Many office managers and practice administrators find themselves in a difficult position. Overseeing staff members while keeping physicians on track can be challenging to say the least. Many days it can feel as if you are looking from 30,000’ and trying to enjoy the view, only to find that your plane is going down!
In my experience as a staff member, turned practice manager and finally consultant, I see and hear the frustrations of team members at every level. Individuals in the front or back office who feel as if they work harder than others, doctors who feel as if they spend their days jumping through hoops to satisfy healthcare regulations and administrators who are stuck somewhere in the middle (trying to maintain peace in an environment that can often seem like a warzone). The question is. . . How does it all work? Unfortunately, many times, it really doesn’t (or at least well) and the entire health and wellbeing of the practice (and the team) suffers.
Let’s go back to the 30,000’ view. We all know that if you remove yourself far enough from a situation, it always looks better. In some cases, this is where administrators (and physicians) find themselves as they get caught up in the minutia of working IN their practices rather than ON them. If they only took the time to slow down and see what was happening (or not) right there in front of them, the effort required to institute positive changes may not seem so daunting.
The first place to begin improving the state of your practice is to come right out and ask your staff members to help you uncover the “mysteries” of what is going wrong. Although they may not have all the solutions, they certainly are the best at cluing you in to major roadblocks that are holding you back. Be warned however, that some of the issues may be physician related (if doctors tend to come in late or spend too much time chatting it up in the treatment room) and they may need to prepare themselves to make some adjustments to their workflow. Remember, staff is in the trenches everyday handling uncomfortable conversations including the gruesome details of high deductible insurance plans or apologizing for wait times that may exceed treatment times. Front and back office staff members have many more chances than a doctor to positively or negatively influence the patient experience (from initial phone call all the way through to check out). This is why patients often change their tune (turning that frown upside down) when the doctor enters the treatment room (leaving staff feeling frustrated and underappreciated as they have smoothed over what may have been a hairy situation).
As healthcare continues to change and evolve, and even though we spend more time performing prior-authorizations and documenting what we have done (rather than doing it), we cannot lose sight of what is most important (making our patients feel important and improving their conditions). This involves creating a warm and friendly productive environment where doctors, staff, and managers have a mutual understanding and respect for one another. If this feeling is not evident in your practice on a consistent basis, I would advise you to slow things down and jump out of the hamster wheel that you may have been trapped in for quite some time and look at what is really happening. There are resources readily available to guide you through the process of improving the health of your practice and your team without reinventing the wheel (even if you can’t pinpoint the root of the problem). Please contact Pinnacle Practice Achievement for information on how to get started. Info@pinnaclepa.com.
Cindy Pezza, PMAC
National Practice Management Consultant