Advice for a New Physician
If you’re a new physician looking for employment it can be a daunting task. All of a sudden you are thrust into the job market and knowing where to invest your time can be tricky. You don’t want to be forced to take a job you don’t particularly like, or be stuck with no viable options. The best way to conduct a job search in the current market is to do your research and think outside the box.
1. Cast a Wider Net
Some physicians are overwhelmed by the variety of choices and unaccustomed to negotiating for a job, new doctors often wind up in positions that are a bad fit for them, and they move on after just a few years.
A common mistake is only focusing your job search in one location. That narrow approach could force you into a job you don’t really like. Think about it: you’re so focused on just the location of a prospective job that you forget to zero-in on more important things like the salary and benefits. Does this job have a lot of on-call time? Is there room for growth? Concentrating on one aspect of a job leaves you open to disappointment in the long run. Your dream job may not be in the location you think it should be.
You may have not planned your practice around compliance and risk management, but you know what they say? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Compliance programs are new to many private practices. What does a compliance program mean for your practice? The program is meant to be a series of checks and balances to ensure the practice is meeting standards. Why do you I need a compliance program?
A compliance program can prove to anyone that practitioners are making a reasonable attempt to comply with all regulatory requirements and have established the necessary procedures to do so. One reason why you might need a compliance program is to ensure staff applies the appropriate billing guidelines correctly. Medical documentation is important from a financial point of view. If a healthcare provider forgets to write something down in a patient’s chart, whether it regards to treatment, surgery, or a minor procedure, the facility will not be paid for it. Without documentations there is not proof that a patient received any services. Documentation and easy access to medical records can ensure patient confidentiality as well as a patient’s life in dire situation. If standards of care are being met then there will be thorough documentation. An important aspect of documentation comes from setting a standard for employees to follow including:
Healthcare practices can adopt certain behaviors from the military to help not only boost the morale of the office, but also create a more engaged working environment. Follow these eight habits for your practice to operate at the optimal level:
1. Be loyal.
Loyalty to the team starts at the top. Loyalty is about leading by example, providing your team unconditional support, and never throwing a team member under the bus. Member of your team will be loyal to your practice if they feel like they are being appreciated.
2. Put others before yourself.
Go to work every day with the intention to make your team better and offer help to those who need it. People who become overworked and overtired are not productive members of your team. The success of the practice should be a priority for all employees.
3. Be reflective.
Understanding what works for you and what doesn’t is often underappreciated in the workplace. You’re expected to do things according to the way of the practice and that’s fine, but you should reflect on how your behavior and adaptability affect your overall performance.
Adding more doctors to your practice might be a smart move for smaller practices. Yes, the added cost can be expensive but for most doctors it is well worth it. Smaller practices have struggled more and more recently. It is harder to keep doctors in smaller practices when the payoffs are not as big but the responsibilities are greater. You might be stuck deciding what path to take to grow your practice; here are four ways to scale up:
1) Satellite Offices
Scaling up the practices can occur a few different ways. One way would be opening satellite offices as a means to create more revenue and patient. Making the practice more accessible to patients will help you engage new patients you wouldn’t have seen otherwise as well as utilizing more doctors. Life at a larger practiced is more varied. In a big practice, physicians might spend time pursuing special interests or research. Options for part-time work are more available at a larger practice where responsibilities aren’t piled on between one or two physicians. The larger practice setting can also provide economic benefits for the physician.
2) Updating Technology
Utilizing EMR systems and updating software regularly will help with patient flow and wait times. The more organized the practice is, especially a larger office, the more patients can be seen. Implementing new technology can be stressful but if you are dedicated to growing the practice you and your staff must be able to adapt. Practices that are most successful are the most adaptable to change.
3) Adding Ancillary Services
Are you commonly outsourcing an ancillary service that fits with your current and potential patient population? Integrating services needed by your inbound and outbound referrals provides you with a patient-centered continuum of care with the goal of improving continuity of care, compliance and outcomes.
4) Broaden the Types of Specialists in the Practice
Thinking outside the box will help the practice achieve success. Giving patients the option of alternative treatment plans is becoming more popular as patients have greater access to knowledge about treatment options from online resources.
Whatever route you choose to scale up your practice, remember it is important to know that these changes take time. Whether you plan to add more physician, satellite offices or ancillary services each step to grow the practice will ultimately make your practice stronger and more profitable for the future.
Can your front desk be a profit center for your practice? Yes, but there are instances where physicians may not know what is happening out in the waiting room while they are taking care of patients. Any practice will have some bumps in the road with employees, but physicians must be conscious about checking in with every member of their team. When there is a lack of communication between the physician and staff, patients will feel the negative impact. How well the front desk operates could make or break your practice. The front desk is the first in line to a patient’s access to care making it one of many important elements in patient satisfaction. The front desk staff are the navigators of your practice and staying in tune with them to see how the practice is operating on a day to day basis not only keeps patients happy but helps retain them as well.
First impressions count–When a patient walks into the waiting room they are either walking into a warm and inviting environment or a stark and cold one. How you present your practice to the patients starts way before you see them in the exam room. For the receptionist a patient’s visit starts with the same, and sometimes monotonous, procedures like asking for insurance information, paperwork and answering questions. Receptionists may also be responsible for answering the phones as well, adding extra stress to an already busy schedule. Even though there might be high call volume and patients in the waiting room, this is not an excuse for the front desk to act exasperated by patients. If the practice is large, this might be a good time to suggest hiring candidates specifically for phone triage. If the practice is small, create a way to delegate responsibilities at the front desk. Instead of having all receptionists answer the phones make it only one or two people’s job. If the office runs smoothly patients are much more likely to feel comfortable about the capabilities of the physician. Some physicians may not feel like their staff is a direct reflection of them and this is a common mistake. You might value patient satisfaction as a physician, but if the front desk is doing a mediocre job patients will think that you must not care as well. Patients are much more likely to return to an office where receptionists, medical assistants, nurses and physicians work well with one another. If a patient is frustrated after dealing with disgruntled employees this will take away from important time spent with the physician. What can be done to remedy this?
For starters, physicians need to be aware of what’s going on in every aspect of their practice. Having weekly staff meetings where you discuss proper protocols for face-to-face and telephone communications with patients are a must. You’d be surprised by how many practices do not take the time to do this and it shows. Schedule one day a week where staff is able to come in 15-20mins before the days begins and use that time to have a meeting. This should be something that is understood by both current and prospective employees. You need people who want to be a part of a team and who respect that you are staying on top of what goes on in the office. Another way to ensure the practice is functioning well is by having a formal orientation for new employees making sure there is a set time for training at the start of employment. Training could take two weeks or possibly more depending on the job responsibilities. During this time period new employees should have ample time to learn what is expected of them from them professionally and how to carry out job responsibilities in an effective and timely manner.
Following-up with patients means much more than the physician calling after the original appointment. It means staying on top of follow-up appointments and referrals. It also means keeping in touch with patients. Receptionists should be responsible for collecting both phone numbers and emails to reach patients. Technology is much more advanced than it was even a decade ago and using it to your advantage will be beneficial. Sending out e-newsletters introducing new physicians to your patients or services your office has to offer is one way of keeping patients in the loop. Healthcare is a service industry so take the time to make sure your staff is cultivating long-term patient relationships.
If your practice is being managed properly then learning and professional development will be valued. All employees, whether they are receptionists, medical assistants, nurses or physicians, should undergo training for how to respond and engage with patients. The waiting room might just be the start of a patient’s visit, but it says a lot about how the office runs on a daily basis. If there are major issues in the waiting room physicians are unaware of that makes the patient think that there is very little communication between the physicians and the receptionists. When all employees are on the same page regarding how to care for patients then you will see the organization flow from check-in, treatment and follow-up.
Managing effectively is reliant upon understanding how your business is performing. Knowing if your employees are performing up to par or if the business is bringing in revenue does not just happen overnight. Whether you are looking to measure job performance, finances or compliance it is never too late to start. As a business owner establishing the protocols to measure these aspects of your company should be put into place as soon as possible.
Your business may be in need of organizational change. Starting with the hiring process you can use performance metrics to define job responsibilities and communicate expectations. Using software to measure the incoming and outgoing calls in the office can help you stay on top of how quickly the phones are being answered and if people are being transferred to the correct employee. You can tell a lot about the business by how well the telephone communication is working.
The office atmosphere is an important factor for long-term success. High employee retention rates and productivity are signs that there is effective management in place. Metrics are not able to tell an employer how to fix a problem, they can highlight where improvements are needed but coming up with ways to mend the problem comes from the employer. Metrics alone cannot make employees work harder or more efficiently, but they are great for seeing what is working well and what is not.
Using metrics as a way to balance your business can have lasting effects if you are using them properly. Evaluation of job performance and management is crucial. How are you going to evaluate current systems you have in place? Compliance is one way to assess how well your metrics are working. Do the employees and employers comply with financial and personal metrics? When people are not compliant there might be a lack of motivation. Management’s responsibility is to help people reach specific goals. Find out what motivates people to work while keeping in line with performance criteria you have in place.
Managers have to stay on top of how well their business is functioning. Measuring job performance, financial gains and losses and job specific responsibilities will make it difficult for outliers to slip through the cracks. Metrics allow you to be in control over daily operations and reach long-term goals.
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.
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.
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.
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.