By: Mark Sanna, DC
When asked, most practice teams will tell you that they would like to be known as the practice for their community. Is it your desire to be considered a part of your community? How about shifting your paradigm to that of becoming a community within your community. Practice teams who envision their practice as a community within a community are the busiest and most prosperous practices. Why? When you create a sense of community in your practice, you attract and retain volumes of patients. In a world where people move at lightning speed from one job and location to the next, cultivating a sense of community among your team and your patients has become one of your most important jobs.
How Do You Establish a Community?
Establish a shared vision and values. It is important to clearly define what you value in your community. Establishing a community based upon values that are congruent with your own personal values brings a level of integrity to the process. Is family an important value for you? Then be sure you participate in and direct activities for your patients that reinforce family values. You share meals with your family. When was the last time you broke bread with a group of your patients? Honor one patient a week by selecting him or her to join you at a monthly breakfast or lunch. If education is an important value for you, establish a reading list for your patients. Share with them your thoughts on a book or video of the month that resonates with the values of your practice.
Cultivate strong leadership. A shared vision and set of values can act as an internal compass for your community by creating a shared sense of purpose. A compass is a magnetic instrument used to identify in which direction one is headed. An internal compass can keep your practice community headed in the direction of its purpose. Consider ‘north’ to be the direction of purposefulness, of heading in the direction of your shared purpose. The instant the community changes direction and heads ‘northeast,’ your compass will tell you that you are off track and not heading in the direction of your purpose.
Develop a common language. Inherent in the creation of a community is a common language or lexicon. A wellness-oriented practice community speaks a completely different language than most health-related offices. The language is composed of words like ‘vitality’ and ‘peak performance.’ These terms should be embraced as they serve to uniquely communicate the values of the community. Community members should be conversant in the meaning and usage of the vocabulary of your community. Developing a unique language to communicate the values of your community serves to form a bond of unity among its members. Pick a word or concept each week and educate your community members in its unique usage.
Establish lines of frequent communication. Forming a community network that keeps your current and former patients connected and sharing ideas is vitally important. You can share information with your community in the form of lectures and writings. The Internet can be a great ally in the process of establishing lines of communication, though not in the way that it’s generally been used. The Net’s real killer application is email, because it offers ‘frequency for free.’ Frequency of contact leads to a sense of community and ultimately, to the key ingredient in any robust, long-term relationship: trust. You can encourage your patients to volunteer their attention by keeping in touch with your community through a weekly or semi-weekly inspirational, motivational, and informational electronic newsletter. Once established, your network will begin generating powerful ideas on its own.
Cultivate a sense of ownership and responsibility. Do the members of your practice community feel that the community’s well being is important? Do they have a sense of social support from the other members of the community? Have you established a support system for your patients? Established patients can serve as an excellent resource for new members of your practice community. They can provide helpful information and encouragement with the credibility of having already experienced the benefits of care. The members of your practice community can serve as your most successful form of practice building. They have a sense of responsibility to the community and are proud to refer their friends and family for care.
Commit to creating a practice community. Practices that have not formed a community are in a constant search for new patients. The more patients who discontinue care early on in their treatment plan, the more new patients your practice must attract simply to remain at its current volume. However, once you have established a community within your practice, your patients will not be so quick to leave the support of like-minded individuals who share their vision and values. When your practice community serves to provide on-going value to your patients, they will continue to use your services and refer indefinitely.
Aligning your practice Mission with the higher purpose of forming a practice community creates a shared focus among the practice leaders, team members, and patients. This focus results in the enduring success and security provided by the knowledge that you have created a community of caring dedicated to serving the greater good of its members. Once forged, the bonds of such a community are not easily broken.
About the Author
Dr. Mark Sanna is the CEO of Breakthrough Coaching and the president of Corporate Health of America. He can be contacted at the company’s website: www.mybreakthrough.com.