After recently attending a practice management seminar, I found myself excited with what I learned, but also overwhelmed with the wealth of good ideas that was in my luggage to take home. Attendees of this seminar not only had been given tools that would help provide comprehensive care for patients, but also to inspire us to make podiatry fun again if we had lost that enthusiasm.
With all of the information that came from the lecturers, roundtable discussions, and vendors, how could I organize these tools that have been given to me to provide comprehensive care to my patients? How would I formulate a plan to put some of these ideas and products into action in my own practice?
With this in mind, my plane flight home was consumed with thoughts of what changes were most important, how they would best be integrated into the current office flow, and the fun that would soon by mine in the daily practice of podiatry again. When I returned to the office the next day, some of that fun, however, was already gone. There was a long list of doctor “to-do’s”: patients that had to be seen right away, lab forms to review, chart notes to complete, and bills to pay. There were also prescriptions to be authorized, billing questions to be answered, and notes and letters to be done. Where was I going to find the time to implement some changes in the office?
To add anything new to our daily protocols was going to take some planning. How could we do this with the least amount of disruption? There had to be a plan. Changes needed to be done in small steps to fit in where time was available. The materials would need to be organized so they could be reviewed quickly. We would need a place to organize the information and our plan. We would also need a reference source that we could turn to as these changes were being made.
Thus, my first goal was to organize the seminar information and literature, my master list of goals, and my action plan into one location. A three-ring binder notebook was used and divided into eight sections. After trying several different ways of categorizing the information, the final sections we found most helpful are as follows:
- Action list (master list and action plan forms)
- Notes (from the lectures)
- Protocols (for different diagnosis and conditions)
- DME (durable medical equipment)
- OTC (over-the-counter products)
Each office or physician could make section headings based on their needs so it would be easy to work on your action plan or reference the subjects that are most important to you. If it is individualized to your life and your practice, it will be a useful tool for change and improvement.
The section listed action list contains a master list of ideas and changes that were started and developed while in the lectures, workshops or while talking to the vendors at the practice management seminar. During the seminar, I used a sheet of paper to write down any ideas that would come to my mind based on the material that was being presented. This was important because the volume of information given during the seminar would have been very difficult to remember after returning home.
The notebook is not a static reference, but a dynamic one. The notebook is opened frequently to create immediate and intermediate action plans, reference lecture notes, “refer-to-vendor’s” materials, and reference product prices in our effort to provide comprehensive care for our patients. It has now become my workbook to a better and more fulfilling practice. After the first six weeks, we had completed twenty-two items on the master list of ideas. Some of the ideas were quick and easy to institute while others will take more time. The process to improving the practice continues daily.
The notebook serves as a daily reminder to me since it sits where I can see it on my desk. It is true that if something is out of sight, it is eventually out of mind. With the notebook to remind me of the seminar and my action plan, it only takes a few minutes a day to open it and see what the next action item is. That action item can then be added to your “daily task list” or list of “to do” items. The task may be as simple as a phone call to confirm the price on an item you are considering carrying in your office for your patient’s convenience or passing that assignment onto a staff member and having them report back to you with the information. The point is that you have done something that day to put you one step closer to a better office and more fulfilling practice without consuming much time. Working a smaller “daily task list” allows you to de-clutter your mind by not having to remember the complete plan. It makes a larger task more manageable when it is broken down to smaller tasks.
This exercise to organize and plan was not only critical to allow us to improve the practice with the least amount of disruption, but also not to overwhelm the staff with the new changes. Without the staff on board, it is difficult to institute new protocols, procedures, or new products. You can involve the staff in some of the decision making process to help them feel more a part of the change. The alternative is having them resist the changes. Help the staff to understand the “why” behind the changes, and explain how these changes will make the practice more efficient—a benefit to the patients, the staff, and the doctors…the practice as a whole. Explain how adding a certain product to your office makes it more convenient for your patients so they can avoid the cost and frustration of trying to find that product somewhere else. Explain how by adding a new service attempts are being made to get your patients with heel pain to feel better at a much faster rate. Without this understanding of the “why”, it will just seem like more work for your staff. Change without ownership is difficult. The ownership may not be in the practice itself, but simply in the “why” or in the benefit. There may be a protocol you change that may seem hard for the staff because it is different. Once they know a protocol change means a 5-step process will now be a 3-step process, making their jobs easier, they will likely be more willing to learn the new process.
My practice has improved, fueled by an inspiring practice management seminar, my notebook as reference to turn to, along with a master plan of action, and small manageable action items accomplished daily, with the cooperation and help of staff. These improvements are getting patients better faster, allowing the office to be more efficient and is truly making podiatry more fun and rewarding again. What can you change to make your practice better and make podiatry more fun again? Gather the information, make a plan, frequently remind yourself of the plan, take small steps daily, involve your staff on the beneficial changes, and get enthused about podiatry again.
Tim Grace, DPM