Problems can be both avoided and solved in a medical office when there is a high level of good communication among staff members and providers. This sounds so simple, but it’s easier said than done, particularly in practices that are fast paced and high volume. Here are a few tips to help improve communication in your office.
- Set high expectations for open dialogue. Create a culture within your practice where open, honest communication is the standard. Address issues as they arise. Don’t hold back (or “gunny sack” as therapists sometimes say) when you’re having a problem with a co-worker. If there are systems breakdowns within the practice that are negatively impacting patient care or office efficiency, bring them up for discussion and resolution.
- Hold huddles. This is a tried and true method for good communication in medical practices of all types. First thing in the morning, everyone gathers informally for a five minute huddle meeting. This is not the time to try to solve major problems, but it’s the perfect venue to share information that will make the day run more smoothly. Examples of issues that might be brought up in huddle include:
- We had two cancellations for this afternoon. Let’s try to fill those slots.
- Jane went home sick, so we’re going to need everyone to pitch in to cover for her.
- The repair man is coming to fix the copier this afternoon.
- There’s a snow storm blowing in and the roads are going to be bad. Should we close the office early?
- Dr. Randolph was up all night in surgery, so cut him some slack if he’s crabby today.
- Have regular staff meetings. This tip sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many offices don’t get around to having the staff meet on a regular basis. Depending on the size of your practice, you may need meetings every month, or even more often, and you may also consider holding departmental meetings in addition to the regular all-hands-on-deck gatherings.
- Slow down. Conveying simple data (“Dr. Jones needs you in room three” or “Your mom called while you were at lunch”) while passing in the hallway or via a Post-it note is fine. But to sort out complex or sticky issues, it’s important to slow down in order to communicate well. Practice good listening skills, ask questions, clarify what you’re hearing if there is uncertainty, and end conversations with “what else” and “what next” questions such as, “Have we covered everything?” or “Are we clear on our next steps?”