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Gut-Feelings and Analytics – How Effective Decisions Are Made (and Executed)

Steve DeBiasi explores how business decisions are made in medical practices, and why "going with your gut" won't always be the most effective solution.

I recently read a book by the professional poker player Annie Duke, titled, “How to Decide.” In it, she explored different “tools” you can use to help make better decisions, and two of her ideas particularly resonated with me. First, she discussed how there are two different types of decisions we can make. One is the concept of one-way and two-way doors, meaning that there are some doors in life you can’t take a step backwards through, and there are others that, when things aren’t working, you can back up and try a different door. Secondly, she explored the “happiness test;” a way to determine if something is a low impact decision that won’t matter in the long term. Understanding where a decision falls in these two areas of analysis, she claims, can help you determine what choices can be made quickly without too much forethought, and which will require careful reflection and accuracy. 

The thing is, when you’re making decisions in daily life, there’s often no source of data to pull from or any concrete analysis that can take place to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. What software can you use to calculate your level of happiness when deciding between the turkey or ham sandwich for lunch? When it comes to choices in life, big or small, the sometimes best you can do is to go with your gut. But when it comes to business decisions about your practice, gut instincts alone often are not what gets approved by the physician owners. 

Any seasoned professional will have developed strong instincts throughout their years of experience, but those instincts only go so far and come with inherent biases. And without data to back it up, you’re taking a gamble with decision making at every turn with no way to justify your actions or measure results. When it comes to the low impact small decisions, the “ham sandwiches,” this may not be necessary. But we all know that big decisions with lasting impacts can be much more challenging.  

Recognizing the decisions that are “one-way” and which are “two-way” doors, as per Annie Duke’s theory, is an important practice that can help break you of “analysis paralysis” and help you take action. Most of the decisions you will make for your practice (with the exception of clinical decisions, of course) can be walked back and revisited in the event that things don’t go as planned. When you recognize there’s a problem or an area for improvement, doing something is always better than doing nothing. However, using practice data increases the likelihood that you will choose the right door the first time. Rather than going through the trouble of repeatedly reimagining your strategies until you find one that works, careful analysis of key performance indicators can narrow down your options and lead you to the best solution possible quickly and with less effort. 

By understanding the data behind what makes your practice tick, you’ll be able to uncover the truth behind the efficacy of your online presence, productivity of employees, areas of high-volume revenue, and so much more. Using this understanding, you can create plans to take action and truly optimize your practice to run at peak efficiency. See what’s happening, take the time to understand it, and rely on your knowledge and experience or the knowledge and experience of professional advisors to take action. As my former colleague Maureen Ruddy wrote in her blog post Lessons From a Young Healthcare Executive, “failure to act is a cardinal sin in management,” and I could not agree more. 


The opinions and views expressed in this blog post belong to and are solely those of the individual author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Curi Advisory or Curi Advisory’s parent or affiliated companies or their members, insureds, clients, customers, or partners.