I'd like to suggest some intentional "looking out" as a way to improve your practice. As we look outward, let's think beyond the healthcare industry. Gathering best practices from other service industries might provide an unexpected benefit for your patients.
The hospitality industry is known for razor-thin operating margins – and yet their customers' experience is essential to their success. So maybe there is a local grocery market (e.g. Wegman's), local restaurant (e.g. Fleur De Lys), local service station or mechanic (e.g. Lugnuts Auto), hair salon (e.g. Biyoshi), or neighborhood coffee shop (e.g. Urban Grind) that provides a service that might be transferrable to a medical clinic. As an example, Disney comes to healthcare in their Healthcare University. Principles from other industries can be transferred to your local clinic.
If you look at award winning medical centers outside of your market to borrow an idea, be sure not to stop at one idea. As the raconteur Wilson Mizner wisely stated, "When you take stuff from one writer it's plagiarism; but when you take it from many writers, it's research."
Invite everyone on your staff to be on the lookout for great service examples for a couple of weeks. Be sure to post all of the ideas in an e-mail or on a bulletin board where people can appreciate the different ideas. In a small group, refine the ideas to areas that might make a strategic difference to your patients or their families or your referral sources. Then pilot an idea or two – long enough for it to matter.
We looked out periodically at the practice I was in. We enjoyed the creative challenge of how to transfer best practices from the customers' experience at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle ("FISH!") to our medical clinic. As a result we made some important, easy-to-implement changes that our patients noticed and appreciated. It can be done.
Here's to "looking out" for your clinic!