I called one of my friends early one evening last week. His phone went straight to voice mail. Curiously he didn’t call me back with half an hour or so per normal. He called me this morning instead. He explained why. Every Wednesday, he and his wife have a “date night” They leave their respective phones at home and go out to eat. Or eat then go to the cinema.
No emails, text or phones interrupting them. They spend time talking to each other.
And that got me thinking.
A couple of years ago I started doing something similar. At the end of each day, I’d put my phone on silent and switched my emails off too. Why?
Because each day I need time to review any opportunities/problems I’ve got to deal with the next day. It also means I can think about an issue at length, leave it overnight ready to be re-thought about on the next day. That stops me making knee jerk reactions and allows time to have a fully considered opinion ready. Rarely will you get an immediate reaction from me. My response to an issue has, therefore, been thought through.
Yet many medical practice managers or indeed consultant surgeons running a practice, don’t stop and think through an issue. They are too busy. But alternatively, they are too busy because they don’t stop and think through the issue.
Sadly I see this all too often when I go meet a potential new client. Many of the issues they are facing have their source in a previous decision. The previous decision itself could well be based on a decision before that one even. One of those decisions in the chain was almost certainly not thought through.
For example: recently I blogged about a group of gynecologists in the West Midlands who, in an effort to stop issues with self-funding patients decided ALL self-funding patients must pay in advance.
Immediately the problem with self-funding patients stopped. Because there weren’t any self-funding patients anymore.
This was a solution to the problem. It worked. Sadly, however, it had some unpleasant side effects i.e. no patients.
Clearly, they hadn’t thought through the consequences of their decision. They had reacted. Yet the reaction caused another problem i.e. no more self-funding patients. That was unfortunate as 23% of their practice was derived from self-funding patients.
The above example is indicative of the cause of many of the issues within that particular practice. It was relatively easy to put the self-funding issue right because I’ve faced that specific challenge a few hundred times previously (email me for how). Getting the practice manager and the three consultants to change their mindset though was much more difficult.
They did change though because they had seen a 100% reduction in self-funder outstanding invoices. Sadly this was at the expense of a 100% reduction in self-funder patients.
They changed not just because I knew the answer. They changed because they realised when I faced that issue previously, I’d allowed myself sufficient time to give it serious thought and consideration before reaching a decision. I implemented a course of action that didn’t put patients off by asking payment in advance but did reduce the number of outstanding self-funder invoices. As a bonus, it stopped the problem with self-funding patients who were DNA too!
And that is why it is important to put the time aside and think through an issue before deciding on a specific course of action.