Nowadays, private practices are increasingly being established (54% of radiologists polled reported to be working in one!). Many healthcare professionals, particularly within the medical imaging sector, are endeavoring the exciting venture of setting up their own practice—a venture that provides its share of what can be daunting trials to a fledgling business owner.
However, with a solid planning and business organization strategy in place, many common challenges and pitfalls of setting up a private practice can be properly avoided, and in so doing, a strong foundation can be laid that will ensure the basis of a sustainably successful and resilient business.
Plan the Work, Work the Plan
One such planning strategy tool is The Five Pillars of Excellence, as demonstrated by University of Florida Health here. Originally developed by the Studer Group, this planning methodology focuses on five key organizational areas – Service, People, Quality, Finance, Growth – and enables healthcare leaders and business owners to set specific benchmarks towards achieving consistently positive results in patient experiences, clinical outcomes, financial growth as well as employee and stakeholder engagement:
- Organizational agility
- Long-term success
Understanding the method behind “the plan”, now let’s dive deeper into each of these pillars and how medical imaging practice owners-to-be can successfully incorporate them into their business plans accordingly:
A penultimate keystone behind any healthcare-oriented business, customer service must be front and center in a medical imaging business owner’s consideration. Assured successful achievement related to this pillar involves a mindful deliberation of elements including customer service policies and protocols, accessibility of the facility and the services it offers, and satisfaction metrics for patients as well as referring physicians.
Starting with customer service, a business owner must take into account the optimization of patient engagement and how their business will deliver consistently positive patient experiences. A good place to start is by mapping out a patient’s service journey—not just while they are visiting in the facility, but before they arrive for their appointment as well. How easy can a patient make or change appointments, or connect with front-end staff for any questions or concerns regarding their scheduled procedure, or provide the information the facility needs to efficiently facilitate the intake process?
Once the procedure has been performed, the next key item to address in developing a service-driven practice is, “How can patients and physicians safely receive and have secured access to the information they need, when they need it?”. Investing in innovative solutions that offer seamless, secure sharing of images and reports will go a long way in putting a business ahead of the medical imaging business game!
Establishing a strong service model also entails increasing its scope of available referring physician expertise. In developing substantial relationships with referring physicians towards nurturing a referral network, new medical imaging practices can effectively set the course in positioning themselves as healthcare service providers of choice.
And lastly, a question new medical imaging practice owners should ask themselves is, “How accessible are the services my business provides to all patients who require them?”. In an effort towards making medical imaging more accessible, many healthcare organizations are increasingly expanding their service reach into their local communities through leveraging state-of-the-art, mobile technologies.
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The greatest asset of any successful business is people behind it. New medical imaging practice owners need to prioritize ensuring the right people are recruited and retained while actively nurturing a vibrant workplace culture that filters into the provision of consistent, positive service experiences for patients.
An integral place to start is the development of clear, impactful mission and vision statements that will inspire buy-in engagement from both patients, staff, and prospective partners. Easily communicated and comprehensible, these statements are helpful in defining an organization’s identity and long-term goals.
Finding and empowering the best qualified people is no easy task. Yet, with concerted efforts in engaging candidates via focused recruitment and retention activities as well as supplying staff with the proper tools and equipment they need to deliver best-value care, success in these areas can be capably achievable.
Harnessing the emerging reluctance of corporatization among next-generation professionals, many private practices have concentrated their recruitment campaigns to engaging early-career radiologists and medical imaging specialists.
So, you’ve created your team…now what? Though a welcoming workplace culture can look different across businesses, new medical imaging practice owners have a number of tools they can utilize to foster effective employee engagement, including their organization’s mission, vision, and branding.
Delivering high quality value-based care is the desired achievement for every practice established. Keeping patient safety at the operational core, new medical imaging practice owners need to take a selection of key factors into account when building their practice’s care and operations models. Some of these quality driving factors include:
- Patient Privacy & Data Security – Whether HIPAA or other privacy and security standards, understanding best practices in the stewardship of patient health information (PHI) is crucial to any healthcare-related business. In the face of growing digital security threats during a time of electronic health records (EHR), many new medical imaging business owners actively invest in innovative data protection solutions such as cloud-based software applications and platforms. These solutions are tremendous resources in safeguarding a practice’s data viability, business uptime, reputation…and ultimately, bottom line!
- Industry Compliance – Adherence to latest and legacy in industry standards and protocols is imperative. Business owners planning to build a medical imaging practice should ensure industry compliance is integrated throughout their business’ operational strategy and guidelines, including vendor and partnership management.
- Patient Safety – Safe and valuable clinical experiences are rooted in solid, consistent attention to patient safety. Observance of best practices should be broad across an organization, from the front-office team to the medical imaging professionals performing the procedures.
- Accreditation Processes – A business is only as good as the people behind it. Providing continuing education opportunities for employees to keep their skills current and their accreditations up-to-date, particularly in a technologically dynamic field as medical imaging, translates into long-term, sustainable success for practice owners.
- Effective Communications – The most successful, high-performing medical imaging practices enjoy optimal collaboration and communication between their clinician teams as well as with their patients. Leading-edge image and report sharing technologies bolster superior patient-physician communications by enabling timely identification of patient health needs and diagnoses.
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Between revenue generation, financial processes fostering optimal operational efficiencies and business optimization, and cost analysis, many embarking on the journey of building their own medical imaging business often find themselves overwhelmed by the financial side of things alone! Though there is indeed plenty to consider regarding finance, we’ve curated some of the most essential ones here:
Understand Your Overhead Expenses
To determine a complete idea of the upfront investment in building a medical imaging practice, business planning must include a careful outline of the required fixed capital as well as recurrent annual costs.
Fixed capital costs may entail costs related to the building where the business is expected to be operating from (e.g., leasing rate, new construction and related costs (if applicable), prospective improvement expenses, etc.), pricing for medical imaging equipment and service contracts, and furniture.
Alternately, recurrent annual costs typically refer to regular expenditures that need to take place to run a business. Expenses pertaining to the maintaining of a workforce, billing and benefits systems, and other costs (e.g., utilities).
For a more detailed snapshot of overhead costs involved for the operation of medical imaging practices, view this 2019 MNP LLP mirror study, which was produced for the Alberta Society of Radiologists.
Create a SWOT Analysis
New medical imaging practice owners should unequivocally consider performing a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) analysis as part of the development of their business plan. A SWOT analysis is a tremendous aid in maximizing opportunities and mitigating losses.
Get Smart with Business Intelligence and Analytics
Data analytics and business intelligence have become invaluable business optimization tools in this era of technology-driven modern healthcare. For those seeking to establish a new medical imaging practice, proper evaluation of their business’ data and harnessing the insights it provides to make key informed decisions is fundamental.
Master Budgeting for Your Business
Time is money and knowing how to effectively save on both is essential, particularly for those setting up a new medical imaging business! Proficiency in budgeting in combination with an awareness of safeguarding bottom lines against cost drains are skill sets required to position a fledgling practice for lasting productivity and profitability.
Building up a new business is an involved process in and of itself yet ensuring its viability for into the future can perhaps be considered as the second side of the new-business-owner coin.
As part of developing a concise, well-defined strategic plan, it is beneficial to new imaging practice owners to keep business continuity in mind. Being able to effectively mitigate risks, from natural disasters to digital threats, with a solid understanding of disaster recovery practices helps to nurture as well as safeguard growth objectives.
In conjunction to creating a viable foundation of lasting growth that bolsters resiliency, a business’ long-term strategic planning must also address other change-bearing factors such as industry trends and unprecedented socio-economic impacts.
To support growth infrastructure for any business, marketing occupies a sizeable share of the business development puzzle. Many medical imaging startups fail to hit the mark with customers due to a lack of brand awareness and recognition. Avoiding this drawback calls for a diligent examination of desired target customer demographics including a competitor analysis followed by an exploration of various relevant marketing techniques.
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Building the Foundation for a Patient-Centric Business
Establishing a business model with a patient-centric focus is a crucial step in setting up a new imaging practice for sustainable and long-term success. Key points to consider include:
|Patient Autonomy||Increasingly, patients are asserting their rights in making informed decisions about the medical care they receive. Fostering open communication between doctors and patients via solutions such as patient portals is pivotal in cultivating patient autonomy and trust.|
Maximum Up-time Infrastructure
Digital technology is the linchpin of modern healthcare. Without a reliable network achieving maximum uptime, positive care outcomes and patient satisfaction become impossible. To consolidate an effectively robust system, practice owners should keep the “Five 9s” standard in mind: solutions offering a 99.999% availability will go a long way in safeguarding IT services remain up and running.
|Automation of Ecosystem||It goes without saying that healthcare is a constantly increasing need. To manage most efficiently in the face of this, new practices should look to time-saving automation. Automation-enabled solutions, particularly those equipped for AI, can provide new imaging practices the edge they need to implement patient-centric care delivery while curtailing clinician and resourcing burnout.|
|Universal Platform to Connect Disparate Systems||Different healthcare organizations utilize various types of (often vendor-specific) systems. To mitigate any potentially damaging data transmission and communication issues as well as data leaks (particularly involving PHI!), those building new imaging practices will benefit greatly from exploring vendor-neutral solutions capable of seamlessly and securely connecting to disparate systems.|
|Connectivity from Anywhere||Imaging businesses established today do so in a landscape of a continual upward trend in telehealth services and EHR connectivity strategies. From doctors consulting patients on-the-go to patients seeking the convenience of accessible care, new practice owners stand to benefit in utilizing technological platforms that enable both patient and doctor seamless, secure connectivity from any device, anywhere, as needed.|
|Secure Sharing Mechanisms||In the face of encompassing data protection and privacy regulations, patients are more empowered than ever in making informed decisions on how their personal information is obtained and used. Secure data sharing by way of state-of-the-art technologies such as cloud computing enable new imaging practices to administer reliable patient-centric healthcare.|