All the doctors know that ‘symptomatic relief’ is not the way out for their patients. It may be a short-term measure but in the long run the root cause of the disease has to be treated. There is striking similarity between management of a disease and the management of a business. As managers we are trained to look for the root cause of a problem. Many a times, amateur business owners end up treating the symptoms thinking that they represent the problem. This may give them short-term relief, but in the long run it does more harm than good. Here are a few examples from the healthcare industry:
1. When one or more members of staff leave for whatever reasons, we tell ourselves, ‘next time onwards I will include new clauses in my appointment contract so that it is not easy for people to leave me in despair.’ Now that is a smart thing to do. Learning from your mistakes is not bad. But did you just treat a symptom? Is attrition a problem or is it a symptom of an underlying problem? Answering this question may give you an access to having a loyal staff that would never leave you in despair no matter what the circumstances are. Moreover you may also not need an appointment contract at all!
2. Not finding enough time to give to your family or to your patients is another symptom of a problem. But we do not treat it as a symptom. For us it is a real problem. So what do we do? Not read books to brush up our knowledge saying, ‘there is no time, I am so busy.’ We
3. Do not keep our old contacts green. We keep postponing visiting our parents or spouse’s parents. The car is never serviced on time. The insurance premium is always paid with a late fee, etc. So in a way what we are doing is compromising on the quality of our life in order to solve a problem called taking out time for family and patients. I can bet that if you go to the root problem, it will turn out that what is missing is not time but some systems and structures. And when you put these systems and structures in place, you will find yourself wondering how to spend that extra time!
4. Another symptom, which is, mistaken for a problem is that the other doctor is getting more patients than you. We all know that it is a competitive world. Now solving this ‘problem’ is important for you because it is a question of your ‘bread and butter.’ So you reduce the prices of your services. This creates a panic in the competitor’s camp. So they also reduce their prices, or they start paying ‘commissions’ to RMP’s. This brings the situation back to square one. Your problem stays where it is. Now, if you look closely, the problem is not that they are getting more patients, but the problem is that the clients do not perceive your services as being as valuable as theirs. So if you treat this problem by ‘brand building’ and following a well thought marketing strategy, you will have no worries for a long long time!
5. When you get know that there are a lot of legal cases pending in the consumer and other courts against various doctors, you tell yourself, ‘That is a real problem.’ So you become extra careful in writing your notes, you redesign your consent form after studying the forms from other places, etc. Now this is a good thing to do. But the point that many doctors miss is that the root cause of the problem called litigation against you lies somewhere else. It lies in the area of your patients trusting you and the attendants being informed fully about the condition of their patient and your efforts towards treating the patient. And in the end, everyone being satisfied that you did everything to the best of your ability and it would be unfair to hold you to account for any acts of omission or commission in the court of law.
So next time whenever you are confronted by a challenging situation in your clinic or hospital, ask yourself, ‘Is this a problem or a symptom of a problem?’ Do not take action unless you are absolutely sure that what you are curing is not a symptom but it is the real problem.
Vivek Shukla and Associates
Healthcare and Marketing Consultants
Sai Mahima Hospital
Ram Nagar Dharamshala
Cell No.- 09816086868