Taking the Pulse of Your Practice -- Part 3

March 16, 2011
Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC

In keeping with our theme of enhancements to your medical practice, it's time to talk people. Your people! You may be the smartest doctor in the city, or have the best bedside manner, but all your efforts to build a great medical practice will flop in the face of an uncaring or rude staff.

In keeping with our theme of enhancements to your medical practice, it's time to talk people. Your people!

You may be the smartest doctor in the city, or have the best bedside manner, but all your efforts to build a great medical practice will flop in the face of an uncaring or rude staff.

Ever been treated poorly by an indifferent waiter? Or made to wait in the post office while the folks behind the counter stroll around apparently more interested in their tea break than you? Does even just thinking about these bring on a sense of outrage?

While you are its brains, your employees are the face and heart of your medical practice. These people are often the first and last contact anyone has with your practice. They can make or break you!

Your job as a medical practice owner is to determine the quantity, quality, skills and attitude of your employees, and then to lead them well. The better the match between the duties and responsibilities of the position, and the skills and experience of the employee, the happier you'll both be. And, in my opinion, unless the job calls for particular technical competencies, you're better off choosing to hire for attitude over skill and experience. You can coach and train the former, but you cannot eliminate an entrenched lousy attitude (think of brilliant surgeons throwing instruments in the OR. How fun is that?)

Your medical office personnel fall typically into one of four categories:

• Clerical/secretarial

• Back-office patient care support

• Business office/coding

• Professional/technical

...and if you're fortunate, you'll have an excellent medical practice office manager.

Questions to ask yourself, as a medical practice owner, include:

1. What are the different job tasks in the practice and by whom are these tasks best accomplished?

2. Individual by individual, what skills do my employees possess and or need, to perform their work well?

3. What investments do we as a practice make in furthering the training of our employees?

4. How do we go beyond the annual performance evaluation, and truly manage performance?

5. How can our practice take advantage of new technology to streamline, eliminate or reassign job tasks?

The medical practice that invests appropriately in its workforce, and provides a happy workplace by treating its employees as valued "customers," will be the one that thrive in the face of turmoil. After all, aren't you looking for a way to distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace?