Today's Practice | Jan 2006

2006: The Year of Quality

Putting best practices to work in refractive surgery.


The year 2006 marks the Year of the Dog in the Chinese Calendar, and celebrations will begin later this month as part of the Chinese New Year, a tradition that dates back thousands of years. For this column, 2006 is going to be the Year of Quality. Throughout the coming 12 months, I will devote this space to helping you define, explore, and apply what it means to have a high-quality refractive practice.

WHAT MARKETING IS REALLY ABOUT

Those of you who have read my column over the past few years have learned that marketing is much more than advertising. One of the main conclusions I’ve reached is that most successful marketing efforts are closely tied to the company’s (or provider’s) being able to deliver a service experience that exceeds the expectations of the customer during the purchase decision process. That is, great marketing is also about great customer service.

I am often asked, “How do I offer great customer service?” The answer lies in recognizing that customer service is not a marketing program or a one-time training event. The ability to deliver great service requires an ongoing effort, the goal of which is to continuously improve the quality of what the patient experiences at the point of service. Thus, great customer service is empowered by a system within the clinic that allows the provider to achieve this goal (Figure 1).

EXPERTS ON QUALITY

Throughout the year, I’ll cite examples of the best practices in medicine as well as other industries. I will refer to the work of the International Council for Quality Care (ICQC; Boca Raton, FL), an organization with great expertise in helping medical practitioners develop high standards of performance. ICQC’s Chairman, Greg Korneluk, has 25 years’ experience and has developed a data-driven methodology for helping doctors identify and then prioritize what needs to change within their practice. “Quality … is the foundation for building the high performance practice of the future,” writes Korneluk in the introduction to his book Physician Success Secrets: How the Best Get Better1 (available online at http://www.physicianstrategycollege.com).

I agree with Korneluk’s assessment that establishing a long-term program and philosophy of quality improvement in your practice is the key to a business that will thrive regardless of economic or environmental conditions. The ICQC’s emphasis on measurement and benchmarking is the science that complements the art of outstanding customer service.

I will also draw on the work of management guru Peter Drucker, whose thinking on leadership has a direct impact on quality and has influenced business management perhaps more than any other individual’s in the 20th century. The author of nearly 60 books, Drucker has provided guidance to thousands of CEOs, business leaders, and business writers over 7 decades. Drucker’s writings were of paramount importance to my longtime mentor, Kathleen Dannemiller, and in this way his concepts have made a genealogical imprint on my own view of business and organizations. What made Drucker so powerful was his refusal to use a lot of jargon or buzz words. Through his contact with thousands of organizations and their leaders, he was able to take business concepts and boil them down to their essence. His thinking helped persuade management personnel across the country that workers were assets rather than cogs, and it is by this model that the best companies operate today. To Drucker, leadership was all about doing what needs to be done rather than simply a force of personality. Peter Drucker died last November at the age of 95. USA Today technology columnist Kevin Maney summed up Drucker’s legacy best: “If you think about it, [Drucker] directly or indirectly influenced the daily practices of more people than perhaps anyone in the past century.” Undoubtedly, his body of work will continue to influence organizational behavior for generations to come.

A NEW YEAR

This will be a great year as we explore how the topics of quality and management directly apply to the organization of which you are in charge—your medical practice. My goals are to help you improve how you accomplish your goals and expand the notion that quality extends well beyond the surgical suite. 

Shareef Mahdavi draws on 20 years of medical device marketing experience to help companies and providers become more effective and creative in their marketing and sales efforts. Mr. Mahdavi welcomes comments at (925) 425-9963 or
shareef@sm2consulting.com. Archives of his monthly column may be found at www.crstoday.com.

1. Korneluk, G. Physician Success Secrets: How the Best Get Better. International Council for Quality Care: Boca Raton, FL; 2004.
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