TV medical drama series (like legal dramas…) can be blamed, and squarely, for a lot of dramatic hoo-has. I mean, life can’t possibly BE like that, right?
But. There is one show that got something right, and that would be Private Practice. No, I am not referencing the characters, but the foundation of the practice itself. In essence, it is the kind of facility Steven Macarounas, Founder & Director of Business Money Life Institute and the Co-Founder and Programme Director, South African Health Business Academy (SAHBA), describes in his keynote at the Smart Health Summit, Day 2.
The medical practice of the future is an amalgamation of moving parts. A constellation of different specialities coming together under one roof to practice integrated medicine. In its well over 100 episodes, Private Practice’s Seaside Health and Wellness centre houses a fertility specialist, psychiatrist, paediatrician, alternative medicine specialist and someone practising internal medicine. The doctors own shares. Enter Macarounas’ vision. The practice of the future meets the underserved needs of the patient and the practice. And a happy doctor is a good doctor because they can calibrate business, money and lifestyle. That way, on their deathbed, the doctor does not have the biggest dying regret of all time – wishing they had spent more time with their family.
“Any reimagining of how we do business is driven by the client’s needs and wants. The old paradigm of diagnose and treat has been changed to predict, prevent and manage. What does this mean for you and your business models?” Rather than talk about what patients demand in the future, he would much rather focus on what they are already demanding, but currently not getting. That ranges from integrated communication, information, education, a holistic approach, customer service, engagement, and patients feeling that they have a seat at the decision-making table, down to an integrated treatment plan. Patients’ needs are far more than clinical. The same, he cannot emphasise enough, goes for a doctor’s quality of life. “The reason doctors retire with deep regret is poor business and financial management. Grow from being effective to being successful.”
While a large part of the Smart Health Summit has directly discussed technology, Macarounas’ perspective hints at it and it is this. Prevent a lifestyle crisis while also handling the patient experience. Keep in mind the fact that the end game of a sound medical practice parallels that of any successful business and that is “to sell it.”
Adding that “A sale-ready practice is a practice that works,” he states “Would it surprise you to hear the characteristics of a practice that best serves its patients also offer a path to equity for the doctors as well as the kind of lifestyle I’ve mentioned?” A multidisciplinary practice that consists of different practices is the future. Not solo practice. The latter means most medical practitioners operate in silos. “Not considering ego, none of you are in this for the money because you care about the patient, and yes you want to be compensated. The time is ripe for disruption.”
A multi-partner/group practice thrives because “The reason there hasn’t been an evolution in your business is there is greater demand than there is supply. The biggest reason medicine is broken is because of this double-edged sword. A group practice allows you to incorporate complementary and supportive therapies.” Even better, once you get the ingredients and formula right, you can aspire towards multi-locations. “Get it right once, and it is remarkably easy to cookie cut it and take it to other locations. You can find other doctors, elevate them, give them equity and you have a group, a network. That may be too entrepreneurial for some, but you should know that it is possible. The scalable practice works best. And you give the community what it needs.”
Future-proofing a private practice does need technological tentacles to help run the business. Here’s how. “Think of the most successful business you know around every corner – Mcdonald’s. Emulate that business model. You want systems, policies and procedures where people do not have to think. The more we systematise, the more we have policies and procedures, and the more efficiently the practice is run. The more our medicine is replicable, the better the patient experience.”
Tech can help run everything from thought leadership; “How to engage and motivate staff,” your referrer network; “Accept the patient is yours and that you would rather be part of that journey,”; patient engagement and loyalty programmes, “Addressing unmet and underserved needs of the patient needs to always be top of mind,”; to state of the art rooms – “If there is anything you should be investing money in, it is this.” Incorporating this into marketing is everything. “We have been trained to believe that it (marketing) is evil but what would you call engineering a service offering and addressing it if not marketing?”
All these serve to differentiate one private practice from another. Throw in risk management and e-commerce with an online store that complements the core practice, all stuff he notes is evidence-based and complementary. “Why wouldn’t you do this if patients needed it? If it was a part of the solution. You want businesses that thrive in spite of you, not because of you.”