By: Susan Hoy, CA
Let me ask you a question: If you could visualize your most successful practice, what would it look like? Think about if for a few moments. My guess is that you are visualizing a reception room full of patients. There is a balance of new patients and maintenance patients. They are all excited about the care you are giving, and they love to tell others about you and your office staff. Your staff is hustling about taking care of those patients, making them feel welcome and cared about. They are happy about their job, always looking for new and more productive ways to help patients. They are well-groomed, courteous, and professional. They love what they do, they believe in Chiropractic, and they want to help you make a difference. You, the Chiropractor, are busy helping patients become well. Every day is busy and productive, and you spend your time going from one patient to the next, staying focused and on purpose. Your staff loves you because you are involving them in your work and because you are successful. Your success enables you to pay them a good salary and offer bonuses. At the end of the day, you all go home tired but enthusiastic. Everyone benefits: your patients, your staff, and you.
Let’s try another vision. This time, your reception room is not full of patients. You have some new patients, but you have to keep advertising for them. Your existing patients rarely tell others about you or your office. You have few maintenance patients. Your staff is harried and stressed. They barely have time to say “hello” to the patients because the paperwork is piled up. There is so much busy work that comes with each patient that your staff secretly wishes you didn’t have any patients. There is not much smiling, just frustration. You are frustrated, too. Why can’t your staff understand how important it is to be energized and alive! Don’t they understand how to grow a practice? You are so distracted from worrying about what’s going on in the front of the office, you are barely able to concentrate and focus on your patients. Your patients are grumpy and complain. They disappear, and then you have to increase your advertising and do more spinal screenings. Why don’t your patients refer more? Your staff meetings are nothing but unproductive frustration sessions. Everyone goes home frustrated and exhausted.
If you really did what I asked and truly visualized these two scenarios, you should have recognized that each vision produced an entirely different state of mind. The first state was invigorating; the second was exhausting!
You now know what happens to your practice when you don’t have good policies and procedures. Your staff is so busy trying to keep up with a system that is so paperwork intensive, there is barely time to focus on patients. The message that goes out to patients is that of intrusive and bothersome. When that happens, the “great patient experience” goes out the window and there is virtually no positive energy. The next thing that goes out the window is your staff and then your practice.
All healthcare providers are experiencing paperwork nightmares. No doubt about it, our paperwork requirements are labor intensive, and all paperwork must be completed properly if we want to get paid. However, if you want your practice to survive, you must simplify and streamline your paperwork and procedures. I don’t care how much you focus on new patients (you and your staff can talk about it all the time), but if you are feeling overworked and bogged down, the universe will not provide new patients for your office. Not until you get your paperwork flow under control.
I suggest you have a productive staff meeting; ideally, have this meeting away from the office. It is so much easier to focus on problems when you distance yourself from them. Sometimes, you can’t see the forest for the trees. Start off by acknowledging your staff and understanding how busy they are just trying to get the job done. Ask the following questions:
- “What procedures are taking our time away from our patients?”
- “How can we streamline and simplify these procedures?”
Make a list of all the tasks that are taking too much time. Prioritize them according to how much time they take. Focus on a more simplified system.
The following is an example:
Many months ago, I noticed that a certain procedure was taking an extraordinary amount of time. Many of our patients have a PPO which gave patients a certain number of visits, with an expiration date of treatment. Each routing slip had to have the information on it, and we had to be very accurate or we wouldn’t get paid. It was taking one CA many hours to look the information up on the computer and gather all the data we needed. It was creating a big problem. I had two options: hire another staff member to help, or simplify this work-intensive procedure. I chose the latter. My first task was to focus on the problem (I did this away form the office). When the answer came, it was so simple. All this data was in each patient record; it was just taking us too much time to access it from the computer. I devised a merge of data (mail merge) onto our routing slip. Our routing slip had to be reorganized and we had to do minimal computer programming, but now it is a simple task. The routing slip is in our printer; the CA just types the patient’s name, and the computer automatically does the work and prints out the pertinent information directly on the routing slip. The task literally takes a second or two.
A task that used to take hours is now so simple that it has eliminated major frustration, and it is fun to do. And I didn’t have to hire another staff member!
I know that all offices have procedures that can be streamlined and simplified. If you just spend time identifying them, understanding and focusing on them, and taking the time to simplify them, all staff members could spend more time focusing on patients. When your work flow gets simplified, it will allow everyone to be open for more patients, and the universe will provide.