Advice on Changing Practice Leadership

April 29, 2011

Our practice recently changed its leadership. That’s a challenge for any business, but radiology has some unique problems.

Our practice recently changed its leadership. That’s a challenge for any business, but radiology has some unique problems.
 

For most physician groups, their customers are patients. Patients don’t always know who is managing things; they just know their physician. But for radiologists, their customers are referring physicians, and perhaps more importantly, hospital or imaging center partners. For them, a leadership changes is a big deal.

It is natural that the transitions take time; new relationships take nurturing. It is human nature that the customers revert to old ways, especially if things are uncertain.  People you currently have relationships or contracts with might not be sure about the new guys. So how do you make the transition work better?

Help make the lines of communication clear

First, make the change clear. Not uncommonly there are some who resist the changes or are themselves internally uncertain. But the group needs to present a unified front. So, provide a clear “press release” for your customers; make it plain who new leaders will be. This can be as easy as a letter explaining the change, emphasizing that it is simply a normal course of business. It should reassure as well as assert the change.

Make sure your own staff understands the change. At our practice, staff had a tendency to check with prior leadership when they had questions. Some had not heard that there was a change. Others were more comfortable with old relationships. Have the new leadership spend some time with both the business manager and the staff to explain the lines of communication and responsibilities.

Provide a transition

Have the old leadership accompany new leaders to major meetings. Have old and new leaders spend time going to greet and meet with major referring practice leadership. Importantly, seek out and regularly meet with hospital or imaging center leaders. Reassure them of continued quality, and answer what questions they have. Take time internally to review the history of important issues. However, make sure there is a clear changeover.

It can muddy the waters if prior leadership continues to meet and discuss issues with other leaders. The prior leadership must be willing to clearly and politely refer issues to the new leaders.

Recognize the importance of tradition but don’t be beholden to it

Many issues have a long history and certain policies exist for good reason. Make sure the new leaders understand those reasons. But realize that good reasons to create one policy in the past may not be relevant in the present. Encourage the group to understand that changes in policy to not imply that old policy is wrong, only that it may need to change due to new developments.

Careful, unified and clear leadership changes are critical to the health of any radiology group. They can be achieved by strong working relationships between old and new leaders and by proactive efforts to demonstrate stability.