Recently, I have encountered several circumstances where e-mails between doctors, as well as staff members, have resulted in misunderstandings and subsequent problems.
Recently, I have encountered several circumstances where e-mails between doctors, as well as staff members, have resulted in misunderstandings and subsequent problems. Case in point: A certain physician sent a meeting request via e-mail to two of his colleagues. He understood that the meeting would be between himself and the two other physicians. Unfortunately, the two others assumed that they would be meeting between themselves; they were quite surprised when the first physician showed up at their meeting! A simple phone call would have made the matter clear from the start.
I am sure you have had, or know of, a similar experience. For whatever reason, it’s becoming increasingly commonplace to communicate with colleagues using e-mail rather than using the telephone or -- gasp! -- initiate personal contact. I find it truly amazing that people think nothing of e-mailing a coworker whose desk is 20 feet away. I realize that in some cases, such as setting up meetings or confirming receipt of documents, e-mails may be necessary or logical. But what has happened to getting up from our desks and walking around the corner just to talk?
E-mailing can sometimes take on a more sinister note. One of the practices for which I was consulting experienced a situation where an employee responded to a coworker’s e-mail query with another question. The coworker interpreted the response completely out of context, took offense, and escalated the interaction into a huge brouhaha that required the intervention of senior management. The loss of productive work time was tremendous, not to mention the loss of good will between staff members. Again, a simple phone call or direct interaction could have avoided the whole fracas.
So, with that in mind, here are a few hints to smooth out your e-mail experience:
E-mail can be a real time-saver and a great way to communicate. But if abused, it can also lead to misunderstandings and very often to a loss or change in work relationships, so think before you hit “Send.”
Owen Dahl, FACHE, CHBC, is a nationally recognized medical practice management consultant with over 24 years of experience in consulting for and managing medical practices, and he is author of Think Business! Medical Practice Quality, Efficiency, Profits. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281 367 3364.