Who really has the power to make or break your practice? Sure people look to payers including the government and insurance companies. But you can have great reimbursement rates and still go down the tubes.
In reality, your staff members have more power to influence patient choice and referrals than most providers give them credit for. As a mystery patient, I approached the counter in a family practice a second time to ask if the doctor were running on time. The young woman, looking a bit frustrated, responded, "Oh he never runs on time. I don't know why people keep coming back here."
Another member of the practice who has control over the financial health of the office is the scheduler. It's usually up to her whether or not to book that last patient of the day. If she wants to end the call quickly she simply has to say, "Dr. Smith is totally booked. You'll have to call again another time."
How does a group build the team that builds the practice? Use simple techniques that create a bond between the doctor(s) and employees and as well as between departments. Below are three simple suggestions:
1. Always refer to the group of employees as the Care Team. It conveys to everyone (including patients) that all of your employees are part of a team whose role is to deliver patient care.
2. Assess insider perceptions of teamwork, intra-office communication, recognition and other factors that affect staff member performance. Go to www.satsurveys.com PIN 1234 for a sample of the questions on a customizable engagement survey.
3. Use the results of the engagment survey to develop team-building sessions with physicians and staff. Depending on how your practice scores various questions, the workshop can address issues including communication between front and back office; communication between providers and nurses/medical assistants; and other situations that hinder the delivery of good internal and external customer service. At a recent gathering of the care team of a six-doctor office, the group identified the characteristics of a great team player; analyzed their own strengths and limitations; and made commitments to improve their own performance. In addition, six teams made up of one physician and four staff members listed ways that each could be more helpful to each other. The final activity in the session was to create a list of "Rules of the Road" - an office "compact" for working together with more camaraderie and less drama!