Doctors and managers at table discussion 799 x 600 px
Photo source: 123RF

It is important to evaluate whether you want to consolidate your medical practice’s position or find ways to grow your practice. If you decide that your priority is growth then you need to understand your growth options and plan carefully in order to succeed.

Growth has its risks, however, the right strategy can deliver stability, security, and long-term profits. Before you decide how to proceed, you need to assess the current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your practice. And you need to know how well it’s equipped to handle them.

Only after you thoroughly understand your practice’s current position, should you move on to the next stage: building a strategy for growth.

The importance of medical practice growth

Your medical practice’s focus changes as it moves beyond the start-up phase. Identifying opportunities for growth becomes a priority to ensure the practice’s sustainability.

You can measure growth by looking at your key statistics including,

  • revenue
  • profits
  • patient volume
  • market share

However, determining which measure delivers the most accurate picture of your practice’s performance depends on two things:

  • your specialty
  • what stage the practice has reached

In general, a combination of top-line revenue and bottom-line profit is the most balanced way to measure growth.

Where should you begin to assess your growth options?

Even if you are happy with your current performance, it is important to keep looking for ways to develop. If you don’t, you risk allowing your competitors the room to grow and take market share from you. This could seriously weaken your position. Going for growth may, therefore, begin with a consolidation of your current markets.

To devise a successful growth strategy, you need to know exactly what shape your medical practice is in. This will help you to ensure your practice is properly structured to make the growth strategy you choose a viable option.

Consolidate your existing performance

While you may be spending more time and resources on developing the practice, you need to be sure that the core of the business is still performing well. It is vital not to neglect your existing patient base as this will underpin your growth and provide the cash flow you will need during this phase.

Timing is critical to the success of any growth strategy.

Answers to the following key questions will help you judge if the time is right to embark on a growth strategy:

  • Could your practice cope with expansion or is it working at full capacity?
  • Do you have the resources and systems in place to carry on your existing practice while targeting expansion elsewhere?
  • If new initiatives are likely to disrupt existing performance, how will you ensure your patients don’t lose out?

You may have to consider one or more the following options:

  • adding additional staffing
  • refining clinical processes and equipment
  • outsourcing certain tasks

Having a robust practice infrastructure will give you the flexibility to pursue a growth strategy.

Options to Grow Your Practice

1. Increasing Market Share

If you’re looking to increase market share, it’s important to make sure your business is in good shape first. To increase market share, a medical practice has to take patients from its competitors or attract new patients. Achieving this requires a thorough understanding of both your own patient base and that of rival practices and hospitals.

Related article: How Competitive Analysis Can Help You Grow Your Medical Practice

Having the answers to the following questions will help you build a comprehensive picture of your market and your competitors and put you in a stronger position to win a bigger market share.

  • Who are your existing patients? Are there any other patient demographics that may require your clinical skills or services and that you haven’t targeted before?
  • What are your competitors’ strengths? Do you have these too? If not, why not – and should you have them?
  • Why do patients seek care from your competitors? What advantages do you have over your rivals that may attract their patients? How can you communicate so that your competitors’ patients seek care from your practice instead?
  • What is your unique selling point?
  • Are there patients who have stopped coming to your practice? Do you know why? If not, you may want to ask them.

2. Diversification

Many small medical practices grow by taking opportunities to diversify, although there are risks because of limited resources on all fronts. Practices should weigh the risks and costs of opting for growth carefully against the benefits.

Diversification can take several forms, including:

      • Adding new, related products or services to existing patients
      • Identifying new markets for existing services
      • Considering new services for new markets

Deciding how and when to diversify depends on you having:

      • Thorough market and patient research for the new product or service
      • A clear development strategy — including trying a new product or service for a short test period with prototypes and test marketing before totally committing to the new project
      • Efficient clinical and business operations that can cope with the added demands

Generally speaking, diversifying with similar services and selling them to a familiar patient demographic is less risky than creating a service for a completely new patient demographic.

3. Partnerships, Mergers, and Acquisitions, Joint Ventures

You can also expand your medical practice by joining forces with another physician group. This can create more shared decision-making and possible management and staff issues to resolve. However, there can be clear advantages.

Successful co-operation can deliver:

      • More resources
      • Sharing of the managerial load
      • Larger skills and talent base
      • A bigger pool of patients
      • Increase in the catchment area
      • Reduced risk

It is important to be very careful who you link up with.  An agreement defining the terms of the partnership or joint venture is essential and further legal protection is advisable.

The bottom line on the best way to grow your practice

Be sure your practice is structured in a way that will allow you to grow without jeopardizing the care experience of your existing patients. Then, do your homework so that you understand your practice’s strengths weaknesses and current market position. Only then should you systematically explore all of your options for the growth of your practice.

You can find all of Nick Hernandez’s articles on TDWI here.

 


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This article was originally published on 12/18/18. It was reviewed and updated for republication on 5/11/20

Nick Hernandez, MBA, FACHE

Nick Hernandez, MBA, FACHE is the CEO and founder of ABISA, a consultancy specializing in strategic healthcare initiatives.

Since founding ABISA in 2007, his emphasis has been on developing and maintaining a strong relationship with physicians and identifying areas for business opportunity and support. The company’s client list includes physician groups, hospital systems, healthcare IT organizations, venture capitalists, private equity firms, and hedge fund managers.

Nick is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a former Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. He holds MBA degrees in both Operations Management and Information Technology & E-Business Management from Wake Forest University. He is Board Certified in Healthcare Management and has been named a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

He is a frequent guest lecturer and is often quoted in the national media. He has consulted with clients in multiple countries and has over 20 years of leadership and operations experience. Nick is a Subject Matter Expert in business strategy, practice management, telemedicine, health IT, and oncology.

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