How to set goals for your medical practice

How to set goals for your medical practice

With just a few weeks left until the end of the year, it’s time to take stock of the past year and start planning for the new year. In this article, we share with you some best practice when it comes to setting clear, measurable goals that will steer your practice to better productivity, patient acquisition and retention and profitability. 

How to set SMART medical practice goals 

The SMART method is a tried and tested framework for setting short- and long-term goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Using this formula can bring far more clarity and purpose to your goals than simply setting higher targets. Jot down your initial set of goals and test them against this method to decide which ones to keep and what needs more refinement for a later stage. 

  • Specific: It’s important that your goals are well defined, clear and unambiguous. A goal is of no use to you if you can’t be specific about what it is that you want to achieve. 
  • Measurable: Set your goals together with specific criteria that will measure your progress towards reaching your goals. This could be a percentage or actual number of more patients, a Rand value reduction in bad debt or increased revenue. 
  • Achievable: Goals that are unrealistic or impossible to achieve are pointless. Your goals should push you and your staff to reach their fullest potential but setting them unrealistically high will only set you up for failure. 
  • Relevant: As mentioned above, unrealistic goals that aren’t relevant or don’t serve the bigger picture of your practice can’t be used as a catalyst for growth.  Similarly, you shouldn’t set goals that don’t serve the overall growth of your practice. When drafting your goals for 2020 make sure that they are relevant and contribute to the bigger picture of where your practice is headed. 
  • Time-bound: Goals with no end date lack urgency and therefore, priority. Include a clearly defined timeline when setting your goals that includes a start date and target date. 

Types of medical practice goals 

A sustainable practice doesn’t limit growth or improvement to one aspect of the business only. It’s important to consider all aspects of your practice to make holistic improvements. No area of your practice should run in isolation so it’s a good idea to have specific goals for each area that serve to build your practice overall. 

Below are examples of goals you may want to consider at your practice, together with a measurable action plan for success. 

1. Financial goals

  • Example: Outstanding invoices are negatively impacting your cash flow and profitability. 
  • Goal: Decrease bad debt as a result of timely patient collections.
  • Action plan: Send claims in real-time so that the patient is invoiced and can settle their bill before they leave the practice.
  • Measure of success: Reduce bad debt from 55% to 15% in three months. 

2. Staff goals

  • Example: Staff are spending too much time calling medical aids retrospectively to confirm patient benefits.
  • Goal: Decrease the number of phone calls staff make to medical aids to confirm benefits.
  • Action plan: Use automated benefit checks to access this information at the time of appointment, negating the need to call medical aids.
  • Measure of success: Have a 90% reduction in medical aid related phone calls in two months.


3. Patient goals

  • Example: Patients are regularly not arriving for their scheduled appointments or routine follow-ups.
  • Goal: Reduce the number of patient no-shows.
  • Action plan: Use automated patient SMS reminders to remind patients of the appointment and/or screening they have scheduled.
  • Measure of success: Realise a no-show rate of less than 5% in 5 months.

4. Physical surrounding goals

  • Example: Paper files are taking up too much space in your practice and preventing you from creating an additional consulting room. 
  • Goal: To be a fully paperless practice
  • Action plan: Implement a cloud-based EMR system that fully integrates with billing software and allows you to securely store and access patient and practice information from one digital platform.
  • Measure of success: Have 0 paper patient files in use within three months.

Four useful tips for setting medical practice goals 

  1. Remember not to set too many goals at once. Three or four meaningful, achievable and measurable goals are enough to have a tangible impact on your practice.  
  2. Get your staff’s buy-in when it comes to goal setting. Ask for their input and regularly review your progress as a group and as a business owner. 
  3. Talk to your network and colleagues about their goals and experiences. Chances are, they will have something valuable to add when you are setting your goals for 2020. 
  4. Be sure to align each of your goals using the SMART method and don’t be afraid to be ambitious about your goals. Making improvements requires consistent effort and strategic planning so don’t aim too low, just ensure that your goals are as achievable as they are ambitious. 

Healthbridge is an innovative healthcare technology provider who have been helping doctors realise their business goals for over 20 years. If you need help achieving yours email

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