Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Practice principals and practice managers frequently lament the fact that practice staff – or physician colleagues – just don’t fit in. Is there an answer, or is it just a situation everyone has to learn to live with?

What Difference Would It Make?

Instead of making this an article for your reading only, let’s build a worksheet you can DO something with. How about it?

Get some paper, a pen, and set aside the additional five minutes to jot yourself down some notes.

First of all, if you had the right people, what would go away?

There’s a good question. Consider this from the standpoints of frustration and complaints – both from customers and staff, what exactly would go away? How do you feel when you’re putting out “personality fires” – issues related to how people get along? Are your days longer because you find yourself dealing with complaints that really ought not to be there in the first place? Do you find yourself having to bolster morale because of ongoing frustrations among staff related to chronic issues in the practice?

Think about it from the standpoint of rework: things that have to be done over in your practice. What wouldn’t have to be done over so much? Things might include calls to get coverage when someone suddenly isn’t available. It might include billing issues, scheduling issues – both for patients and practice staff, or procedures that have to be redone because of errors. How about lost reports, charts, or data; do you ever find yourself having to redo or reschedule these?

Consider it from the standpoint of costs: are there things you’re paying for that you really shouldn’t have to pay for, but having the wrong staff make the expense necessary? Costs related to repeated exams or procedures effectively double the cost of that procedure – both in materials and staff time. Late billing in fact reduces cash flow, and in many instances means you won’t collect as much – or might not collect the money at all. What other costs can YOU think of?

And think about it from the standpoint of wasted time: what activities are you doing now that you would no longer have to do if the right people were in the positions? Much of this work is inextricably tied to the problems you’ve already listed above. Take a minute and quantify the amounts of time you are spending in each of those problems each week. Would you like to get it back?

Second: If you had the right people, what would you gain that you don’t have now?

In this section, begin with time. You looked at the amount of time lost in the preceding difficulties, what exactly would it mean to you if you had that time available, what would you do with it? Are there services your practice could do, but you haven’t had the time to plan for? Would you use your newly found time to increase the efficiency of the practice, or to develop a program that would improve your staff satisfaction, thereby cutting staff turnover? Maybe you would use it to go home earlier and help your spouse and kids remember what you really look like!

Gains to a practice actually begin, of course, with the time to do them. But let’s get a hard list of what some of those gains would be.

What about new services? Your practice, no matter what its type, has a large group of patients with common needs, what are they? Are there procedures you could add that would specifically address those needs? Would those procedures add to your revenue, and which of them could be added using your current staff, equipment, or space?

An Example of New Services

One OB/GYN practice Rodeo! worked with had a physician who, after many years in the field, noticed that there were nutritional issues common to most of his patients. He began to study those needs and, over the course of time, began recommending nutritional changes to his patients that resulted in significant improvements in their long term health. It finally occurred to him that he could use this approach in adding a new nutritional aspect to the practice, and he found that there were compounding pharmacies willing to underwrite part of the cost of doing so. The end result? A whole new practice service that not only improved the clinical health of his older patients, but added significantly to his practice revenue.

Third: If you had the right people, how would it affect your patient satisfaction?

This is almost a “Duh!”, but consider for a moment the benefits that accompany a smoothly running practice with the right people working it. Satisfied patients mean a large reduction in the number of complaints coming in. Is that a situation you would like to have? What would that mean to you in terms of mental stress? In terms of recovered time?

Satisfied patients also mean a reduction in liability, a very real concern in today’s litigious society. The hard fact is that when people are happy with the care they are getting AND the way they are being treated, they are much less likely to sue. One study found that 70% of patients sue because they were unhappy with some non-clinical aspect of their practice experience. Would you like to reduce your practice exposure by that amount?

Pulling It All Together

So, it’s obvious that having the right people in a practice has enormous benefits, related to redeemed time, reduced aggravation, increased revenue, reduced cost, and reduced liability. But how to go about getting the right people in the first place, and how to keep them when you have them? Those are the critical questions, and they will be answered in the second part of this series: How You Hire Really Matters – Part 2 in Hiring the Right Staff.