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Practice managers often fall in to common office habits, but going against conventional practice may result in a better office culture and cost savings.
What are you doing in your practice that needs to change? “Be honest with yourself,” urged Kyle Matthews, of CardioVascular Associates of Mesa PC. “You have to be honest with yourself if you’re ever going to move forward.”
Matthews warned that his presentation “10 Mistakes We Keep Making as Practice Managers” at the 2014 Medical Group Management Association Annual Conference on Tues., Oct. 28, could offend people but that questioning the things they do in their offices and making changes that don’t align with conventional wisdom is OK.
Matthews suggested that practice managers are slaves to standard scheduling habits, but they need to think about when patients and the people who are helping patients need the front-office staff and physicians. With that in mind, stop closing for lunch and consider keeping the office open on Saturdays. Also, do not reschedule patients on a physician’s request without a good reason. “We aren’t being good stewards by rescheduling patients,” he said.
Matthews suggested offices get rid of their typical organizational charts and adopt a team diagram where people who work with scheduling fall a bit into all other aspects of the business. Consider scheduling everyone for 38 hours a week without cutting pay, which offers a good alternative to raises and saves on overtime pay.
Additionally, Matthews said offices need to stop sending Christmas cards and holding holiday office parties. He told a story about giving each employee a $100 bonus with a handwritten thank you note instead. “To a single mother trying to buy Christmas presents, a crisp $100 bill inside a thank you cards means all the world,” he said.
When practice managers hire new office staff, think long and hard why someone would move from one front office to another - usually a lateral career move. Don’t get stuck on hiring for experience; instead, look for people with positive, caring attitudes. Once the perfect team has been assembled, managers should sit with employees to see what works and what needs improvement. “We tend to be too detached from the staff, so it’s import to get out there and see what’s going on,” Matthews said.
Also , there is a tendency to let the IT department handle technology issues, but practice managers need to be actively involved with IT with frequent meetings. Communication is paramount with all employees, and sharing information leads to trust and satisfied, productive employees, Matthews noted. “When you don’t tell your employees things, your employees make assumptions."
Additionally, practice managers should honestly reflect on their leadership style. “I think building teamwork is the most important thing you can do as a leader,” he said. Despite the title of "practice manager," Matthews suggested the best managers aren’t managers; they’re executives and leaders. Every employee and physician won’t leave happy every day, but that’s what happens when someone has built a team on trust. “At the end of the day, we can have a lot of fun,” he said. “Our jobs can’t be so serious every single day. We need to laugh.”
Matthews also provided a few other suggestions for improving office practices. For example, there is a tendency to avoid spending money, but, he warned, hoarding money to an extreme degree causes people to become frustrated and employees to fall behind.
Avoid keeping your office isolated, and feel free to collaborate and communicate with other practices. “We need to start working together,” he said. Finally, cut the word "but" from communication. “Stop using it. Just say what you mean,” Matthews said.