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Five Success Strategies for a Lean Medical Practice


How efficient practice managers keep clinics running smoothly.

Last week I talked about who you need to run a trim and lean office staff in your clinic. This week, let's talk about a few strategies to keep a lean clinic running smoothly.

1. Cross train. All ancillary staff (nurses, billing, reception, office manager, etc.) in the clinic should be able to fill in for any other position in the clinic when it comes to basic duties. Without tons of practice (and we don't want you to have a lot of call-ins) your staff may not be able to do it perfectly, but should be adequately trained in every position. All new employees should train with each person in the clinic.

This should be done within the limits of safety and licensing. For example, in a family practice clinic it is likely that many of the duties of the registered nurse (RN) include supervising, directing patient traffic, and calling in prescriptions on the doctor’s orders. These are duties that do not require an RN license and can be performed by any cross-trained staff member. Keep in mind that sometimes, such as in a dialysis clinic, it would be less likely and possibly go against licensing regulations for the receptionist to step in for the nurse.

On occasion it can be fun and beneficial to have a "shake-it-up" day, once a quarter or so, where staff members draw a position in the clinic from a hat and take over that position for the day. This will give a refresher to each team member on the other jobs in the clinic (again within the limits of safety and licensing).

2. Set lunch breaks. If there is no set lunch break, where the office is closed for an hour during the lunch period, then the office manager and receptionist should alternate lunches, and the medical assistant should take a lunch simultaneously with the physician.

3. Specific staff scheduling. Schedule staff to arrive 15 minutes to 30 minutes prior to the first patient. Set the schedule so that the last scheduled patient before lunch is set for 11:30 a.m., and the next half of clinic begins at 1 p.m., with the last patient of the day at 4:15 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. This gives the office manager and receptionist time to push claims to insurance at the end of each day.

4. Minimal clinic interruptions. Interruptions should be minimal during clinic hours. Medical assistant or nurse phone messages such as refills and medical questions should be answered right before or after lunch break or at the end of the day, and make sure the medical assistants' voicemail messages and e-mail auto responders reflects that policy.

5. Practice teamwork. Make sure you promote TEAMWORK. You don't want to hire employees. You want to hire a team that shares your goal of a successful practice and making a difference in patients' lives.

These simple strategies can help you keep your overhead low and your clinic running smoothly.

What policies do you have in place to ensure a smooth clinic?

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