them reach their health potential, those of us who believe in physician practices are also nagging because we care. - Deb (@PracticeMgt)