Eliminating Communication Gaps among Your Medical Practice Staff

December 14, 2013

As a medical practice owner, you should have complete knowledge and understanding of every office role. Here are some quick ideas on how to make that happen.

You have many responsibilities and wear many hats. What do you know about your support staff's positions? Their responsibilities, tasks, and skill set? Do you know how long it should take for a task to be completed? Is your staff actually doing the tasks you've asked them to do? How do you know?

There is a popular reality show that portrays a large business owner or CEO going undercover to see what happens on the front lines in the business that they are running. Some really great insights are gained. Some people are promoted, some are not. But what the owner/CEO does get is a greater understanding of how "corporate" and the employees performing the procedures and following the policies differ. Now, I'm not saying slap on a wig and some glasses to go undercover in your own practice, I'm suggesting spending a few hours with your front- and back-office staff and observe. Ask questions. Listen to feedback.

I just experienced this the other day when one of the owners came into the billing department for a rundown on the processes that are occurring and why the billing department is so successful. It was actually a great learning experience for both the billing staff and the owner. There were some laughs, a lot of explaining, showing data and results due to decisions that have been made, etc. What truly came out of it was a greater understanding of the communication gap that always occurs between a billing department and a front office staff. This gap must be written in some history book, because it is a rare occasion that I come across these two departments mingling in a truly positive, efficient manner.

Here are some ideas that might help bridge this:

• Know your staff members and their positions within your practice. I know this may seem simple, but do you really know your staff? What are their skill sets and are they performing up to the level you expect them to?

• Sit with them for a few hours every quarter. I know this seems like a lot of time that I'm certain you do not have. However, think of it as a return on your investment. Employees are investments. If you show them you are genuinely interested in their job functions and performance, they will show you results ten-fold. What you put into an employee is what you will get out of them.

• Know your practice's goals and needs. Are the policies being created in line with helping you reach these goals, or are you inadvertently holding your staff back and tying their hands? Share these goals and needs with your staff (financial information excluded if you see fit) and let them know the why of a policy. They are much more apt to comply.

• Ask your staff for their feedback when developing a new policy. Are you creating a policy to stop or suppress a behavior of one poor performer? Don't hold everyone hostage to your policies if it really is one person creating the problem. Sit down with them and find out why they are non-compliant.

• Find out from your billing department (internal or outsourced) what their needs are and if those are being met. Are they simply asking for information and not receiving it from your staff? Find out why.

By understanding where the communication or behavior break-down is occurring, you are much more likely to solve issues before they become problems.