Medical practices - like other businesses - change over time. "Every day you deal with new patients and new referring physicians. Change is constant. A practice either grows or shrinks, but it never stays the same," says Mark Turnbull.

As director of practice development at St. Paul Heart Clinic, it's his job to assist with strategic planning, marketing and other business efforts that will ensure the continued growth and success of the practice.

Programs And Services

Turnbull began his career as an echocardiographer. He taught echocardiography before joining St. Paul Heart Clinic. After completing a business degree at the University of St. Thomas, he moved out of clinical care into administration and marketing.

These days, his work is organized around two main "themes:" customer service and program development. Patients need excellent care that is also convenient and accessible. Referring physicians need to know that they can count on the clinic for high-level consultation.

The clinic serves both when, for example, it reduces the wait for newly referred patients requesting an initial appointment or brings diagnostic testing to hospitals in rural communities through its innovative mobile service.

Working Toward A Common Goal

During a typical week, Turnbull spends time at each of the clinic's three offices. One day, he may meet with the directors of a specific practice area to explore new services or ways to improve existing ones. Another day, he may work on the clinic's website.

Turnbull's schedule includes visits - about 30 each year - to partnering clinics and hospitals, where he meets with referring physicians. His goal is to find out what's going well, what could be improved and what new services might be needed.

Most days also include a review of ongoing projects. "I look at where we are, what the next step is and who's accountable for it. And then I ask, what can I influence today?" Turnbull says.

In essence, he says, his job is about building relationships - with physicians and other providers, with administrators and clinical staff. "We're all working together with the common goal of improving care, and every day is unique and exciting."

Nancy Giguere is a freelance writer from St. Paul who has written about healthcare since 1995.