Effectively Managing Time: Your Staff Is The Answer

By: Susan Hoy, CA

If you always do what you always did, then you’ll always have what you always had.

“Insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.

I don’t know if it happens in your practice, but it kept happening over and over again in ours. Just when we thought we were going to break through the top and consistently hit the next level, the same thing happened. Suddenly, the practice leveled off and we were back where we were, struggling to break through again. According to the above definition of insanity, we needed a good practice psychologist.

The Problem of Time

Notice, I am using past tense. Finally, we have made the breakthrough! We have consistently been seeing 10 more patients on a daily basis for several months now. I have always known what our problem was, but I just couldn’t solve it. It kept presenting itself over and over again. As soon as we hit the top, we kept our patients waiting. I don’t know about your patients, but our patients are spoiled. They are almost all professionals who have very busy schedules. Too much time waiting for their adjustments spelled disaster for us.

Shortcuts Not The Answer

By medical doctor standards, we didn’t keep our patients waiting long at all, but when you expect patients to have adjustments two or three times a week, you’d better keep to a schedule. The problem is, our doctor only has so much time in a day. He can’t do everything and still see more patients. So, we began taking shortcuts. Patient education was falling short. Sales of supplies were floundering, and patient care was suffering.

Our staff was also busier, and our usual patient calls and recalls were being overlooked. After all, we were very busy, so why do all those things that stimulate business? We didn’t have time for all those little amenities that create a good “patient experience.”

Suddenly, our stats were declining. Patient referrals began to suffer and patients began dropping out of care. Before we knew it, we were right back where we were and wondering why. Our doctor would blame the staff and the staff would blame the doctor. We were all frustrated! Does this sound at all familiar?

I always tell CAs when I am teaching a seminar that all the answers are in the schedule book. The schedule tells all! I decided to take my own advice. I began by looking at the schedule and identifying the areas where we were running behind. Then at the end of the day we would discuss the reasons why. Invariably the problems occurred when Dr. Snyman had to spend more time with a patient than the time we had allotted.

Staff Utilization

The question was, what was he doing that a well-trained CA could do instead? We realized that he was doing a great many tasks that could be completed by a staff member. Take, for instance, orthotics. Dr. Snyman is always recommending them. They significantly help the patient, and our bottom line, too. However, once the patient agrees to buy them, it takes time to cast them correctly, give the patient foot exercises to prepare for them, and obtain the pertinent information from the patient. The process could take between 5 and 10 minutes. Those are precious minutes when you are trying to see 10 more patients a day! The solution: it is now our therapy CA’s job. Also, when the orthotics arrive, it is her job to go over the directions for use and answer the patient’s questions. She has become our orthotics specialist. Dr. Snyman just keeps on treating patients!

There are many other tasks a well-trained CA can help with. I was recently asked to do a consultation at a Chiropractic office. The Chiropractor was blocking off one hour of his time to see a new patient. If a Chiropractor can sufficiently see 8—10 patients in an hour, spending a whole hour with a new patient is not very cost effective. He admitted that new patients really bogged him down, and he resented it. This is definitely not a good thing!!! For one thing, you lose your momentum, and if you resent new patients, they will feel it.

With the proper form to fill out, and knowing the correct questions to ask, a well-trained CA can perform a medical history and complete preliminary exam tasks, thus freeing up the doctor to continue treating and helping as many patients as possible. Putting aside certain times in the schedule for new patients and reports of findings is another way to maximize time. Here again, the schedule book is the answer.

Staff Responsibility = Job Vitality

There is one other benefit to giving staff members more patient responsibility. They will feel more vital! Becoming an integral part of patient care will create job satisfaction. I honestly believe that a more involved staff will tend to have more longevity. Patient care should be a team effort.

So, if you are having the same problem we were having, and you want to make a breakthrough and take the insanity out of your practice, I urge you to make some changes and get those staff members trained to take on some of your responsibilities. I will end with a quote I once heard: “If you always do what you always did, then you’ll always have what you always had.”