Tips for getting the most out of an onsite visit to a colleague’s practice.
By Allan Walker
The Successful Onsite Visit
Visiting a colleague’s practice to evaluate or observe a product, program, service, or process requires a great deal of preparation to ensure the call is worthwhile and productive. Because a visit is a collaborative effort, all parties need clarity around its purpose and expectations. Follow the suggestions outlined ahead to get the most out of your visit to a colleague’s practice.
Prepare for Your Visit
Do your research. Your goal is to make your visit as efficient as possible. The last thing you want to do is waste anyone’s time. It is important to learn as much as you can about the subject beforehand. Do your homework. Conduct the requisite research. You don’t want to waste valuable onsite time getting up to speed. You need to be organized and ready the moment your visit starts.
Contact vendors. Scheduling a vendor demonstration—or multiple demonstrations if you are still evaluating several products—is a valuable way to prepare for a subsequent onsite visit to a colleague’s practice. Combining a vendor demo with a real-time visit to a working practice is a great way to “see” the whole package. Some vendors will help pay for onsite visits to practices already using their product.
Prepare a list of questions. Use your research to compile a list of questions and send them to your colleague ahead of time. This will help them prepare and be ready for you. They might even be able to answer some of your questions beforehand, thus saving valuable onsite time for other, more complex questions and/or demonstrations.
Create an itinerary. Work with your colleague to develop a detailed itinerary. Together, you can identify the people you will need and when you will need them. You don’t want to unnecessarily “blow up” people’s days. Remember, you will be there on a workday. Everyone is busy and your colleague has a practice to run.
Verify if you can take photos/videos. Today’s modern phones and cameras make it simple to record important aspects of your visit. Ask upfront if your colleague has any objections to you using these technologies to help you remember important visit/demonstration details. Combining photos and videos with written notes will ensure you have captured all important details.
Ask upfront for related resources. Ask your colleague for any visit-related tools, forms, plans, and materials (e.g., samples of action plans, staff training, and patient education) they use that they might be willing to share upfront to help you prepare.
Be rested and ready. Make sure your travel itinerary meets the visit timeframe and schedule. You want to be fresh and energetic when the visit starts. Get a good night’s sleep and eat well. Bring a favorite snack to make sure you can maintain your energy level throughout the visit.
Make The Most of Your Visit
Put your preparation to work. This is where all of the prep work begins to pay dividends. Once all the introductory pleasantries are completed, the preplanning and itinerary should be able to kick in and the day should begin to flow. Of course, there could be unexpected issues—remember, this is a regular workday—but good prep work should be able to overcome most ordinary office challenges.
Cop a (good) attitude. Be as respectful and unobtrusive as possible. Show gratitude early and often. Be pleasant, uplifting, and grateful. Go with the flow, but always be aware of the time and the itinerary. You want to maximize your learning and what you accomplish. Be cognizant of discussions or issues that take the visit off course and try hard to keep the visit focused and on track.
Take good notes. Detailed note taking is essential if you want to ultimately make a sound business decision. However, don’t overdue your scribing. There is a delicate balance. While you want to capture significant information, you don’t want to have your head down scribbling notes and miss hearing or seeing something even more important or interesting. Also, good note taking will help ensure you don’t have to interrupt your hosts with questions after you return.
Respect everyone’s time and job obligations. The good news here is that you, too, run a practice. You know what goes on behind the walls and in the lanes. You are intimately aware of how a practice works. You don’t want to mangle a tech’s day—or anyone’s day—and you likely won’t because of your preplanning efforts, respectful attitude, and professional insight.
Share information. You might be able to bring something to the table, despite being the visitor. Your hosts might be able to learn from you. Feel free to add your knowledge and experience when appropriate, while being careful not to derail the day’s agenda.
Buy lunch/dinner. Hosting a meal for the major players who spent time with you or went out of their way for you is the right thing to do. If your visit is a full-day affair (i.e., two meals with your hosts), offer to cover the more expensive meal break or the one most participants can attend. This is a great time to relax, socialize, and enjoy each other’s company.
After Your Visit
Show your appreciation. Do something appropriate and thoughtful. Send handwritten thank-you notes to everyone involved. Make a personal phone call. Send a gift basket with a note of appreciation. This is all part of building an ongoing, mutually beneficial professional relationship.
Provide updates. Let your hosts know how you used the information you gleaned during the visit and what you decided to do. They are vested in your outcome. Be quick to share anything you have learned since the visit.
Reciprocate. Make sure your hosts clearly understand they are welcome to visit your practice anytime. Also, if you noticed anything that the host practice could use (perhaps a tool or form you have found) or anyone asked you about a different topic/form—make certain to promptly send it to that person.
The truth is that most top-performing practices share similar challenges and experiences. While you may think your practice is unique, chances are that known and respected colleagues understand your dilemma and would be delighted share their knowledge and insight during an onsite visit to their practice. All you have to do is ask.
Allan Walker is director of publication services for BSM Consulting in its Incline Village, NV, office. In this position, he coordinates, plans, and produces a full range of client media projects ranging from written materials to electronic, internet-based programs.
His responsibilities include conceptualization, organization, design, and layout of various communication and learning products and services such as newsletters, marketing/advertising tools, electronic learning courses, reports, training manuals, brochures, forms, seminar handouts, slide presentations, and other materials. Additionally, he provides staff oversight and project management.
Before joining BSM in 1994, Mr. Walker accumulated more than 15 years of print media experience. During this time, he served in several different positions, including reporter, managing editor, and publisher for various newspapers, newsletters, and magazines. He is the co-author of the book “Ten Eyecare Practices: Benchmarks for Success” and is a contributing editor for Administrative Eyecare magazine. In 2016, he was named an APEX Award winner in the “How To” category for professional writers and communicators.
Mr. Walker is experienced in all areas of publishing, including editing and reporting, composition, design, typography, layout, advertising, and related marketing. He has vast knowledge of patient and staff education programs and materials.