Psychology of Success

Firefighters, Fear, and the Future of Your Medical Group

The large red machine lumbered forward from behind, lights flashing. A fire engine heading off to a fire.

As horrible as a fire is — the danger involved, the risk of loss to the home or business owner — there’s also an inherent opportunity: an opportunity to rebuild, to renovate, and to renew. The stories of the phoenix or of Noah and the flood.

I’m not analogizing the horror of having your house burn down to some business situation. Rather, it’s to the action of the firefighters. To the fact they rush off to face the challenge of fighting the fire.

In healthcare today, whether it’s on the systemic level or the micro level, there are real business dangers. Many react to the danger much like they would if they were turned into a firefighter for the day: with absolute panic.

But, there’s opportunity inherent in healthcare business risks and fears. Many medical group leaders simply don’t see it.

Certainly, in either case, an actual fire or the fire of healthcare business uncertainty, the fears are real – it’s what you do in face of those fears, how you choose to act. That’s in large part a matter of perception.

I would assume that firefighters are still afraid of fire, but that at some point in their training, they way they view the situation evolves. It’s much the same for medical group leaders. It’s not denying risk, not denying the impact of significant consolidation, and not denying the other major changes impacting physicians and healthcare businesses. But it’s the evolution of how those situations are viewed. The risk remains but the opportunity burns through.

Start training to see the opportunity as opposed to only the risk.

This works on the group level as well as on the individual level. Within groups, choose the leaders who can and will focus on opportunity not just on preserving the status quo, or worse, on shrinking back on everything due to fear.

It’s also a function of group governance to the extent that groups must allow their leaders to lead, as opposed to choking them back, always restricting them to the zone of safety, the zone of the usual, which today is far more dangerous. (Get The Medical Group Governance Matrix, either on Amazon or for free, here.)

How do you view risk today? Do you view it as something to run from, something that you must simply try to minimize?

Or are you willing to run toward the fire, to maximize your opportunity?

Comment or contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Mark F. Weiss

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Psychology of Success

Walking the Talk: Avoid the High Cost of Failure Work to Your Medical Group

On factory floors and in managers’ cubicles, they call it “failure work,” the wasteful effort that must be devoted to fixing something that wasn’t made or done properly the first time. It’s a significant drain on resources.

You can think about this in medical terms, for example, the cost of malpractice.

But it’s important that medical group leaders also think about this concept in another, more everyday way, one not particularly focused on your team’s medical practice skills, but rather, on their behavior and interpersonal performance, whether directed towards other members of the team, patients, hospital administrators, and so on.

Many groups have policies pertaining to, for example, harassment and the like, written from the perspective of what’s prohibited. Some, but fewer, also have policies written from an affirmative viewpoint, on how to do or approach a certain thing, such as on the elements that must be included in greeting a patient or in transmitting a report to a referring physician.

It’s one thing to set policy, even well polished, grammatically correct pronouncements that are printed out, placed in the policy manual, and acknowledged in writing. But it’s something entirely different for a medical group’s leadership and senior members to demonstrate, through their own behavior, the embodiment of those policies.

Years ago, I stood in a long line at a Bank of America branch, waiting for a teller. Of the dozen or so teller windows, only three or four were staffed. I waited and waited and waited.

On the wall behind the tellers, in large gold metal lettering, was something to the effect of “Customer Service Is Our Priority.” Yet, between the tellers and the wall, managers of some sort sat at their desks doing what sure looked like nothing. They weren’t demonstrating customer service, they were only mouthing it.

Walking the talk of what’s expected is a far better lesson for your medical group’s physicians and other staff in what’s expected than simply putting what’s expected on the wall or on the shelf.

In a world in which patient satisfaction surveys and medical staff surveys can be used against you as bludgeons (and can be used by you as tools), in a world in which errors in human judgment and interpersonal behavior can cost a group a $100 million relationship, the damage caused by the failure to live and act policies can be fatal to your medical group’s business future.

Note that this is not merely defensive, for example, designed to stop suits by patients for inappropriate behavior by one of your physicians. It has an affirmative business purpose as well in terms of managing contractual and interpersonal relationships that enure to your and your medical group’s financial benefit.

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Mark F. Weiss

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Psychology of Success

Why You Need to Hack Yourself

Do you remember the first time that you heard a playback of your recorded voice?

You were probably surprised. “Is that really how I sound?” Yes, it is.

As if audio isn’t harsh enough, I remember the first time we shot one of the Wisdom. Applied. videos. I was convinced that the saying that the camera adds 5 pounds was a lie; it must be 15.

The same thing’s true about your medical practice or healthcare business. In fact, not only is it very difficult to know what it sounds and looks like to outsiders (your patients, customers, referral sources, and business associates), it’s difficult for you to know what’s actually going on inside of the business.

You’re just too close, too acclimated, and too busy to notice.

If you think about it, we’ve all seen examples of this. The medical group that loses its exclusive contract (“It happened without warning!”), the practice that stops getting referrals from Dr. X (“She just stopped sending me patients!”), or the medical group that has an internal revolt (“No one complained about anything!”).

But there’s a really elegant way to have your eyes and ears opened. Then, armed with an accurate image of reality, you can take any necessary corrective action.

I’m talking about the use of a “red team,” one or more individuals drawn from outside or even inside of your group or business who are charged with trying to find your weaknesses.

As you might have realized, so called “white hat” hackers, those hired by a company to attempt to breach its own IT systems, are a form of “red teaming” that we read about in the popular and business press.

Within healthcare, depending on your practice or business, the red team’s tactics might range from posing as patients, to riding shotgun with your billers, to devising a faux plan to steal your hospital contract.

You can assign someone from within your practice to play on the red team. Even better, you can assign someone from the outside to play that role. Or, you can continue to have a blind spot.

Sure, it’s work to ferret out the truth. But it’s much preferable to an actual competitor, whether from the outside or from the inside, engaging in those efforts and then taking your business.

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Mark F. Weiss

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Psychology of Success

Escape the Prison of Cost Based Thinking

Many medical groups, especially those run as a club or collection of colleagues, fear spending any money because they view spending as a cost. They view it as decreasing the cash available for distribution and their business is all about current cashflow. They have a pure lifestyle business.

Perhaps that business played out well for 20 years. But in today’s market, it’s a losing proposition.

Many physician groups are afraid of what’s going to happen in the future. Continued hospital-controlled healthcare. Perhaps even government controlled healthcare, especially the looming single payer system if Clinton is elected president.

Your only hope of breaking out of those constraints is to become aggressive in doing deals and in finding new ways of growing your business — and that requires spending money.

If your mindset is that spending money is a cost then you’re going to be constrained every time, by yourself, by your colleagues: “We need to keep up cash-flow.”

Instead you have to consider spending on your future as an investment in yourself and as an investment in your group. It’s a mindset change, but it is incredibly powerful.

Try this: Ask yourself what you or your practice or medical group is worth. Now can you honestly say that you wouldn’t invest $100,000 or even $200,000 to protect that value?

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Mark F. Weiss

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