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This time of year there’s nothing quite like having a houseful of passionate football fans. Especially when there’s less than a minute left to go in the game, the score is 28-24, and your team is poised to score. That is when the real fun begins—until the quarterback throws a game-ending interception. The great plays, the scoring drives, and even the carefully crafted snacks have all become a distant memory. Let the dissection begin.

Whose fault is it? How could the team have let that happen? What was the coach thinking? Why didn’t they give their best player the ball? Facebook and other social media outlets are lighting up with posts crying out in shock for fans of the losing team and ridicule for those who ended up on the winning side. To no one’s surprise, ESPN replays the game-ending debacle on a loop like some version of a car wreck that both horrifies and draws people in at the same time.

We can only assume that just maybe someone changed the play at the last minute. If true, look at what it cost them—not trusting what had worked for them time and time again. Even a day later there will be finger-pointing in post-game interviews, and the media will still be buzzing with speculation. Coaches go on record blaming players with limited playing time. Isn’t football just imitating life—urgent care business life—in this case?

How often do we choose to take a different approach to a situation even though we know the tried-and-true solution is cost-effective, trustworthy, and dependable? When the new plan magnificently blows up in our face for all the world to see, we choose to defend our decision by either pointing fingers or spouting off statistics. Statistics that drive home the point about how the old way of doing things just doesn’t cut it any longer. Even worse, we find blame or throw a colleague under the bus that deflects from the real cause.

Granted, life is not a football game. There is no film to watch or plays to practice over and over. Sometimes there isn’t even a team to help back you up. When operating an urgent care center, striving for consistency and reliability is an achievable and worthwhile goal. Creating a service level that is reproducible again and again, regardless of which—quote, unquote—player is on the field can help reduce the chance of a last-minute interception. Having the entire team know the plays and know what’s expected of them can contribute to avoiding any finger pointing if there’s a fumble.

For a moment, consider the expectation of the patient. Everyone wants a win! For the patient, they want top-notch care for whatever ailment or complaint they have come to your facility for. In addition to getting better, they also expect to receive the care in a respectful, professional, and caring manner. Here’s where you and your team can put those wins into action: Executing registration and making sure check-in and check-out processes go flawlessly so that patients come to expect nothing but reliable, consistent, and excellent service. In fact, this is also where you can implement special details—those custom formations or practices that make your center unique and standout compared to the competitor.

I am not saying you should never try new things or investigate new, innovative approaches to problems. On the contrary, sometimes it is important to think outside the box and run the wildcat. However, constant change, inconsistency, and no set ground rules only perpetuate confusion and poor service. This is especially true when you have multiple centers and the policies and procedures vary from one site to another. Sticking with a consistent set of policies and procedures does not mean it is perfect. It may just mean that you are working on improving them or that it is suitable for this moment in time.

It certainly takes practice for a team to be able to execute flawlessly and work like a well-oiled machine. The quarterback anticipating where the receiver is going to end up in his route is much akin to a good clinical staff member anticipating the needs of a practitioner who is preparing for a procedure. As long as you recognize that it is a continuous work in progress, then more often than not, you will get in the end zone rather than fumble the ball away.

Even if you occasionally have a dropped pass, at least your team will not have lost the big game! Learning from a loss helps a team prepare for the next contest—even though it might be painful at the time. The real lesson is accepting that a single play is not the actual cause of defeat. It takes a series of miscues to cause the inevitable downfall. So focusing your organization and efforts on consistent practices and affecting meaningful change will pay off long term.

Remember, when something goes wrong, finger pointing and Monday morning quarterbacking will not fix the situation. Figuring out the cause of a problem is not always as important as gathering the right folks to work on a solution to the problem. Teams that sink into the mire of blame have a hard time focusing on how to be successful and win on a daily basis.

So we are off into another year of football. Whether you are into the NFL, the NCAA, or a local high school team, try to be a patient fan and supporter through the long season. Save the armchair quarterbacking for the fantasy football league you manage and not the urgent care team you lead.

This resource was first published prior to the 2019 merger between DocuTAP and Practice Velocity. The content reflects our legacy brands.

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