Finding the Right AIM with Your Practice Priorities

Legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky once claimed that he missed 100 percent of the shots he never took. That’s great advice on persistence from one of the most prolific scorers in hockey history. But Gretzky didn’t shoot the puck every time it touched his stick. This is because the goal of hockey isn’t just to shoot, it’s to score. And in order to do so, you have to shoot the puck accurately toward the net. It’s the same in business in regards to setting the right priorities to reach your goals.

In a nutshell: no goals (priorities), no goals (performance).

Medical practices need to have priorities, too. They need to know how to identify them, how to implement them, and how to measure results. Unfortunately, two of the most common management failings I see in practices today are that too few practices have clearly defined priorities: they don’t know where they’re going. And if they do, they aren’t maximizing their time, effort, and resources in shooting toward those goals: they don’t know how to get there.

What they’ve got is a problem with their AIM. Here’s how to address it and resolve it.


Assess your priorities

Do you know what your practice priorities are? Do you have those priorities prioritized?  When we speak with practice leaders, often we ask what is important to them and list off several possibilities that we see as common across the industry. It isn’t unusual to hear them say, “Yes, yes, yes, that one, and, definitely that one is a priority too…” The issue here is that if EVERYTHING is important and a priority, then NOTHING is truly important and a priority.

Maybe it’s types of visits and particular procedures. Or is operational efficiency or revenue growth your greatest priority? Perhaps it’s type of insurance, referring providers, or the emergent needs of your patients. One thing is certain: Unless you have a clear roadmap to the ultimate focus and destination of your practice, you’re not likely to get there.

I really like Stephen Covey’s book “The Four Disciplines of Execution.” In it he talks about a Wildly Important Goal (aka WIG). The WIG is the main priority and the focus for the organization – and everyone knows it.  Covey summarized it well, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Many a well-intentioned or hard-working provider got distracted or lost his way because he spent more time pursuing less-critical priorities. Be careful that you don’t allow the “better” to interfere with the “best.”


Implement your priorities

Having intentionality and direction is one thing. Utilizing the correct machinery and infrastructure to implement those intentions so you can guide your practice in the right direction is quite another. Not only is the “what” important, but also the “how.”

Let’s say you’ve identified two procedures that are your highest priorities. How are you ensuring that your practice is seeing as many of these cases as possible? What are you doing in scheduling? How are you allocating personnel? How is your practice ensuring that everyone knows and acts upon the fact that these procedures are your greatest priority?

Focusing on anything else is majoring in the minors and will only end in frustration, because even though you may have your destination in sight, you haven’t figured out how to get there.


Measure your priorities

What analytics has done for so many other industries, it can do for healthcare. In fact, healthcare lags behind in adopting many modern-day methods and metrics that are not only leading the pack in some industries, but even becoming standard operating procedures.

Just as knowing your practice priorities but failing to implement them can be frustrating, proper identification and implementation of priorities without having the means of measuring results can be equally problematic. How else will you know you’ll arrive where you’re headed?

That’s why at Opargo, we built a simulator, a tool by which we implement the priorities of a practice through their practice management system within a given amount of time relative to the unique office management and personnel setup of the practice. The result: We can tell the exact effects (from an operation and revenue standpoint) a practice will experience based on their selected priorities before they even go live.

It is amazing what predictive analytics can do to help manage and tweak the prioritization process.

Think of it this way: A sizable backlog of work (your patient load) needs to channel through a limited pipeline (your practice). Depending on the way you manage your priorities, personnel, and procedures will determine your flow rate and effectiveness. Your success depends on your being able to AIM correctly: assessing, implementing, and measuring your practice priorities.


AIM well and your goals will turn into goals.