As a veteran healthcare management consultant with more than 30 years of practical experience, I am frequently engaged to help physicians plan, launch, change, or improve their medical practice operations. Lately the calls have been coming with increasing frequency to help recent graduates and hospitalists establish a new concierge private practice. In other instances, the calls are from frightened primary care and specialist physicians (and one veterinarian) who are unsure about the future of their business under healthcare reform and don’t want to continue down the same path they’ve been on for years. 

Part 2

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

When you aren’t quite sure what your customer is going to want from a concierge membership, you don’t know how to design a compelling product. Few physicians know before a transition what their customers really want. Part of the way to not get bogged down in analysis paralysis and really costly market research is to use mini product launches as an experiment to find out. It becomes a rigorous process, and the sooner you find out what your customers think and want the sooner you can pivot toward an ultimately successful company. If you get a negative result to your experiment–for example, you learn that existing patients don’t see the appeal or value in your product–you can pivot to a new strategy. Of course, to do this, you need to check the ego at the door and bolster with a stoic pain threshold.

Part of being agile is not knowing what will happen but being “ok” with not knowing. The ability to pivot is the agility. But the pivot is only obvious in retrospect. Whatever we do together to design your minimum viable product, the end result is one thing and only one thing: To get people to take an action–more specifically, “to buy a membership”.

Is MVP the latest “woo woo” trendy management theory?

Not at all. MVP is about how we build businesses in times of great uncertainty. It is about a fundamental re-examination of how to build a business in a complicated, faster-moving world that what we knew twenty or thirty years ago.

The lean startup movement and the MVP approach is less than five years old. While we may need more data, more evidence, the respectable entrepreneurial thought leaders are embracing this new way of thinking and a scientific approach to creating and managing startups that gets you started in the business you dream about FASTER. It is a very principled approach to new product development. It is not about abandoning all process and just “going for it”.

The concierge membership is an amenities-based product.

The service is the medical diagnosis and treatment and exceptional customer service that you and your staff deliver that produces customer delight. Instead of wasting precious hours and dollars with traditional consulting methods, we work collaboratively to build the tools to test the vision of your product in a continuous manner, but without analysis paralysis. I guide doctors to use a custom tailored, start-up process and a methodology around the development of their concierge medical practice. This builds order, rather than chaos or, more colloquially, “a state of disorder”.

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Minimum Viable Product minimizes the total time through the feedback loop of Build-Measure-Learn.  It works like this: Many concierge physicians have had an idea for their concierge medical practice product that they thought current and future patients would want. They spent months perfecting that product without ever testing the product, even in a very rudimentary form, with the prospective customers. In the most egregious of instances, they copied someone else’s business plan and forms and thought, “I have the secret recipe.” When they failed to reach broad uptake from customers, it was because they never spoke to prospective customers and determined whether or not their particular product was interesting. When customers ultimately communicate their lack of interest by showing their indifference, the startup fails.

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