“Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery” by Dr. Henry Marsh

Book_Do No HarmInteresting read! Doctor’s make mistakes, have triumphs and have the full range of emotions that all the rest of us do. But gaining an understanding of how a doctor acts, reacts and stays in practice day after day takes a special story teller. It helps when the storyteller is a doctor, in this case a neurosurgeon, Dr. Henry Marsh.  A valuable series of insights that both doctors and the rest of us can benefit from reading and thinking deeply about. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review.

Verbal Skills To Help Patients Understand Bad Breath

We often see Doctor CEOs and staff members that seem “verbally challenged”. Have no doubt they know their clinical area, understand their
Blowing Bad Breath MP900427846duties and responsibilities but just can’t seem to engage with patients. Especially on some topics that have a difficult social message. Like BAD BREATH. The fact is there a lot of people that have it and don’t understand it. The same verbally challenged dental staff we find can do just fine if they have a prop – something that helps them start the conversation. Well, Doctors and Staff you are saved! An excellent article in the May 2013 issue of Scientific American is titled, Good Bacteria for Bad Breath. Our suggestion is to review the article, secure copies for the reception area, and put a commentary on your own blog or web site. The article is not publicly available at this time but you can secure a copy on line at


The Aspiring Model

I often talk to Doctor CEOs about the model of their practice or the model they desire for their practice. In many cases we at Berning & Affiliates act to strengthen practices, clarify vision and mission and help implement a practice transition. Recently I had a doctor indicate that what he wanted was to have an aspiring practice, one that everyone from staff, suppliers, professionals guiding the practice and doctors held one goal, to do their part better. It is a very interesting way to think of what is usually an operational discussion. In this discussion the operations were important to this doctor but not the most important. What was desired was an investment of caring by all involved to continuous improvement. It was a fresh take and one I thought would be interesting to share.

Expressing Optimism

One of the traits I have found that endears a doctor to staff, patients and prospective patients is an optimistic viewpoint. I’ve seen it many times in comparing practices, in discussing doctor’s performance with staff and in evaluating marketing plan implementation. Repeatedly, the optimistic doctor that expresses a “we are glad to be here, happy to be of service and looking forward to a positive result” is ahead on almost any measure when compared to a more passive personality. It is one of the key items I suggest for younger doctors at this time of year considering a new practice opportunity and for practice owners looking at prospective associates, namely what is the optimism level of the doctor(s) you are evaluating?

High Quality and Efficient Care

In one of my recent practice assessment meetings I discussed with a Doctor CEO what he thought the perception of the practice was in the eyes of his patients. Our conversation covered a number of aspects but he, like many doctors answering a similar question, kept returning to “we have a high quality practice”. In talking with other doctors over the last few weeks on both the East and West coasts, several noted that contemporary patients expect high quality and it should be the first step toward the well developed practice, not the last. Given the stress in our economy one doctor noted that he and his team were conscious of being the most efficient they could be with the patient’s time. They were sensitive to scheduling conflicts and what was to be done at an appointment. Thinking about this mix of conversations, the suggestion is that Doctor CEOs state to patients the given of providing the highest quality care but also communicate that they are seeking to be efficient with the patient’s time as an enhancement of the value of being a patient in the practice.

Oblivious In Paradise

It was wonderful, a dream come true”, the doctor stated to me during our consultation. He continued to share with me that his front desk ran exceptionally well and both front and back were synergistic. And then, after 14 years, the person who was largely responsible for all this, his long time practice administrator stated she was retiring, shortly. For purposes of this entry I’ve combined several doctor’s situations to illustrate one big point, namely how exposed are you as the Doctor CEO to a key employee? In several instances the practices were running so well the doctor or group practices stopped giving a lot of attention to day to day activity and even watching how everything meshed between staff and other practice advisors. In short, they were so removed that when the key employee gave notice or suffered a major illness they were not prepared to maintain the practice efficiency or administrate the practice they owned. The suggestion is that each Doctor CEO evaluate whether and to what degree they have such an exposure. If an exposure is present, capture and document the position and performance aspects, some practice are doing so with short video clips. Further, designate an “understudy” a person or persons that can take over in full or in part in the event the key employee exits. If you want to discuss contingency planning initiatives for your practice, consider a Tackle It Consultation!

Reflections: Power 2 Reason Gorman Symposium

The orthodontists and their staff members attending the American Orthodontics sponsored program were treated to a 100% education program. No product displays. No order taking. No speaker representing the company making a pitch. Nothing. And the doctors and staff were


thoroughly appreciative. A standing ovation was given to the company for sponsoring this program and all speakers by the audience at the concluding session! How spectacular! I verymuch enjoyed being part of this special program. Dr. David Sarver, Charlene White and I led off the first morning program with Standing Up To The Adversity In A Volatile World and then David and I presented right after lunch, What Do You Believe? We had a great time and the doctors did too, based on the reaction and comments by doctors afterward. Check out the pictures on our Facebook page!

Doctor CEO Can’t Muddle By

A doctor running a larger practice he related to me how he feels he is “running in place” and there is not the “upside” he anticipated at this time in his career. He stated he could not wait for the economy to improve. Until it does he thought he would continue to “muddle by”. I believe that is not a productive approach for this or any doctor. Having a vision for the practice that speaks to what that doctor wants to see in delivering care whether in good or bad economic times is a must. There is no room for just treading water. Doctor CEO’s in my view are best when they are proactive. They should ALWAYS be seeking to advance their capability and their practice. I never want to see dentists and dental specialists facing what is happening to physicians (and should not be!) see CNN Money article http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/05/smallbusiness/doctors_broke/index.htm  If you believe like I do and want to discuss your vision and how to be proactive in your practice, with your staff and in your market contact me. Tackle It! Consult.

Reality Time

A Doctor CEO related to me that as he and his staff have returned to the practice after a Holiday break everyone feels the time away was too short! Some staff seem to be only “partly here” in their level of attention. In my view now is the time for the Doctor CEO to quickly call a staff meeting, outline the key objectives that have been set for the year and effectively remind everyone it is back to priority one: meeting the needs of the patients that seek care at the practice. This is one of the most important tasks of a leader, guiding the enterprise and all staff to meet their fundamental responsibilities to help ensure the future.

The Story Behind A Talked About Practice

I had a consultation recently with a practice that has made a deep impression on me. In the course of discussing the history of the practice and the strategy goals the Doctor CEO desired to implement, he touched on his desire to be true to his patients and community. I asked if he could explain. He stated that the practice was often talked about in the community because it had an unwavering dedication to patient safety. He related that starting many years ago he began to communicate everything he and staff did to treating patients safely. The equipment he used, the procedures he suggested and the materials used – all were discussed with patients as part of his goal to keep them safe. The bottom line for this doctor was that in communicating why he was suggesting a course of treatment, what resonated with him and his patients and now with his community, was that you will be treated well and you will be safe and not taken advantage of at the practice. This was eye opening for me. In short, this doctor has a very narrow positioning (go to this practice and this doctor and they will keep you safe) and yet that factor appeals to every prospective and current patient. You might not agree with the positioning or the constant emphasison this aspect. But think about what position you and your practice hold in your community. Is your position as vital and understood as this doctor has made his?