Reimagining the Wheel
How to add innovative ideas to your practice.
By Kim Stamp, PPS Certified Administrator
Historically, the definition of innovation involved new concepts or products being introduced.
In today’s business market, the definition has morphed to include the application of better solutions to meet existing market needs, or utilizing current practices more effectively. In this article, we’ll look at ways to keep ourselves relevant in an ever-changing health care environment, and also at ways we can foster a positive and engaging work environment for our employees. Let’s first consider how we can utilize innovation as a way to both increase our numbers and ensure solid patient satisfaction.
We’ve all heard the expression “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” and while that can be good advice, we can re-imagine it! One way to incorporate innovation into our practices is to re-purpose what we are already doing in such a way that it offers a fresh perspective. Health care consumers have become increasingly savvy as they seek to understand their choices and the financial impact those choices have. It is no longer “good enough” for a patient that a physician has recommended a place to receive therapy, especially with a copay as high as $50 to $75 for each visit! Patients are looking for a positive, engaging experience, and it is up to us, as administrators, to chart a course that does just that. A couple of years ago a number of top CEOs were asked about the most important leadership qualities to ensure success in the next five years. The most commonly cited trait was creativity.1 In order for us to stay in the forefront of therapy services, we need to consider innovation as one key factor to our success.
If your clinicians and front office staff are already offering great care and superior customer service, look at ways to engage your patients by keying in on what matters most to them. Simply asking a patient what one thing they are missing out on due to their injury or condition and then shaping your language to address that issue can make all the difference regarding your patient’s motivation for continuing therapy. If your patient is concerned with a high copay, look at modalities that are effective in shorter periods of time, and then explain to your patient that it’s your goal to see marked progress with fewer visits. In doing either, or both, of these things you’ve connected with your patient on a level that is meaningful to them.
Increasing numbers can be easily done by thinking outside the box. Looking for ways to partner with those in your community can create a strong brand and drive patients to your door as well, all by re-purposing what you are already doing well—caring for patients. Our administrative team has effectively established relationships with both a local symphony and several industrial sites. We use the terms “musical athlete” and “industrial athlete” when addressing how we can serve these two populations, and people have responded very well to these terms. We’ve been able to provide massage and therapy services during rehearsal times for the symphony, and regularly lead strengthening and ergonomics classes at three industrial locations. The feedback and recognition we’ve received have been phenomenal. These innovative connections have resulted in paid contracts to provide these services, as well as bringing in new patients who needed more than the weekly classes could offer.
Being innovative can also bolster your relationships with staff, creating a better work environment and a higher degree of employee loyalty. This is especially true if you employ younger staff who become a bit bored when they are not regularly challenged. Take the time to brainstorm ways to encourage and incentivize your staff to reach the goals you’ve set for your clinic(s). Recently, we found that our cancellation and no-show rates were rising, and no amount of talking to the front office staff seemed to make a difference. The admin team met to brainstorm ways to challenge them to take ownership of the schedule, and eventually we rolled out an incentive plan with very clear goals, directions, and rewards. The result was a significant decline in our cancel/no-show rates and a marked “buy-in” by our front office staff. Win-win!
As a manager, it’s important to me that our staff feel inspired because I believe inspiration—or the lack thereof—is communicated non-verbally to our patients. Additionally, an engaged employee tends to be a productive employee, and one who gives back to the company and celebrates the success of the business. One of the ways we have done this is by facilitating conversations in staff meetings that ask the question “What’s your why?” If an employee has a clear idea of why they come to work each day they will be more likely to contribute and less likely to mindlessly clock in and out every day. Not only does this lead to greater longevity, but it also subtly speaks value to our staff, which ultimately is good for business!
As you seek out innovative ideas for your practice, keep in mind that innovations need to be solutions to actual issues in your company, and they need to provide value to your business. Similar to data, innovation has to have meaning for you in order for it to be effective. It’s also important to go beyond creating innovative plans for your practice to practical considerations. Once you brainstorm possible ideas, take the time to think about how you’ll carry them out and what kind of resources you’ll need to make these ideas a reality. Consider the financial outlay and what the possible return on your investment will be and then ask yourself if it’s worth it.
If you are looking at innovation as re-purposing what you are already doing well in order to provide a fresh perspective, there are some simple things you can consider doing to achieve that. Take a look at your branding efforts, including your logo, website, and tagline. Are they outdated and boring? Or are they fresh and relevant? I recently looked at a competitor’s website and found that they still listed an employee who left their company five years ago to come and work with us (including a photo and bio)! In today’s multimedia-conscious society, an outdated website is off-putting to prospective patients. Consider incentive plans for your employees to engage them in solving a problem you are having, like high cancellation and no-show rates. Lastly, look at partnering with community businesses who would benefit from therapy services to keep their employees healthy. These are just a few easily accomplished ideas that could provide a positive impact on your clinic for years to come.
1 Skillikorn N. What is innovation? 15 experts share their innovation definition. www.ideatovalue.com.
Kim Stamp is a PPS Certified Administrator and the Regional Business Manager for South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy. She also serves as president of the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association. She can be reached at Kim.Stamp@IRGPT.com.