Running a medical practice is a small operation compared to the world of corporate sales, but their failure to recognize they are in business costs them plenty. Many medical practices fail to follow basic principles that lead to the success of any organization. This results in poor business performance, high turnover and less than stellar service.
Practice management consultants are committed to helping medical practices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and yes, even hospitals, focus on the essential tenets required for a smooth-running operation. Here are the primary areas we concentrate on.
First, value staff and treat them well. They are the business’s first customer and they will give patients the same attention and treatment they, themselves get from their leaders. This means hiring the best, paying them what they are worth and setting them up for success by establishing fair and objective performance standards, providing adequate training, good communication and superior leadership
Team-building is an important component of valuing employees and is accomplished through staff meetings, group problem-solving and cross-department committees for everything from planning the annual picnic to conducting quarterly chart audits. This is sometimes neglected in the hectic healthcare environment where an emerging crisis can often take center stage. Just the same it is important to be disciplined in the commitment to staff – keeping morale high and gaining peak performance.
Second, your clients will do themselves a favor if they establish and monitor a standard set of key performance indicators (KPIs). The basic indicators are: charges, collections and adjustments; accounts receive; and income and expense trends. However; drilling deeper can be extremely useful to monitor performance, identify problems and set goals to improve performance based on historical patterns such as:
- Number of missed appointment
- Access for patient appointments
- Collections at time of service
- Patient compliance for screenings and follow up care
- Overtime expense
- Supply costs
- Revenue for a particular segment of business such as ancillary services or new patients
- Patient satisfaction.
This information is critical to managing finances and business performance on an ongoing basis. The KPIs helps the stakeholders use business intelligence to make data-driven decisions. It also plays a powerful role in guiding the strategic planning process.
For example, it may reveal the need to add another provider or bring in additional ancillary services and can help management project a return on investment for future ventures. In fact, this is an area were sales reps and distributors can assist their clients in recognizing opportunities to strengthen their position, service and profits by making upgrades in their facility that will improve efficiency and, perhaps, offer more reliable outcomes.
Subhead: Customer service a must
Medical facilities have not earned an enviable reputation when it comes to customer service, especially when compared to other service companies.
Serving patients begins with the first points of entry: the telephone and the reception station. Both of these are compromised when inbound telephone calls are answered at the front desk, yet we still see this happening in so many medical clinics. Most of us would be appalled if this happened when being served by the teller of our local bank or at the checkout stand when buying our groceries.
On top of it, some facilities close down the phone lines for two hours during lunchtime, which reduces service and results in pent up demand that cannot be managed when the phones are turned back on. In other words they are sabotaging themselves and frustrating their patients at the same time.
What really bugs patients the most is wait time. In a study conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center in 2007, 24 percent of the respondents complained about waiting 30 minutes or longer when arriving for their appointment and nearly 20 percent complained of having to wait a week or more to get an appointment. I doubt that there would be a significant shift if the same study was conducted in 2011. These are obvious indicators of inefficient scheduling processes that do not get enough attention to get to the fix.
Certainly technology offers solutions to help physicians resolve these basic problems: everything from more sophisticated telephone systems, appointment reminders, electronic medical records, improved medical equipment and better supplies can help physicians and allied health care providers run a smoother business.
It’s time for you to get your customer’s attention. Help them identify how costly these problems are to their bottom line and introduce a solution. If your company doesn’t provide the solution you are likely to know someone that does. You can become the “go to” person and strengthen the relationship you have with your clients.
— By Judy Capko