values in the medical field

How to define company values in the medical field?

In TED talks and leadership workshops, you hear about creating a company culture and as a surgeon or doctor in private practice, you wonder how that applies to your small business. Here’s a simple checklist to work on your business values in the medical field, either as a practice owner or a practice manager.

values in the medical field

How to define company values in the medical field?

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

May 3, 2022

Why worry about company values in the first place?

company values for doctors

When we discuss business development for your private practice or independent clinic, we will assume that you are aware of the changing market dynamics. More digital tools, more patient choice, and more competition for almost all medical specialty areas in private health. 

Why would you look into your culture and values? Company values for doctors can also be described as the ‘DNA of your practice’.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"What makes people either come back or refer a loved one to your practice is often not about your qualifications or experience, and maybe not even about your surgical excellence. Quite often the reviews and referrals are about human qualities: this is where values are a compass."

This compass defines the decisions you make as a practice owner (the VMO or surgeon) or a practice manager. They will affect how you recruit. Your values will define your relationships with referrers if you depend on GP referrals. 

Values also define how the hospitals you associate with look at your overall service offering and your personality. It may even affect the theatre slots that you are offered.

Most importantly, your values will define the experience your patients remember and how they talk about you as a doctor and about your practice as a business. That is why discussing your values is discussing the core of your activity, your reputation, your practice as an asset and your future as a business owner.

The big challenge with values in a healthcare practice

private practice challenges

When I sit down with leading surgeons, doctors and allied health professionals, a common complaint is the lack of a miracle solution in the field of team-building. 

Staff turnover, lack of motivation and practice management issues are often draining for the practice owners and it starts with values.

In an ideal world, there is a level of transparency about the company values at your practice. A great exercise is to complete these sentences:

  • “My practice helps me…”
  • “Our practice helps us…”

When you do it as an owner, check how transparent you can be about your why. If you only practice medicine to create wealth, you will notice that it becomes a little harder to inspire people to work with you, unless they share your core value and negotiate a really decent salary to work with you.

If you can find values that make team members want to stay and really help you out, then you have the core building blocks for a sustainable company culture. If not, values can be a facade and a nice poster on the wall.

Aligning each of your team members with the values of your practice will generally work better if the values were created, chosen or defined in a joint effort. Value workshops, if facilitated properly and to the highest standards, make everyone feel part of the journey.

Emailing three core values (Excellence, Professionalism and Genuine Care for example to name the three common ones we find on medical websites) to your team on a Monday morning is generally not a good way to solve your private practice challenges and does not create the ideal workplace culture. So let’s dig a little bit deeper, look at the proven value of values and how to get started creating or finding your own.

values in the medical field

What stats say about values in healthcare practices

values in healthcare

With values in healthcare, the particular reality is that health is a demanding industry. You deal with people’s fears, concerns and sensitivities in a very personal relationship. That is why people are more sensitive to human behaviour when they see a doctor, compared to when they buy a new fridge. 

This is what some of the interesting stats tell us about the importance of values in the business environment.

  • 3 out of 4 employees believe that clear values and goals are the foundation of a positive company and work culture. (Builtin)
  • 1 in 4 employees says they would choose a workplace that is value-driven over a higher salary or a title. (HBR)
  • 1 in 2 CEOs says that values and company culture directly impact their capacity to generate profit and improve productivity. (Forbes)

What I notice speaking to high-profile doctors who become entrepreneurs and business owners, is that the people component often appears to be the pressure point in the practice. Staff turnover at reception and in practice management roles is the symptom. A lack of clarity in the values division is often the underlying condition. So let’s get inspired.

Inspiration for a ‘value workshop’ at your practice

value workshop for doctors

Before you quickly pick 5 and frame them behind your reception desk…remind yourself that values only work when you live them, not when you print them. 

Value workshops will throw dozens of values at you and it’s tempting to just resonate with someone else’s value toolkit to get back to business as soon as possible. We get it. That’s why I have narrowed down the inspiration list to inspect with your practice team. Here’s the toolkit you can use as a blueprint to organise your own value workshop for doctors, making sure you use your own values, not the ones we use as examples.

Integrity: In healthcare, integrity would be embedded in your ethical obligations under the agreements with your college and the applicable State or Commonwealth legal obligations.
Living in full integrity as a doctor means choosing the patient’s interest at all times, not the needs of your practice as a business. Example? Avoid orthopaedic surgery, a strong communication angle by Dr Mark Hurworth, orthopaedic surgeon in Perth.

Fun: Who says a medical website needs to be 100% serious, dry and factual? In healthcare, showing your true personality and your human side definitely contributes to those important currencies we talk about when we position you as a strong leader: trust and rapport. Authenticity can be built and nurtured in a variety of ways as a surgeon, and it requires transparency and vulnerability. Example: Dr Alex Koefman’s “About” page in Brisbane, who wanted to outdo his best friend who was planning to become a doctor. He found that neurosurgery probably would do just that.

Simplicity: As an obstetrician, you may feel that your reputation depends on explaining every step of the antenatal care, delivery options and postnatal care. Yet, zooming in on the human journey that you are on as an expecting mum, you can also choose simplicity. A ‘back to basics’ approach talks about the role of the obstetrician as an expert and support worker, and often also as a cheerleader. Example: Dr David Mincham, Obstetrician.

Empowerment: As a doctor, you can transcend your role in the community and be much more than the person who fixes health challenges. When empowerment is one of your key values, what you are really delivering is professional help to cope with life’s challenges and a mindset of ownership, beyond ‘needing a doctor’. If you are in women’s health, showing true connection with the journey of women as they go through life with fertility or women’s health challenges is a more value-driven approach than just stating your qualifications and services.
Example: Dr Tamara Hunter, Fertility Specialist and founder of Woom Women’s Health Clinic.

Why it is critical to communicate about your values

how to talk about values

When you communicate, messages about your values go straight to the motivation and inspiration of the prospective patient. In simple words, you are touching their hearts as humans before you just transfer factual information about services, treatments and surgical procedures. Remember that people recommend their doctor to a friend mostly because of the human quality, assuming most treatments would be executed to the applicable standards in our healthcare system.

So how do you communicate about your values:

  • Don’t simply list them on your website as bullet points
  • Do an extra effort to explain what it means to you to live and work in alignment with your values. In an ideal world, you don’t even mention the formal label of the value. You just make sure that when a patient lands on your web pages, they understand what type of compass you are using, to deliver great work.

Remember that your online presence consists of the entire spectrum: your individual web pages (patient might land on your endometriosis page or your ACL Reconstruction page as well as on your About Page), your social media profiles, your YouTube channel and your personal page on the hospital website.

A few more best practices when you communicate your values, taken from live strategies with leading specialist doctors across Australia:

  • Keep it short: No need to elaborate on each of your values
  • Keep it simple: No need to make values more intellectual
  • Keep it visual: Talk about what it means in reality when patients choose you
  • Keep it collaborative: Refresh the conversation with your team about your values so your employees become influencers when they speak about their job with authenticity
  • Make it original: Tweak the words, make it unique, don’t copy generic values
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choosing values for health businesses

Choosing values for health businesses is not a quick-fix or an off-the-shelf program. It boils down to defining the DNA of your practice beyond just the service you deliver. If you want to step away from being a commodity and build a strong leadership profile, book a free 1:1 Strategy Session to inspect how your practice values can help you build a strong and future-proof private practice. 

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