Managing Change Through Disruptive Thinking
Disruptive thinkers seek information when setting realistic goals, and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the practice is the perfect place to start that process. This Ask Fuel First question is about that analysis: How can the SWOT analysis help me to set realistic goals that are appropriate for my practice?
The foundation of thinking disruptively is built upon data. Sure, there are some people who use their intuition to choose the right goals that they’d like to set and are then successful. Let’s be honest, the majority of people need more than just intuition. They need information to draw from. Once the appropriate data is collected, it’s time to set goals. But what data should we collect? That’s where the SWOT analysis comes in.
By using the SWOT analysis, you can systemically examine your organization to focus on four key areas:
- Strengths—What do you do well? What is your competitive advantage over other organizations like yours?
- Weaknesses—Where does your organization need to make improvements?
- Opportunities—Are there openings or chances you can pursue to improve different areas of the organization?
- Threats—What are some obstacles that you already face or anticipate facing in the future?
Putting the SWOT Analysis into Action
To learn more about using the SWOT analysis, let’s follow Carrie, a new administrator at Bend ENT*, as she goes through the process. Shortly after getting hired, she asked the owner about the practice’s year-long goals. When her request was met with silence, she decided this was a good chance to analyze their business practices to better understand their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Carrie started her analysis by asking questions about the practice’s strengths. She set out to answer the following questions by taking time to discuss answers with the owner and staff, looking at patient reviews and doing a Google search of “Bend ENT.” Below are the questions that she asked herself and others and the answers that she found according to the four SWOT categories:
- What do we do well?
- We provide comprehensive medical management for the life of our patients.
- We support team members in managing nonmedical tasks (insurance verification, etc.).
- What unique resources do we provide?
- We have multiple departmental revenue streams supporting the practice.
- We host fourth-year audiology residents, which makes hiring easier.
- What do others see as our strengths?
- We have access to updated research and procedures.
Next, Carrie looked at the practice’s weaknesses. She collected information to answer these questions:
- What areas in our patient services, audiology services, etc., could we do better?
- Our appointment lengths leave us with limited time with patients.
- We lack patient communication alignment between audiologists and medical doctors.
- Where do we have fewer resources?
- The audiology staff has little say in departmental decisions.
- What are others likely to see as our weaknesses?
- We have high turnover rates for front/back desk staff.
Carrie was surprised that patient communication between audiologists and other doctors at the practice was a weakness, so she wrote it down in her notebook to consider in the future. She wasn’t surprised that there were high turnover rates for front desk staff, as this was a problem at the last practice Carrie worked. However, she knew this needed to be addressed at Bend ENT sooner than later.
After looking at strengths and weaknesses, Carrie switched her focus to opportunities the organization could take advantage of in the upcoming year. Again, she did her research to answer the following questions:
- What opportunities are open to Bend ENT?
- We could market audiology along with the strength of the ENT brand.
- We could use internal marketing strategies to acquire patients at zero cost.
- What trends could we take advantage of?
- We could create a team-based approach to patient care to reduce overhead costs.
- How can we turn our strengths into opportunities?
- We could provide comprehensive care, including aural rehabilitation.
The opportunity that stood out to Carrie was using internal marketing strategies to acquire more patients. She was also interested in the possibility of providing a team-based approach, but she would need to do more research to understand the benefits fully.
Finally, Carrie wanted to identify threats that could be problematic for the organization. She answered these questions:
- What threats do our weaknesses expose us to?
- There are fewer audiologists available for recruitment, which could become a problem if our current audiologists leave the practice.
- What obstacles do we face regularly?
- We have an increase in patients with TPA coverage.
- Reimbursements for diagnostics are declining, meaning fewer patients will seek our services.
- Alternative sales funnels for hearing aids are increasing, which means we could lose revenue if we don’t adapt.
Overall, the SWOT analysis allowed Carrie to better understand how the organization was doing. She found that the practice already provided comprehensive patient care but lacked effective communication channels between audiology and other ENT staff. She also found that internal marketing could increase patient acquisition but that decreased reimbursements for diagnostics could cause problems for the practice in the long term. Even though having fewer audiologists available is concerning for most ENT practices, this didn’t concern Carrie. Because Bend ENT allows audiology students to do their residencies at their practice, they can build relationships with students that often result in direct hires.
Carrie’s next step was to examine the weaknesses and opportunities to formulate measurable goals for the practice. Although all of the weaknesses were of some concern to Carrie, she decided to tackle the issue of high turnover rates first. She knew how vital the front office staff is to the patient experience. They are the first people patients interact with, so the front office staff must be fully staffed and trained well. She wanted to create a goal to help the practice retain front office staff. Carrie then decided that internal marketing to acquire patients was an opportunity that she could turn into a goal. She knew that Fuel Medical provides HR support and marketing, so before she created her goals, she decided to discuss these issues with her Fuel Medical regional manager.
The threat that stood out to Carrie was an increase in alternative sales funnels for hearing aids. Before setting a goal for the practice, she wanted to know how other ENT practices were adjusting to new over-the-counter sales. With the right strategy and some information from Fuel Medical, Carrie believed that this threat could be an opportunity in the future.
In the end, Carrie learned a great deal about Bend ENT from her SWOT analysis. Although she decided to focus on creating three new goals to start, she identified other areas of concern to tackle in the near future.
*Bend ENT is a fictional practice, but the ideas presented in this article are based on our experience working with ENT and audiology practices around the country.