Category Archives: Practice Management

Healthcare Marketing: Why it is Important for Your Practice

Medical practice marketing is now a fairly common concept for many physicians. Every practice should have a healthcare marketing strategy in place so you can market your practice better to current and future patients. How important is the marketing strategy in healthcare? It is important today than ever before; not only do patients use websites and other forms of social media to find physicians to treat them, but healthcare workers looking for jobs use them as well.

A practice website is invaluable to your marketing strategy. Posting blogs regularly on your website allows your practice to have a greater visibility online and helps you connect with your patients. Use what you know about patient demographics and what topics would be most educational. You may even want to focus on frequently asked questions most of your patients and give them answers. Keeping information you provide current and relevant is important for establishing credibility both online and in-person.

Healthcare evolves continuously so you must consider the changes and adapt while keeping patients informed. The way you market your practice is a reflection of how well you know your practice. Also, understand that marketing strategies will be subject to change as well. The tactics that worked five or ten years ago do not apply today. Knowing who you are marketing to including patients and potential employees is important. Strategies for marketing are different depending on who you are marketing to. You might attend annual conferences and bring brochures that highlight what your practice has to offer as well as the work environment. Meanwhile, your waiting room may have brochures that answer common questions and give information about chronic diseases or preventative care. Your website should have similar information in case people are looking up the practice online. You also want to have information about the doctors at the practice and their backgrounds. Whether you are marketing to patients or physicians you should have a strategy in place that is structured but also flexible.

Creating the Correct Environment for Medical Staff Retention

Healthcare workers are in high demand and this means healthcare organizations must create environments that encourage them to stay once they’re hired; easier said than done. Lack of advancement opportunities is one of the main reasons people working in healthcare leave jobs; recruiting and retaining healthcare workers depends on developing a nurturing environment where these professionals can thrive.

Most healthcare professionals are more likely to leave jobs when they are unhappy with the office culture or they feel like they can get more experience somewhere else. You have to create reasons for them to stay. Some options include, but are not limited to: In-house skills training, technology training, performance-based incentives and sign-on bonus. Healthcare workers value these programs because they encourage professional development and upward career mobility for all medical staff. The experience they get from your practice should be invaluable to them over the course of their career. You will attract more highly qualified candidates if you are offering employees more than just a paycheck.

Office environments are underrated by most professionals. Medical practices tend to assume that if people are leaving jobs it has more to do with that person than with the structure of the practice. Some people might leave because the job just isn�t what they expected, but other people will leave because of what you aren�t offering them. Medical assistants, nurse practitioners, physicians and receptionists won’t stay if you are unable to offer the kind of atmosphere that ensures a safe, healthy and productive work environment.

Since healthcare changes and evolves your education and training for members of the staff cannot be static. EMR systems will be subject to change especially as the technology advances as well as processes for billing and coding. These changes will affect the entire staff and how you recruit for new candidates. Concurrently, urgent care facilities are becoming more prominent and hospital employment is looking more favorable for physicians; because of this, private practices are having trouble with retention. Instead of scrambling to replace people, look into what you are currently doing and how to make it better. Happy employees don�t go searching for new jobs.

Physician Reputation Management

Physicians have the responsibility to keep track of their online reputation. More so now than ever patients are using websites to get a better feel for a practice prior to making an appointment. Most physicians may not take the time to see what types of reviews patients are giving them and this could be detrimental, especially if the negative remarks outweigh the positive ones. Technology makes it easy for patients to go online and write a review about their experience, they can even write reviews within minutes of leaving the office, which makes the remarks difficult to control. Online reputation management should be a key component in your practice�s business plan.

Physicians should be proactive about their online presence and assign a person in the office who will keep track of social media. Even if some physicians are not online their names, complaints or compliments about them probably are. Create a website for your practice that is user friendly; give patients access to what your practice offers as well as bios on the physicians, PA�S and NP�S you employ. Keep the bios current and make changes if and when a person leaves the practice. Patients will appreciate your updates and it shows that you take an interest in your practice and more importantly you take an interest in how your patients view your practice.

Consistency is imperative when talking about online reputation management. Your reputation lives in two places: online and in-person; pay attention to both. Keep a sign in the waiting room saying you value patient feedback and give them an email address or phone number where they can give comments about the visit. If a patient has a visit that they feel was rushed or just satisfactory then supply him/her with a response and explains how their visits going forward will be improved. Patients might think that the wait time is too long or they may feel like physicians are rushing and you may not be aware of this because you think that everything is going smoothly when it is not. If patients feel comfortable enough telling you or another member of your staff how the appointment went, then they may not feel the need to write about it on other websites.

Physicians know that their reputation is a significant factor in determining patient volume and satisfaction and therefore they need to manage their online reputation. By keeping track of what is being written about the practice you will be able to increase patient satisfaction and decrease the likelihood of negative comments impacting your practice.

The Importance of Properly Engaging Your Medical Staff

Once you’ve hired the staff for your medical practice you have to make sure that they are engaged in their jobs and day to day responsibilities. Some practices do not take the time to check in with employees and make sure they are interested and staying on task throughout the day. Every employee should feel like they are a valuable member of your team

The practice will be busy throughout the day leaving very little down time for employees so they need clearly defined roles from the onset of employment. Job responsibilities break down into two groups: clinical and non-clinical. Clinical staff should have a set of policies in place for them to follow and non-clinical staff should have their own set of policies as well. The office should run smoothly on a day to day basis. One of the best ways to engage employees is to ask key questions during the interview process to make sure they are going to be a good fit for the practice. The better you know your own practice, the better you will be at marketing it to prospective employees. Provide training for new employees to give them the skills they need to excel and increase value to the practice. Training for employees is highly appreciated and will give them a probationary period where they know they are learning the ins and outs of the practice.

During the interview process you can get a better feel for the type of employees you will be hiring by asking specific questions. Ask them about their accomplishments in their previous positions and the amount of time it took them to complete tasks. You should see if they prefer jobs where they were given a lot of responsibilities or more highly structured positions with more supervision. Employees who are engaged have greater commitment to the practice and they go above and beyond their basic job descriptions. Having weekly staff meetings will increase office morale and keep employees interested in their jobs.

Think of staff meetings as an investment; you want to keep your staff informed about what is going on in each department. Set up an agenda for the meeting in advance so everyone knows what topics you will be covering. Including them when it comes to decisions for the practice is another way to keep staff engaged. Maybe you�re thinking about switching to a new EMR system or about creating a practice website, discuss this with your staff so they can give feedback. Don’t just listen to their feedback; utilize it to better the practice. Be consistent with your communication; employees want to know that if a problem arises you will be able to take care of it in a timely and professional manner.

Keeping employees engaged starts with the hiring process and marketing your practice to the right people. Communicating effectively with clinical and non-clinical staff, scheduling regular team meetings are simple ways to make the office run more efficiently and give every member of your staff the opportunity to be successful.

6 Ways to Improve Patient Retention

For many medical practices retaining patients is an unspoken challenge. Of course there are always going to be patients and physicians to treat them but during a time of change in healthcare it is increasingly difficult to retain patients. There are six simple ways to help keep your practice on track:

Marketing
Marketing your practice the correct way will help increase patient retention. A lot of practices still don�t utilize the technology that is available and this can negatively impact their practice. Contacting patients through Email, making them aware of the services your practice offers, is one way to stay in touch with patients. Your online presence plays a huge role in how accessible you are to patients. Creating a website and keeping it updated regularly will also be in your best interest.

Proper Scheduling /Wait-time
When the office gets busy, sometimes appointments can get backed up. Many patients have busy schedules as well and you don�t want to keep them waiting around. Be realistic about how long it will take the physician to see the patient and schedule accordingly. Patient wait-time can negatively impact your practice and cause you to lose patients. The more organized the office is at the start of the appointment (check-in) the less confusion and idle time there will be.

Follow-up

Schedule a time in the day for the physician to follow-up with patients. Regularly notify patients of upcoming appointments either by email or telephone. Not only will patients feel like a priority but the practice will operate more smoothly if you can plan ahead for canceled appointments or changes.

Physician interaction
The amount of time the physician is spending with patients matters. A physician can be outside of the room looking at the patient�s chart for 15-20 minutes and then go into the room and speak to them for 5 minutes. A patient is not seeing the amount of time the physician spent on his/her case and that can be discouraging to the patient. The physician should spend more time with the patient; going over the chart and plan for care with the patient in the room will be beneficial to you and the patient.

Telephone
Patients value how telephone communications are handled by the practice. Have a protocol for answering and transferring phone calls; the last thing you need is a patient complaining about rude front desk receptionists. You don�t want there to be communication gaps; make sure the staff notifies the physician of important calls as they come in.

Answering Questions
Sometimes patients may have questions or concerns that come up after their appointment and this is expected, but planning ahead is essential. Be prepared. Make sure the office has pamphlets and other material that will be useful to patients and answers common questions about care and treatment. Try to answer as many questions before the patient leaves the office so the receptionists won�t be fielding questions to the physician all day, which takes up a lot of time.

Retaining patients should be a top priority and ensuring you are able to create good relationships with patients depends on how well the practice functions on a daily basis. Making small changes that enhance patient experience and organization will have long-lasting effects.

Dealing With a Difficult Employee

Dealing With a Difficult Employee

Dealing with a difficult employee can be troublesome, especially when it affects the entire office. There are plenty solutions for this problem, but often people will ignore the problem for too long instead of facing it head on. Your business cannot afford to have an employee who is distracting others with their bad attitude. Fixing the issues will only help your office operate smoothly on a day to day basis.

There are many types of difficult employees ranging from disgruntled to insubordinate, but the common thread between all of them is negative behavior that has been effective for them in the past. If they got away with certain negative behaviors at a previous job chances are they will engage in those behaviors again. The behavior can be corrected if handled properly. Working with a difficult person can become a major irritant. Whether you work for a large company or a small business it can become a wearing struggle to go to work every day. Difficult people have a way of infiltrating the entire morale of the office and decrease productivity. It is very different to deal with people when they are not your direct co-worker or employee. Yes, everyone has dealt with a rude or nasty person over the phone, but that is fleeting, you can generally put it in perspective and move on from it. You can�t move on as easily when you are dealing with the person for 8, 10 or 12 hours a day.

The first step in dealing with a difficult employee: don’t ignore it. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse and in time you may lose valuable employees in the process. If the employee possesses valuable and redeeming qualities then there are ways to correct the behavior. Set aside a time to speak with the employee. Make sure you are open to hearing their point of view and try not to place blame. You will get a much more genuine response if you are not coming at the employee in an aggressive manner. Sometimes there may be factors outside of work that are causing the employee to act out. Although letting personal problems affect you at work is not ideal, it can be fixed. Let the employee know that although they may be having a tough time outside work it is not an excuse to take it out on others. Essentially you are giving the person a warning and a chance to correct the behavior. If the employee has issues with a co-worker you can attempt to mediate or switch the employees’ department, but if that does not work you must start seriously considering other options.

Terminating an employee is never easy but there are some situations where it is the best for you and the rest of the office. No matter how much you try some people are just too difficult to be helped. However, there ways to avoid terminating employees as a last resort; do not only have performance evaluations annually. Make the effort to have brief evaluations year round. Checking in with employees makes them feel important and like they are a priority; they should feel valued at work. Each person has different motivations, needs, and styles. Finding ways to capitalize on positive behaviors will decrease the likelihood of becoming inundated with negative behaviors.

Most of the time a difficult employee will try to turn the negative behavior around especially during tough economic times. Remember, making the negative behavior as ineffective as possible will help. Once a difficult employee recognizes that they cannot manipulate you or their co-workers with their behavior, they might attempt to change. In situations where they do not attempt to make changes you may decide to let the person go. Sometimes it is necessary to make tough decisions in order to succeed in the long-run.

5 Things to Consider When a Surgeon Leaves Your Practice

High turnover is detrimental to your practice and learning that a surgeon wants to leave your practice will only cause you added stress and decreased morale. Recruiting for a surgeon, who is an integral part of your healthcare team, can be an overwhelming task. Depending on your practices’ size, and without a designated recruiter on board, you may find yourself struggling to find a replacement. When a surgeon is looking to leave your practice there are steps you need to take in order to better understand why the surgeon is leaving. Here are five tips you can use as a guide:

Conduct an exit interview: As an employer you conduct initial interviews when hiring a candidate as well as annual or bi-annual reviews after the employee has been hired. However, an extensive exit interview is essential and can be important in your practice’s success. The reason for conducting exit interviews is to get feedback position the surgeon held, the work environment, and the organization. A surgeon will almost always offer some reason for leaving upfront to avoid further discussion. Some reasons may be negotiable like wanting an increased salary, but only consider it if your budget allows it and if the employee is well worth it. Other reasons may highlight changes that need to be made in the practice like a negative work culture or decreased workflow to name a few. Evaluating these reasons can help spot problem areas you may need to work on. But it is your main task as the employer to avoid making the employee feel defensive and inadequate. You should ask questions that open a dialogue; concentrate on the practice as a whole rather than the employee. For example do not ask questions like, “What do you think is wrong with the position you held?” or “Why weren’t you able to handle the responsibilities of the position?” Instead, ask the following questions, “How can we make this job more rewarding for the next employee that we bring on board to work with us?” It is essential to ask for the employee’s assistance in critiquing his or her job description and the tasks required for the position. During the exit interview ask the surgeon what he or she thinks is the practice’s greatest strengths and weaknesses are. You may ask questions similar to this when conducting a reference check on an employee so make sure you hold yourself to the same standards. These questions may give you insight into changes that need to be made in order to operate as a successful practice.

Ask your staff for feedback: It is important not only to ask the departing surgeon but also the remaining staff at your practice for their feedback regarding job responsibilities. Ask your employees what skills and experience is needed for a new surgeon to be successful. Feedback helps improve job performance while promoting professional and personal development in employees. Providing feedback can improve employee morale and decrease confusion regarding expectations and present performance. Think of feedback as guidance that will assist you in allowing your employees and future employees to learn as well as to improve the quality of his or her work. Having weekly meetings with your staff will also help get a feel about the practice’s culture and then you can see what candidates will fit best in your practice. Furthermore, ask your staff what they value most about working at your practice; you can use this information when interviewing new candidates. Potential surgeons will sell themselves to you on what your practice is gaining by hiring them; conversely, you must be able to make a surgeon want to work for your practice.

Create a new job description: If a surgeon has been working with you for a long period of time most likely the surgeon’s job description is outdated regarding experience, skills and certifications. Healthcare is ever-changing and the requirements for physicians and surgeons change periodically. Refer to the other surgeons at your practice to get clearly defined job requirements and responsibilities to help you with your search for a new surgeon. Creating a new job description will help you articulate the most important qualities you need from a candidate. The job description is a communication tool allowing the candidate to know the role and responsibilities of the job. Also, it is important provide accurate information on the following: work schedules, compensation structure, benefits, vacation time, CME allowance, etc., as well as information regarding an opportunity for partnership for the candidates that you will be interviewing in the near future.

Create a new compensation structure: Surgeons don’t generally stay at the same salary for years on end; they expect raises and monetary rewards for a job well-done. Analyze the surgeons’ salaries and job performance yearly. You may find that some surgeons are bringing in a lot of money for your practice while others are not. Do some research and make sure the compensation you are offering is competitive in the present job market. You can use resources to help guide you in figuring out a reasonable salary such as the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Medical Group Association (AMGA). With these organizations you can select geographic locations, specialty, and years of experience to assist you in having more knowledge about the standard compensation levels in your area. It is important to stay competitive with compensation to attract the greatest talent to your practice.

Create a search plan: Now that you have created a new job description and have a competitive salary in place the next step is finding candidates to interview. A qualified healthcare recruitment company can help set up interviews and conduct job searches. Recruitment is time consuming and if you or your employees conduct the search you are most likely taking people away from their responsibilities to focus on sifting through resumes and scheduling interviews. It can be very costly to advertise on job boards as well. When hiring a recruiting agency keep a timeline that will help you stay on track of your staffing needs. Recruiting agencies such as SpineSearch are professionals in the healthcare staffing field. Recruitment agencies are able to commit 100% of their workday to advertise and recruit. They are able to identify the utmost qualified surgeons and find one who will best fit your practice. They handle all of the advertising and conduct reference and background checks allowing you additional time to focus on the day to day operations of your practice.

Reviewing an Orthopedic Practice’s Ancillaries

An Orthopedic Practice should like about reviewing ancillary services by looking at which procedures and tests your practice is referring out. Building practice profitability require sufficient time and effort. Having a marketing plan in place and considering the amount of time, staffing and space needed will help create a new form of revenue for the practice.

For some physicians, the decision to add ancillary services is a matter of survival rather than a choice. Before this becomes the case, carefully assess where the market potential is. Does you practice contract out to physical therapists and ambulatory surgery centers? Design a marketing plan for adding ancillary services and market to your patients accordingly. Marketing to the public might take more time but convenience and patient health will help add revenue. Understand the location of your practice and what medical procedures might be underserved in that area in order to better serve patients.

Five Steps for Changing Medical Practice Patterns

The initial startup for a practice can be overwhelming and hectic. The staff needs to be hired and trained; but, what happens down the line when your practice starts to grow but there are many inefficiencies? Changing bad habits is time consuming but not impossible. Here are five steps for creating a more productive work environment for you and your staff.

1) Don’t Overlook the Small Stuff
All too often medical practices make the mistake of hiring people who don’t fit the job description. For instance, hiring a nurse for a private practice when he/ she wants OR time and prefers a hospital environment. At first, it may not seem like a huge deal but eventually this will become a problem. Taking the extra time to recruit the right person will save more money in the long run and boost revenue. Patients want to feel like they are the priority; hiring the right medical staff is one key to a successful practice.

2) Changing Behavior and Attitudes
A competent practice manager can help diffuse disagreements between doctors and staff. If one doctor refuses to work evening or Saturday hours, forcing the other doctors to pick up the slack, this can impact a practice negatively. Weekly meetings should be held in order to ensure all staff is on the same page. If issues arise, the medical staff should feel secure that any problem will be handled professionally and in a timely manner.

3) Understanding Different Physician Personalities
Every physician has a different ways of working and connecting with patients. Some Physicians are task oriented and enjoy seeing as many patients as possible. Other physicians might be research oriented and enjoy having the time to write journal articles or attend continuing education seminars. Every doctor serves a purpose in the practice. It’s important to understand that even though every doctor is different there is no reason why they can’t work together. Having different personalities in the workplace can be have a positive impact if they are managed properly.

4) Apply the Framework
Incentivizing medical staff from the beginning of employment will help keep bad habits at bay. Remember, even though incentivizing is important, making sure there are consequences for poor behavior is just as important. Make sure the medical staff has the correct guidelines to follow from the start of their employment. In order to increase revenue, the medical staff must work efficiently.

5) Look Ahead
Don’t just focus on the current day or month, focus on the future as well. Plan ahead for your practice, but be flexible enough to make changes when they are necessary. There will be less surprises down the road and less chances for your practice to fall short.

How to Manage Physician Staff Performance

Effectively managing clinical staff, for a medical practice, takes a lot of work and can be stressful at times. However, taking the proper steps to manage physicians and medical staff will boost revenue and decrease your turn-over rate. There are six steps that every practice should employ in order to create a productive and stress free work environment:

1) Shared GoalsPhysicians and staff should all share the same goal which is providing quality care for all patients. This is an overall goal for your practice as well as an individual goal for each physician and member of the nonclinical staff. In order to create shared goals amongst doctors and staff, there has to be guidelines and mission statement for staff. Creating a specific office culture that encourages growth and hard work will ultimately benefit how your practice operates. Connect with members of the staff during meetings in order to form cohesive goals that will have measurable outcomes.

2) Clearly Defined Roles
For any practice to function, and function well, roles need be to be clearly defined prior to an employees’ start date. A lot of the issues that arise between healthcare professionals have to do with confusion about job responsibilities. However, cross-training staff to learn your current EMR system may be a good idea; if someone is out sick then you won’t have to worry about jobs not getting done. It’s easy to say that doctors treat the patients and the staff controls the filing and scheduling, that’s true, but there is a lot more to the daily operations than just patient flow. When hiring an employee there needs to be a clear set of job skills and responsibilities that need to be met not just so they can understand their role, but the employer can organize daily operations of the practice better.

3) Effective CommunicationCommunicating effectively may seem like the easiest part about managing clinical staff, this is not the case; you’d be surprised to hear that many practices flounder because of poor communication. Communication needs to start with the practice manager and trickle down from there. If the practice manager does not communicate well with staff, then other aspects of the practice will suffer; revenue might decrease and the turnover rate will be high. Employees do not want to work in a setting where they are not given proper direction; the environment becomes chaotic and no practice can afford that.

4) Physician Productivity
How the physician is able to conduct his/her work on a daily basis greatly affects the entire staff. Dividing tasks into two categories: clinical and non-clinical, so the physician isn’t doing tasks that take away from seeing patients. Reducing unnecessary inbound calls and interruptions by nurses will help give the physician more structure throughout the day and maximize the amount of face-to-face time with patients.

5) Evaluation
Evaluating medical staff regularly and consistently can help you stay on top of staff performance. From the start of employment, a physician should know about your evaluation system and that they will be evaluated on regular basis. This will help doctors and nonclinical staff know that you will be evaluating them in order to better their job performance and better the practice overall. If you notice an employee is underperforming, there should be a set time limit for improvements. Documenting problems with a staff member will help you in the long term in case termination is necessary.

6) Mutual Respect
Holding weekly staff meeting will help develop respect between clinical and nonclinical staff. Meetings are a good way to keep in touch and stay on top of things. This does not mean your staff should feel like they are being micromanaged. Giving your staff enough room to excel at their jobs while staying on track of their performance will have a positive effect on your office culture.