Even practices that have the very best training, policies, procedures, systems, and standards in place occasionally slip into bad habits that negatively impact patient satisfaction, quality of care, and the bottom line. Here are three to avoid.
Putting practice needs ahead of patient needs
Busy practices are especially at risk for this one. Over time, employees slip into following unwritten rules that are for the convenience of the doctors and the staff, rather than for the benefit of patients. Operating in overwhelm mode, they make it hard for patients to get appointments. Phone calls go to voice mail more often than not, and messages are frequently not returned a timely manner (if at all). Patients are made to feel like the practice is doing them a big favor by giving them access to care. Ask yourself, do you have a patient-centered practice, or a provider/staff-centered practice? If it’s the latter, some soul searching and strategy sessions are in order to turn the situation around before serious damage is done.
Tolerating low morale
Everyone likes to work in an environment that is positive, pleasant, and peaceful. Low morale in an office can make for quite the opposite experience – one that feels more like being in jail for eight hours a day. A chronically unhappy workplace can lead to high turnover and low patient satisfaction. Boredom on the part of staff, lack of positive feedback, autocratic supervisors or doctors, poorly defined expectations, and the classic “bad apple” in the office can all result in low morale. If your practice has slipped into the bad habit of tolerating such an environment, it may be time for a practice retreat with a professional facilitator who is skilled at getting to the root of morale issues and offering solutions.
Ignoring the importance of making a good first impression
Have you been looking at the furniture in your reception area for so long that you almost don’t even see it anymore (are those waiting room chairs really mauve)? Is that a Newsweek from the 2008 election cycle in your magazine rack? Are the clipboards you hand to patients when they fill out forms chipped and stained? Have the forms on those clipboards been photocopied so many times that they’re fuzzy and crooked on the page? These may sound like trivial issues, but if your goal is to attract new patients, keep them, and gain their confidence (not to mention word of mouth referrals), all of these details are worth paying attention to.
Here’s a challenge: Take these three examples to your next staff meeting and ask your team to discuss them, and then come up with at least two more examples that your practice may be guilty of in the “bad habit” department. Be honest with yourself and commit to making changes that you know are needed. Your practice will be better for it.