Monthly Archives: May 2018

Resist the temptation to surveil your employees [practice management tip: human resources]

It’s easy to monitor your employees’ every move with modern technology. So should you? The temptation is understandable. The key question is: Are employees motivated to do a good job? Or does getting the most from them require constant oversight? Intuition might suggest the latter – but experience says otherwise. In the early days of business theory, the idea that management was primarily about surveillance (and “cracking the whip”) was popular. But over time, managers learned that employees aren’t just a cost – they’re an asset. Beginning in the 1980s, lessons from Japanese companies illuminated the value engaged employees bring to an enterprise. Toyota, in particular, found that by encouraging employees to be more involved in decision-making, they could improve product quality and productivity. Toyota’s success at improving manufacturing quality – which endures today – started with trusting employees. A culture of trust and respect tells employees their contributions matter – in turn, encouraging and empowering them go beyond the rote requirements of their job descriptions. With engagement tied to higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and better customer service, it’s easy to see how engaged employees can uplift a medical practice. But it won’t happen without trust – and electronic monitoring is a sure-fire way to communicate that you don’t trust your employees at all. Rather than trying to control your employees with surveillance, consider setting goals and incentives that encourage the behavior you want. Rely on reports and data, not constant monitoring, to evaluate how employees are doing. Start by hiring carefully, so you don’t have doubts about trust right out of the gate. And relax a little: Most people want to contribute and do their jobs well. Give them the structure to do it, and you won’t need to watch them all the time. Another thought to consider: If the huge potential benefits of an engaged staff aren’t enough to make you rethink surveillance, remember that every minute a practice owner or manager spends on monitoring is one that can’t be invested elsewhere. Surveillance is very time-consuming (read: costly). Odds are there are more valuable ways to use that

By |2018-04-29T12:24:55-08:00May 23rd, 2018|

Enter through the front door [practice management tip: patient service]

In a typical medical office layout, there’s a front door that’s used by patients and a rear door (or staff entrance) for employees. Of course, this can be quite convenient, especially when connected to employee parking. But an interesting consequence of this configuration is that physicians and managers never experience the reception area from the patient’s perspective. Next time you head out of the office during the day, come back in through the front door. Have a seat in the reception area. Are the seats comfortable? Are there enough of them? Are they spaced appropriately or too close together? (Imagine yourself sitting next to a sneezing flu patient if you need helping deciding.) If there’s a television, is it audible, but not too loud? Are there recent magazines on hand, or raggedy old ones from last year? What does the front desk activity convey to people waiting? Do patients look impatient – like they’ve been waiting too long? If so, does anyone behind the front desk seem to notice? In our consulting engagements, we almost always have comments on how the reception area can be easily and inexpensively improved. But you don’t need consultants to figure this out. It’s easy to self-diagnose – and the upside on improving could be huge. Patients start deciding how they feel about the quality of the care they receive the moment they walk into the office. Even ill patients will feel better about their visit – and their experience in the exam room – when their first moments in your practice reassure them they’re in a welcoming, professional, and caring environment. Patients view their entire practice experience as their “care” – not just the 15 minutes they get with a clinician. An inviting reception area is a cost-effective way to reinforce your practice’s caring attitude – and get the patient visit off to a strong start.

By |2022-01-01T22:51:46-08:00May 16th, 2018|

Patient service is your competitive edge [practice management tip: patient service]

Independent primary care and specialty practices alike worry about increasing competition from hospitals and integrated systems. It’s not uncommon to see hyped-up headlines pronouncing independent practices “doomed” and the consolidation trend “inevitable.” But the naysayers always conveniently overlook a big advantage independent practices have versus larger organizations: the personal touch. In consumer settings, small players often find ways to compete against giants – and win. Maybe your town has an auto mechanic who outshines the dealer shops, thanks to better prices and more convenient hours. Perhaps your neighborhood has a family hardware store that’s going strong in the shadow of a big-box store, thanks to expert staff and a unique range of products. Or, if your area’s like mine, maybe you’ve got weekend farmer’s markets selling fresh vegetables by the truckload, despite the supermarkets down the street. Of course, these are just a few examples – but you get the idea. “Little guys” can flourish – if they find ways to serve their customers their super-sized competition can’t easily match. Competing against bigger, deeper-pocketed opponents can be scary. But it’s easy to forget those competitors have weaknesses as well as strengths. In medicine, it’s hard for a large, bureaucratic organization to provide the personalized experience a smaller practice can. And in what setting could a personal touch be more valued than in healthcare? If you’re worried about a big player setting up camp in your backyard, start thinking about how you can attract and retain patients with better patient service. Take a seat in your own reception area – and think about how it can be upgraded. Start looking at metrics like wait times and overall visit length, and consider how you can improve them. Check online reviews for comments you can learn from, and do your own confidential surveys to give patients a chance to tell you what they value – and what needs work. You just might find that you practice won’t just survive – it will thrive.

By |2022-01-01T22:51:47-08:00May 9th, 2018|

Consider rolling recruitment for key jobs [practice management tip: human resources]

Do you find yourself reluctant to discipline difficult employees because they’ll be hard to replace if they quit? Is that same fear causing you to retain employees who’ve failed to improve, despite being counseled again and again?When the consequences of poor performance never materialize, underperforming employees will soon perceive they’ re exempt from the standards you’ve set for everyone else. Even worse, your better employees will have to pick up the slack and tolerate negative energy from complainers – increasing the risk you’ll lose the people you value most. Many practices feel squeezed for talent in their local markets. It’s understandable to be concerned about a key job staying unfilled for too long – but, still, keeping underperforming employees can harm your practice much more. Instead of going soft on performance problems, consider amending your hiring practices. For example, a little redundancy in your medical assistant ranks (e.g., maintaining one or two “extra” floaters) ensures coverage when someone’s out sick – or ends up leaving the practice. Those additional hands can also tackle valuable ad hoc tasks that might otherwise get skipped, such as recalls that serve patients better and generate additional revenues. A rolling system of recruiting can also ensure you don’t miss a chance to hire talented new grads. Establish recruitment relationships with local training colleges and med schools, and maintain key job postings for year round. (Be sure to use screening questions on recruitment sites and filters in your email software to help manage the applicant flow.) Even if you don’t need help immediately, being aware of available talent will allow you to hire opportunistically if someone exceptional becomes available. It will also provide a clearer picture of the current talent pool, so you don’t feel compelled to hold on to employees who aren’t measuring up.

By |2022-01-01T22:51:47-08:00May 1st, 2018|
Go to Top