Can That Applicant Do the Job at Your Medical Practice?

January 25, 2012

Tips for testing job skills - before you hire.

While unemployment hovers between 8 percent and 9 percent, many of us in healthcare have positions we are eager to fill. Applicants' resumes come in by the dozens via e-mail. However, while some people look extremely good - on paper - you might wonder: "Can they really do the job?"

Whether your position calls for the person to work as an EHR scribe in the exam room, as your Web specialist, or in the business office working on coding and billing, the ideal candidate needs solid keyboarding skills and typical knowledge of Microsoft programs, on top of the required expertise in anatomy and terminology, and procedural and diagnostic coding.

Assessing the capabilities of all applicants will help you verify their skills, knowledge, and abilities. You can find one such assessment tool at www.totaltesting.com. Total Testing is an instrument that reports on skill and speed for common computer tasks such as attaching a document to an e-mail, creating charts, and creating a PDF. The cost is a reasonable $20 per test. To qualify for bulk pricing you need to order 25 tests dropping the cost per test to $18: a small investment to get a solid read on a potential candidate's skills. Consider that someone with minimal keyboarding skills can be an expensive hire for your practice; potentially reducing efficiency and introducing errors into the medical chart.

However, testing computer skills shouldn't be just for job applicants. Prior to implementing your EHR (or upgrading to a more robust system), you'd be smart to assess the skills of your entire staff. You may decide that investing in more-focused training is worth the extra expense. Online training for Microsoft programs is readily available, and is a particularly good idea if your new software is a "jet engine" and many of your staff have only "fly-a-kite" abilities. Go to bing.com, or any search engine, and search for "online typing tests," you will be directed to several websites that offer free downloads.

Because "keyboarding" is the foundation for computer usage, use an electronic assessment tool, such as "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing," to assess speed. The test can be downloaded to a computer and the cost is only $19.99 - with the entire staff able to access it. In one of our clients' office, the physician was shocked to discover that while his favorite applicant had a 97 percent accuracy rate, she could only type 14-words per minute! This applicant would sink at a busy check-in desk. Speed counts!

Other assessment tools are available at www.typingweb.com - it costs $9.99; one-minute tests at www.freetypinggame.net; and www.customtyping.com at $9 per month, after a 4-week free trial. Check out www.pantesting.com if you are looking for math, editing, or other essential skill assessments. It's a site that aggregates tools from a wide variety of test creators.

Remember, employee productivity is a combination of intelligence, speed, and accuracy at the keyboard.

We particularly like the Health Care Employee Productivity Report (HEPR). The 60-question tool can be completed in about 15 minutes and provides behavioral and attitudinal feedback on applicants. It is compliant at the state and federal level. Managers receive recommendations about hiring a potential candidate, based on the scores. Because of the costs of interviewing, screening, and training are so great, heading off bad hires at the pass makes good sense.

In other businesses and industries, hiring is taken seriously; people aren't hired just because they "go to my church" or they are related to someone else who works there. Most practices spend 25 percent of their revenue on personnel, so it's well worth the effort to have a clear idea of who you're hiring and at what skill level.

Karen Zupko is a seasoned senior advisor who has been helping physicians to navigate America's healthcare system since 1974. Her perspective stems from more than 25 years of consulting, coaching, and training experience with physicians and those who manage them. She is a member of the American Marketing Association and Women in Communications, and has served on the board of trustees of Chicago's Grant Hospital. Karen is a graduate of the University of Kansas and a Chicago native. You can contact her at kzupko@karenzupko.com.