South Florida Hospital News
Sunday August 25, 2019
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June 2007 - Volume 3 - Issue 12

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Business Muse - Reflections on the Business of Healthcare Delivery

Maybe You Should Be Selling Eggs

The next time one of your patients goes out to a major supermarket chain-store for milk, juice and eggs, they may also be going for a cough, to get their blood pressure controlled, or check out a belly pain.

For those of you who live in your offices, read journals and try like the dickens to keep up with your ever changing field and may have missed the news: a major supermarket chain (following in lock step with chain pharmacies and other stores) is opening walk in medical clinics to see and treat patient (or are they customers?).

I guess those in the medical community who are being referred to as "cutters" (the new surgery) or perform invasive procedures may breathe a sigh of relief that the stores havenít opened a chain of surgicenters utilizing their own surgical staff (does the word hospitalist sound familiar?) But it is probably just a matter of time.

Perhaps the once familiar white coat will give way to a red vest and one can hear a mechanical voice say attention blank-blank patients there is a sale for the next 15 minutes on ear wax removal on aisle three. Will it be possible to arrange for a skin tag removal or an x-ray study on sale days? Will imaging centers become attached to the buildings like super tire or garage centers? At what point in the practice of medicine is the "care" and treatment of people lost? How much of the process is care and caring driven versus just tests and sale of treatment driven?

I guess as a practice advisor I should be pleased that the "practice" has been distilled down to the business of practice. After all I do try to increase efficiencies, add revenue streams, improve and ease regulatory compliance, and increase the "core" business of my clientsí practices. But I always stress that our business is patient and service driven. People trust (some even love) their doctor, not because they know how deep his or her knowledge base or expertise extends, but rather because how he or she cares about them and their concerns.

Without this feeling for people by practitioners, medicine can be viewed as just a big "box store" sales item. I believe the time for practitioners to compete and build the better mousetrap is now. If practices donít find ways to compete and still provide the "feeling" people have traditionally associated with doctors, the box stores will win.

Like the health insurers who believe that since they pay the bills they can therefore tell you what to do with impunity, these stores will eventually try to be the only outlets for health care services. Not unlike the mom and pop stores whose empty carcasses litter the main streets of our towns, after the "box stores" (in vampire fashion) sucked their lifeís blood, if we do not learn the lessons they teach and react now as a business, the profession may be doomed to become an empty shell of itself.

To paraphrase an old pathologist from Tulane Med (where I went): He used to say that as a doctor you receive certain admiration from the public, not because of what you did but what was done by the generations before you, and if as doctors you screw it up, you screw it up for the future generations to come. This is a good mantra to focus on to compete and revive the fire in the belly that brought you into the profession in the first place.

J. Steven Kaufman, M.D., is Principal, PHC Practice Development Advisors.

PHC solicits and appreciates questions of a business nature relating to the health services industry to address in future columns. Please address your questions to PHC Practice Development Advisors at info@myphcadvisor.com or fax (561) 799-4092.

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