Flying Blind.

books Nov 27, 2020

From Melanie Evans and Alexandra Berzon in The Wall Street Journal: “During a pandemic, hospitals and local, state and federal agencies rely on a range of real-time metrics to respond to emergencies quickly. They need to know how many beds are available at each facility, whether hospitals need more nurses and the available number of ventilators and other critical supplies. That way, patients can get transferred quickly and medicine distributed to those in most need. The U.S. has tried—and failed—over the past 15 years to build a system to share such information in a crisis. When the pandemic started, nothing like it existed.”

In am interview with best-selling author, Ozan Varol, the author discusses the principle of “test as you fly and fly as you test” from his book Think Like a Rocket Scientist. The reason so many businesses and organizations fail to deliver on their promises and to operate at maximum efficiency is that they ignore this principle.

Just like hospitals are currently unable to handle surges in new patients, small medical and dental practices respond incorrectly to decreased patient volumes. In a recent poll hearing care providers say their response to lower patient volumes during the pandemic will be to increase their fees, reduce their hours and stop participating with insurance programs.

This is the exact opposite of what you want to do when volume is low. If the only two solutions to address a surge in new patient volume are to increase capacity or raise prices, the opposite is true when reception rooms sit empty. Lower your prices. Increase the number of pathways for patients to find your office. Sign up for more insurance plans. Expand your hours to the days and times that are convenient to patients.

“Testing as you fly and flying as you test” means you will ruthlessly beat up your best ideas and try to get them to fail. You know… the opposite of the 55% of providers in this recent poll. When it comes to rocket science, life and death hang in the balance. When it comes to our businesses, I see it no differently.

The private practices expanding market share and creating sustainable competitive advantage in a down economy are the ones who are measuring and testing as they fly. Do not wait for metrics to show up on your desk 30 days after they’ve happened. Today at lunch, your practice must know how many new patient phone calls went unanswered this morning. By the end of the day you must know if you’ve hit your goals for the day in terms of new patients, referrals, production, collections, etc. How many new patient leads requested information on your website this week versus the same week last year? How many converted into scheduled appointments? How long did they wait to get a prime appointment slot?

There is absolutely no reason why you should be testing your rocket ship after it has slammed into the ground or exploded in the sky. We’ve discovered during this crisis that many hospitals are unable to test as they fly, despite having tremendous resources and hundreds of millions or billions of dollars at their disposal. You and I are not so lucky. We cannot afford to fly blind.

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