One of our previous clients decided to move on from her group practice to set up her own practice. After being in town for just a few short years it would be important for her to have a following of loyal patients. For this reason, I decided to research how patients were rating her, and discovered her average rating with several major sites was a 4+ stars. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I decided to dig deeper and read some of the reviews. 4 out of 5 had wonderful things to say, but the one critical rating was brutal and contrary to the glowing comments other patients made about this fine doctor. The strong negative comments by this single reviewer related to his experience with the front office. I suspect this could have been avoided if the front office team took pride in their work and understood that a major part of their role is to greet each patient properly and make sure their needs are met, as well as preparing them for the visit.
Such comments as: “I waited an hour in the reception and was completely ignored; the receptionist was rude and acted inconvenienced; I was a new patient and no one seemed to care” reflect a patient that feels discounted and gets upset before ever being escorted to the exam room to meet the physician. Unfortunately, it’s not rare to hear patients complaining about the way they are treated at the doctor’s office and how poorly it compares to their experience at Starbucks or their local bank. It’s time for medical practices to implement some training standards that put patients first.
It starts with creating a culture where physicians and managers believe their staff is their number one customer. Staff will only treat patients as well as they are treated by their superiors and the respect and care they are given. A practice will not thrive unless the work environment is one of respect and appreciation – and it starts at the top!
Hire good people and treat them right
Be selective in who you hire. The interviewing process is key. Pay close attention to applicants and how they relate to you. Are they personable, confident, eager and are they good communicators? Assess their professional experience and find out what is important to them: What do they want out of a job, what do they want to contribute to the practice, and is their skill set the right match? Don’t just settle. Hire someone with the right attitude and technical skills who is also a good fit culturally. Give them the tools and training to succeed and do their best for you, their team members, and the patients.
Staff up and pay well. Hire top performers and pay them what they are worth. Not just their hourly rate, but competitive benefits and small acknowledgements throughout the year, whether it’s a group annual picnics, an employee-of-the-month award, or giving someone tickets to the movies for going the extra mile in a demanding situation.
Staffing up is better than being too lean. Don’t be obsessed with minimizing staff costs. Employ enough people to ensure the job can get done each day and there is time to do maintenance tasks like ordering supplies, updating the website, maintaining OSHA drills, and QI documentation. By staffing up you are likely to have enough to staff to improve production at the highest level. If even one more patient is seen each day it contributes significantly to the bottom-line.
Serve staff well. Make each employee feel important and make sure they are heard. Talk to them, keep them well informed and involve them in decision-making that affects them. Part of serving your staff is having an open dialogue including well-planned and -executed performance reviews and regular staff meetings that are energetic, empowering, and dynamic. An often-overlooked opportunity is making sure you provide continuing education for employees on your time and at your expense. Ask them to share what they learn and how it might be applied to improve the practice’s performance.
A key metric in serving staff well is individual communication. Show interest in your employees and talk to them during the day. It’s important to be sincere. If you haven’t done it in the past you will soon discover how this contributes to a much more enjoyable work day and improves staff morale and overall productivity. Ask questions that are meaningful to them. When they return from vacation, ask about their job – are their needs being met, where do they see themselves three years from now, and what are their goals. Thank people for the little things they do. Treat staff the way you want to be treated and the way you expect them to treat your patients!
These things all contribute to developing a great practice where employees love to come to work, they are proud of what they contribute, and you can feel confident that patients will give the practice and everyone in it glowing reviews.
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