A guide to goal setting for your medical practice in 2024

Even if you are only starting out in private practice, you will know that running a successful medical practice demands more than just clinical expertise. While exceptional patient care is the foundation of your business, a strategic vision & clear goals are what will steer your practice toward excellence. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of goal setting & give you some actionable tips to help you achieve meaningful objectives for your medical practice.

Working with vision

Before we get into the specifics of practical goal setting, it’s important to define your practice’s overarching vision. Your vision is really the North Star of your practice – guiding your strategies & goals so that they align with your long-term aspirations.  

For example, if your vision is to be a leading primary care provider in your community, your goals might include expanding your services, achieving the highest patient satisfaction of your competitors, creating collaborative partnerships with specialists, & utilising the best technology to provide outstanding service.

Tip: Where do you want your practice to be in the next five or ten years? Sketch out your vision before you move on to set goals that will get you there. 

SMART Goals: A Blueprint for Success

The SMART framework is a tried-&-trusted method for creating effective goals. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely.” The idea is that each of your goals should meet these criteria for a better chance of success. Let’s break down how this framework applies to your medical practice:

Specific: Often our goals are too vague. We might have a goal to improve patient care but that’s too open & non-specific. Be precise when defining your goals. Instead of “improve patient care,” redefine your goal for something more specific like “reduce patient wait times by 15 minutes.”

Measurable: You have to be able to measure your progress to know if you’re making any. Establish quantifiable metrics when deciding on your goals. You might want to include measurable metrics like patient satisfaction scores, an increase in scheduled appointments, or the number of successful treatment outcomes.

Achievable: Your goals should stretch your practice but at the same time, setting goals too high is a recipe for failure. It’s essential to set goals that are realistically attainable. Consider your resources, staff capabilities, & current practice dynamics when deciding what is achievable.

Relevant: Your goals should all directly contribute to the improvement of your practice. Test each of your goals against whether achieving them will have a substantial impact on patient care, operational efficiency, or practice growth.

Timely: Each of your goals should be set with a realistic timeframe for achieving them. A deadline helps maintain focus & for procrastinators, it adds a sense of urgency to get things moving. For example, “Implement a new electronic health record system within six months” is a time-based SMART goal. 

Diversify goals for comprehensive growth

A thriving medical practice encompasses various facets, from patient care to administrative efficiency. In this next section, we’ll discuss setting goals that cover different dimensions of your practice to foster well-rounded growth. We’ll also share some examples you can use or adapt to your needs. 

Patient Care & Experience

Consider goals for improving patient outcomes, enhancing patient satisfaction scores, reducing no-show rates & implementing patient-centred care initiatives. Example: 

  • Problem: Patients often miss appointments & follow-ups, which disrupts their care.
  • Goal: Reduce the number of no-shows.
  • Action Plan: Use an automated SMS system to send patients reminders about their upcoming appointments & screenings.
  • Measure of Success: Reduce no-show rates to less than 5% in five months.

Operational Efficiency

Focus on optimising administrative processes, such as streamlining appointment scheduling, reducing wait times, & implementing electronic medical record (EMR) systems for seamless record-keeping. Example:

  • Problem: Staff spend too much time on admin, especially checking patient benefits.
  • Goal: Reduce the number of calls staff make to medical aids to check benefits.
  • Action Plan: Use an automated benefits system so staff can check this info at the appointment, without having to call.
  • Measure of Success: Reduce medical aid calls by 90% in two months.

Financial growth

Set goals to ensure the financial health of your practice, including objectives related to revenue growth, expense management, & reducing bad debts. Example: 

  • Problem: Unpaid invoices are hurting your cash flow & profits.
  • Goal: Improve your accounts receivable & reduce bad debt by collecting patient payments on time.
  • Action Plan: Process claims in real time to ensure that patients are billed promptly, so they can pay their bills before they leave the practice.
  • Measure of Success: Reduce bad debt from 55% to 15% within three months.

Optimise physical space

Don’t forget about your physical space when you’re setting goals. Your premises is an important part of your business. If your physical space is organised & well-maintained, there’s a good chance that your practice runs in the same way. Think about how you can free up space to make room for new services, create more flow in your waiting area, ensure that patients must walk past the payment desk on exiting the premises, etc. Example:  

  • Problem: Paper files take up too much space, making it hard to expand & optimise efficiency.
  • Goal: Become a fully paperless practice.
  • Action Plan: Implement a cloud-based Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system that works with billing software. This system will securely store patient & practice info & give staff instant access to it what they need.
  • Measure of Success: Have no paper patient files in use within three months.

Tips for impact

Here are four practical tips to help you set & reach your practice goals: 

  1. It’s tempting to tackle numerous goals at once, but it’s often more beneficial to concentrate on a select few. Three to five well-chosen goals are usually more manageable & allow for greater focus & dedication. Don’t forget to use the SMART goals framework. 
  2. Regularly monitoring your progress is vital for staying on track. Set aside dedicated time to review your goals, assess the data, & adjust as needed. If you find that a particular goal isn’t getting the desired results, be open to modifying or replacing it with a more effective one.
  3. Get your staff’s buy-in. Your staff is vital to the success of your practice. Ask them what their pain points are, what would help them be more efficient in their day-to-day work & keep them up to date with developments & regular training. 
  4. Talk to your colleagues & network about their goals & strategies. We learn from each other & sharing this information can spark ideas & guidance for your unique practice. 

Setting goals for your medical practice is not just a strategic move—it’s a commitment to the continual enhancement of patient care, operational efficiency, & overall practice success. Remember, goal setting is not a one-time task; it’s an ongoing process that fuels the growth & evolution of your practice over time.

Healthbridge has been helping practice owners build thriving & patient-centric medical practices for over 20 years. Click here for more about how SA’s leading healthcare technology partner can take your practice to new heights in 2024.