In many situations, the notion of creating “New Year’s Resolutions” has grown trite and redundant. Many people no longer make them, and those that do-do so as a formality only. It has become a cultural joke to create resolutions at the beginning of each year, only to quit on those goals within a few weeks. Gyms obviously benefit, as each year they replenish their stock of “this will be the year I get in shape” and stay busy for the first week or two, and then just collect monthly dues from the hoards of people who realize, just as they did last year, that working out is hard, creates sweat, and requires a sacrifice of so many of the things we hold dear. However, as cliche as it may sound, this is an ideal time to do an inventory of your practice and take stock of what is working and what isn’t; time to begin to implement better business practices, set goals for patient retention or acquisition, and ensure a more profitable year than the one now a recent a memory. Therefore, it is in that vein that we have curated various tips and tricks from around the web on how to improve your medical practice. These tips are presented in no special order and we would love to hear back on any specific changes you are making this year from which your colleagues could benefit.
1. “How Charitable Giving Could Improve Medical Practice Morale”
From Physicianspractice.com,we found this fascinating article describing one Doctor’s notion that by wearing and supporting a charity, you begin to represent yourself in way more characteristic of that charity and are more aware that intentionally or not, you act as a representative of that group.
“I am discussing with my partners about picking three or four charitable organizations early in the year, and getting patches with the logo of those organizations to place next to our office logo on staff members’ office shirts.
If staff members wear a logo of one of our chosen charities on casual Friday, they will earn points toward the donation. The charity with the most points at the end of the year will receive the largest donation, with smaller donations to the others.
Not only would this encourage staff to wear our official shirts, hopefully the charitable logo will go a long way to improving behavior and morale, as staff may seek to live up to the ideals of the charity they represent.”
This may be one way to help out in your community, as well as make a statement to your staff that as a practice you are committed to giving back.
2. Surveys and Technology to Improve Patient Satisfaction
From the Survey Monkey Blog an article listing 5 ways you can use survey software to manage your medical practice like a pro. While this is obviously self-promoting, Survey Monkey had some great suggestions on improving patient satisfaction. One interesting fact is that 80% of the most successful medical practices—in terms of profitability, cost management, collections, and patient satisfaction—regularly conduct patient satisfaction surveys.
Assess and nurture your patient safety culture
You know the first priority of your medical practice should be the health and safety of your patients. This goes beyond providing good medical treatment; it’s the everyday, behind-the-scenes work that keeps your patients safe.Patient safety culture surveys like those created by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ®) can help you identify which areas of your practice need improvement, and show you how comfortable your staff is reporting safety issues.
You can even find out how well medical staff work together and if they need more training. And sending patient safety culture surveys to your hospital, medical office, nursing home, or pharmacy staff can help you make sure everyone on your team’s on board so you meet national patient safety standards.
Make patient intake and medical information collection more efficient
Imagine if all of your patients could check themselves in by filling out a form on a mobile device in your office–or if you could email your patients a medical information form for them to fill out and send to you before they even arrive. Save time, resources, and streamline how you collect (and organize) patient data by moving from paper forms to HIPAA-compliant online surveys!
Check in without a checkup
A key part of excellent customer service occurs after a patient walks out of your office: the follow-up. Check in on patients and assess whether or not you need to see them again without making them come in again. Send a healthcare survey to see if they are still experiencing symptoms, how their prescription is working and whether or not they would like a follow up call or appointment. This is especially useful for eye care, dental or other practices that do not see patients as frequently.
Assess your employee engagement and happiness
Your patients’ satisfaction levels and your overall patient safety culture are largely determined by your patients’ interactions with nurses, receptionists, and other staff. So it’s super important that everyone on your team is alert, happy, and at their best. So send your medical staff an Employee Engagement Survey which asks them to evaluate their own performance, as well as share their perceptions of colleagues’ behaviors. Taking a look at their answers may reveal issues that could ultimately affect the quality of patient care.
Get some perspective
You’ve got tons of medical office software data. Great! But how do you use it to improve your medical practice management? Well, for starters, make sure you’re repeating your employee and patient satisfaction surveys. Why? Because collecting data over time helps you define business benchmarks for your medical organization–so you can set goals and improve.
But setting internal goals is only half the battle. Find out how you stack up against other healthcare organizations by getting external benchmarking data. You can compare how your medical practice is doing when it comes to patient loyalty (with Net Promoter® Score benchmarks) and through national employee engagement benchmarks as well.
Schedule with add-ons and emergencies in mind.
Create your daily schedule with time built in for unexpected obligations. For example, leave 30 minutes open during your morning office hours to accommodate an emergency. Don’t schedule that time slot until you start your day, and don’t worry, it will get filled and if it doesn’t use this time to work on articles, make phone calls, or catch up on paperwork.
Give yourself some personal time.
To be your best self, you must have some time to yourself. Simply allow yourself 10 minutes to stretch, breathe, or relax at some point during the day, and not when your day is over. By giving yourself time, you will feel refreshed and ready to provide your patients with the quality health care they are looking for.
4. Set Goals-Daily, Weekly, and Monthly
Start Small by Creating a Weekly List of Goals.
Use your Smartphone or Day-Timer to map out your goals for the week. Prioritize your goals and check them off as you complete them. As you check off these goals you will feel a sense of accomplishment and stay encouraged to stay on track.
5. Respect Your Patients
Time with doctors and nurses.
This is nearly always top of patients’ healthcare wish list. Patients simply want more time with their doctors (and so do the doctors). Time to sit down, talk through everything that’s wrong and what treatment options exist. One of the biggest barriers allowing this to happen is the sheer scale of documentation tasks that are required of doctors and nurses. This has reached epidemic proportions. Slow and cumbersome information technology plays a large part, with some studies suggesting that doctors now spend close to only 10 percent of their day in direct patient care. There is something very wrong when doctors and nurses spend 4 or 5 times more of their day in front of a screen than with their patients. We need to swing the pendulum back to direct patient care.
Show patients you respect their opinions and that you have heard them. A small investment of just 90 seconds is generally enough time for patients to share their perceptions of the illness, their feelings, and expectations.
Also, remember that one of the most effective communication tools for doctors is silence. Waiting for just two more seconds before responding to a patient can elicit additional important information from the patient. Similarly, waiting an additional two seconds after asking the patient a question allows the patient more time to formulate a meaningful response.
When done well, patients accept wait time as permission to speak without interruption, according to the book “Skills for Communicating with Patients.”
Are there other tips or tricks to improve your practice? What are you doing this year different than last year?