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Assess Medical Practice Staff Workload to Lessen Stress


If your staff is complaining that they are overwhelmed and need help, take a minute to evaluate the facts.

I sat down the other day to work up an update to our work flow processes for 2016.  This involved "interviewing" employees; asking where their time was being spent, as well as what roadblocks they were running into. I concluded that we might need to hire a new employee or at least outsource some of our billing tasks.

So I decided to investigate a little further. I found that similar tasks were being performed by different employees; constant distractions were pulling employees away from critical tasks; and the amount of time employees spent on the phone turned out to consume the majority of their day.

Following this, I did an analysis on the cost to the practice to maintain an employee. When considering this, be aware it's more than just salary and taxes. Benefits, loyalty, timeliness, absences, vacation time, etc., are other areas to consider, as well.

What I concluded is there are tasks being done that are no longer necessary, or that have been absorbed into new tasks. Also, our billers are constantly bombarded with questions from other employees on a variety of topics such as: what insurances are accepted in the practice; will they help with same-day verification; and can they answer a patient's question about his bill? These are areas of training that can be addressed for the rest of the staff.

I am also looking into outsourcing the insurance verification process. The time spent on the phone just trying to reach the insurance companies takes up so much of the day; but we often find that the online benefits portal does not cover the specifics we are looking for.

Cross-training for all employees is also critical. If the workloads are not balanced across all of the positions, managers should redefine the positions, and spread out the tasks. All staff should know the basics about other positions, and how to step in if necessary. I often say "If I were hit by a bus would you be able to pick up where I left off to perform the functions of my job?" If the answer is "No," or "I don't know," then you need to cross-train staff immediately.

There are several areas that you can trim within the department, and most often, you'll find that you really do not need to hire more people. Sometimes throwing people at a problem does not fix it, it just compounds it, and allows that snowball to grow. By identifying the "whys" of an issue, you can really address what needs to be done to remedy the problem, not perpetuate it.

I found that by outsourcing a few of the really timely tasks and spreading out staff workloads, it goes a long way to reduce stress, reduces the cost of working, and makes for a better-operating department.

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