Assessing the Quality of Your Clinical Practice: 13 Key Signs of Mediocrity

The Best Clinical Practice: An Ideal Scenario

Picture yourself stepping into your clinic, ready to attend to a patient. 

Your documentation system seamlessly provides all necessary tools for a productive session. Your time management is impeccable; you move through tasks based on a structured strategy and patient response. Every recorded piece of information is relevant, contributing to the present and future enhancement of your practice.

You have support tools based on your own previous successes, workflows, and decision support, supplemented by educational tools that empower and inform your clients. Patients leave satisfied, assured that they’re receiving world-class care.

Post-patient session, you engage in a team meeting focused on refining your practice. Metrics lay out a comprehensive view of your practice, allowing you to highlight areas for improvement and constantly evolve your system. Fellow clinicians contribute varied perspectives on intricate patient scenarios, fostering collaborative growth. You even find time for self-study, integrating newfound knowledge seamlessly into your existing practice.

You feel part of a high-performing team where everyone’s contribution matters. Administrative tasks hum along smoothly, thanks to well-trained support staff handling the clinical process. Your schedule and patient management list assure you that every individual has been attended to, and no one falls through the cracks. Information flows effortlessly, updates from clients neatly organized for review at the right time.

Throughout the day, you immerse yourself in deep work, fully focused on each task at hand. Satisfaction fills you as you operate at the peak of your professional ability, continually getting better day by day. 

This all happens without you taking the work home and without crushing yourself with long hours.

This is the embodiment of the best clinical practice.

Facing Reality: The Mediocre Norm

However, the reality is that the vast majority of clinical practices do not align with this ideal scenario. 

This observation isn’t intended to cause offense, but rather to shed light on an underlying issue: our clinical training primarily imparts clinical expertise, often lacking the essential skills required to construct robust improvement systems. While we excel in our specialized knowledge, degrees, and certifications, these don’t automatically translate into the ability to establish and nurture comprehensive systems for practice enhancement.

Despite our specialized knowledge, degrees, and certifications, having a world-class clinical practice doesn’t necessarily follow. 

The deeper problem lies in our lack of expertise in creating feedback loops, fostering continuous improvement, and implementing the most effective practices.

Signs of a Mediocre Practice

Here are some telltale signs that your clinical practice might be mediocre:

  1. Lack of a defined clinical or documentation process:

Clinical practices often suffer from the absence of a clear, structured workflow or protocol for conducting sessions and documenting patient information. The absence of standardized processes leads to inconsistencies, confusion, and inefficiencies in the delivery of care.

  1. Documentation that does not adhere to the clinical process:

While documentation might exist, it frequently deviates from the established clinical process. This discrepancy hampers the coherence and effectiveness of recorded patient data, rendering it less useful in informing decision-making or improving practice methods.

  1. Inability to extract data from your documentation by your admin team:

The documentation recorded lacks the comprehensibility or structure necessary for your administrative team to extract valuable data. This limitation prevents the effective use of patient information for analysis, planning, or strategic decision-making. 

At the most basic level, your admin team cannot even pass basic information to the client about what happened in the session, what they should do, or what should happen in the future.

  1. Absence of a structured patient reporting system external to your session:

Lack of a formalized system for patients to report their progress, challenges, or updates outside of scheduled sessions means the information you get is only a snapshot of the current moment. This absence limits the understanding of a patient’s ongoing status between visits. It is also likely you do not get clear information from the patient because they do not want to hurt your feelings.

  1. Inability to track what leads to success or failure with patients:

Clinical practices often struggle to pinpoint the specific factors contributing to patient success or failure. Without this tracking capability, it becomes challenging to replicate successful strategies or rectify unsuccessful approaches.

  1. Unclear, non-updatable patient management structures:

Patient management systems lack clarity or adaptability. These structures often fail to evolve with patient needs or practice improvements, resulting in inefficient management and potential gaps in patient care. This means you can add on new features that support your patients and you often have high rates of patients just disappearing from your caseload.

  1. Absence of metrics supporting your clinical development or strategic improvement:

The absence of clearly defined metrics means you do not understand how you practice. If you do not know how you practice, your clinical progression is limited and you cannot make strategic advancements within the practice. This lack of measurable data prevents informed decision-making and impedes the identification of areas for improvement.

  1. Lack of patient reviews for quality assurance in a team format with other clinicians:

Reviews or evaluations of patient care within a team setting are often missing. Collaborative assessments among clinicians are essential for quality assurance and fostering a shared understanding of effective practices.

  1. Viewing documentation as a burden rather than a tool for improvement:

Rather than recognizing documentation as a valuable tool for enhancing practice, it’s often considered an arduous task. This perspective hinders the recognition of its potential to drive improvements and facilitate better patient care.

  1. Over-reliance on external continuing education courses instead of leveraging your own work for improvement:

Practices tend to rely heavily on external education for professional development, overlooking the value of analyzing and refining their own methods and practices for improvement. You will should have the biggest impact on how you practice, not someone external to your organization.

  1. Insufficient data to substantiate your claim of expertise:

If you claim expertise, why should anyone believe you? The lack of comprehensive data and evidence limits the ability to substantiate claims of clinical expertise. This shortfall undermines credibility and hinders potential growth opportunities.

  1. Inability to train others in your existing process:

Difficulty in effectively training other team members in the practice’s processes or methods indicates a lack of clarity or structure in the existing workflows. If you cannot train the current best practices, you risk losing institutional knowledge when employees leave and you make it so the team will never grow better than yourself.

  1. Incapability to articulate what sets your practice apart in specific, data-supported reports:

In the absence of detailed, data-backed reports, practices may struggle to clearly articulate their unique strengths or differentiators compared to other practices, which impacts marketing and client engagement strategies.

Recognizing these signs is the first step toward transforming a mediocre clinical practice into one that truly aligns with your potential as a practice.