Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Got a Mission?

Mission in the Medical Practice
A mission statement is a short, descriptive phrase or sentence that is easy to remember and illustrates the business’ goals and purpose. A mission statement is very personal, and it should be solid.

For those of you that have never developed a mission statement or attended a mission retreat to define what the practice is all about, what it represents, and how it will exhibit that definition, read on.


This is explained in the second edition of the book Secrets of the Best-Run Practices (Greenbranch Publishing) by Judy Capko*. A perfect example is The Disney Company. Walt Disney was clear on his purpose and created a mission statement that has stood the test of time:

“To make people happy.” 

Most of us would agree that this is being fulfilled throughout the many different Disney venues in the entertainment world. Just watch your kids light up when they go to one of the Disney parks, or think about the warm and happy feeling you get when watching a classic Disney movie.

Companies that create thought-provoking mission statements that are on-the-mark get everyone involved in the process. Start by having each physician and staff member, as well as 25 to 30 patients, fill out a form describing their impression of the practice’s purpose. This can be a real eye-opener.

It can be advantageous to dedicate an entire day or weekend to developing the mission statement and to hire an objective professional to guide the process. Include all physicians, and get input from staff members in this process; if you don’t, you will compromise the outcome and may not get the support needed to achieve success.

Ask yourself and other members of the practice team how they view the practice’s mission, and what behaviors or accomplishments have been instrumental in forming their impressions.

When you are discussing potential mission statements, pick a central theme that is not controversial. Perhaps a theme of making the medical practice more patient-centric or patient-centered? Someone should play the role of devil’s advocate and ask pertinent questions about how the message you are creating best represents the practice’s purpose and how that purpose will be fulfilled by the practice owners. For example, if you determine that your purpose is to serve the underserved, how will this be accomplished? Will you:
  • Market to a specific low-income segment of the population; 
  • Sign contracts with a Medicaid program; 
  • Run a free medical clinic once a month; 
  • Discount flu shots each fall; and/or 
  • Develop clinics sites in rural underserved areas
Focus on the key attributes of your business to get you to the reality of the practice’s mission, based on existing services and products, attitudes and behavior demonstrated, the goals the practice sets each year, and how hard the practice works to achieve those goals. Most importantly, remember to keep the mission statement clear and brief.

In the end, the patient should know what to expect from your practice, what its values are, and what the practice is doing in the community—and these attributes need to be consistent. If you are unable to commit to a consistent program to fulfill the mission and have it realized by your customers, then there’s a good chance you haven’t developed the right mission.

* Judy Capko, of Capko & Morgan, is the co-author of The Patient-Centered Payoff: Driving Practice Growth Through Image, Culture, and Patient Experience. A must-read for patient-centered practices.

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.