How to Get More Out of Your Medical Support Staff
Whenever a medical practice is in trouble doctors will often tell us it’s because their office staff members aren’t doing a good job. Unfortunately, doctors themselves often contribute to office staff inefficiencies by failing to take the steps which would create a stronger, more efficient working environment.
Most of these steps are simple and cost-effective though they do take some time and effort to implement.
Write a job description for every employee.
Believe it or not, your office staff may not be entirely clear on what you need from them or how they can provide value to your practice. They know they need to make patients feel welcome, set appointments, and enter information into the computer, but they might not know that their adherence to policies, accuracy, and know-how can make a huge difference on the practice’s bottom line.
They also don’t necessarily understand who is responsible for what or how they can accomplish what you need them to accomplish. So make sure every staffer has a job description with a clearly defined list of duties. You might even take a few moments to explain why each of their duties matters to the practice as a whole. Make sure this job description is on paper, signed by each employee, and stored in an accessible place.
Boil everything you can down to a process.
Often, the routine little things the office staff forgets about when there are a lot of patients in the waiting room can become the issues that prevent your practice from getting paid. The easiest way to ensure that staffers don’t forget vital steps when they are overwhelmed is to boil everything down to a series of steps. Those steps should be written out and posted somewhere visible.
You can make almost anything into a process. You can have a process for what staff members should say when they greet a patient. “Good morning, Mrs. Jones, here for your ten o’clock? Great. Has your insurance changed at all since your last visit? Oh it has? May I get a photocopy of your new card, please?” When these phrases are “the way we do things” instead of optional pleasantries you increase your chances of creating a staff which will get everything you need to get paid each and every time. You can print these phrases out and post them on the wall next to the service window.
You can create a process for anything that gets problematic in your office. We once worked with a doctor who was fuming because his staff was having trouble working the fax machine. It took thirty seconds for us to type a “how to send a fax” document, to print it out, trim it, and paste it to the side of the fax machine. This 30 second fix put an end to the problem and made sure every fax got sent out correctly in the future.
Conduct regular training and review sessions.
Your staffers may have worked in medical offices before. They may have gone to school for medical billing and coding. That does not mean they know everything they need to know to be a successful member of your practice.
In addition, there are a lot of reasons why medical training is a must. Workers are human and get complacent, so procedures slip and then are forgotten. New legislation requires new procedures at the office level. Targets shift. Staying on top of training ensures your staff members always know what they need to do in order to protect your interests. It also helps them connect the dots between the work that they’re performing and the survival of the practice.
These sessions offer an ancillary benefit as well. They give staff members a chance to reach out to you with questions and concerns while solidifying the group as a team with a greater mission, not just a disparate group of men and women working jobs to pay the bills.
Remember, managing employees at a medical practice is just like managing them everywhere else. Staff members aren’t magically going to perform if there is a leadership vacuum. But in general, staffers want to succeed and they want to do a good job for you. Give these team members what they need to do in order to do just that, and they will reward you by doing whatever they can to support your practice and help it thrive.