Addressing patients who arrive late is one thing, but when members of your medical practice staff, including physicians, are tardy, it's time to take action
"He that rises late must trot all day."
- Benjamin Franklin
Last month, I discussed my practice’s approach to the late-arriving patient. However, there is an even more sinister latecomer that will affect the reputation and revenue of your practice. Here are a few of my suggestions about dealing with staff and physicians that are challenged with arriving to the office on time.
We have all had staff members that just can’t seem to get to work on time. Many have valid reasons why this challenges them, but it still is a problem; especially for other promptly arriving staff members that have to take up the slack. This is irritating but it’s pretty easy to deal with. A verbal discussion with a warning is usually enough to set an employee straight. If the tardiness continues, don’t wait too long to put a "write up" in their file. The longer you do not deal with bad behavior, the harder it will be to change it. I know this from experience. If the staff member is having life issues (getting children off to school, sharing a car with someone else, etc.), sometimes a shift in her schedule will help her reach your goal of streamlined office efficiency. Since most staff members are paid hourly, the employee ultimately pays with reduced wages if she arrives late.
A more difficult problem is the chronically late-arriving physician. An employed physician can be handled similarly to the staff. This physician should be made aware of his/her selfishness because they are making staff and patients wait on them as well as harming the office overall, not just in revenue but also in reputation. Most doctors are salaried, so their paycheck won’t reflect the lost time in the office. If the tardy arrivals continue, a serious discussion must ensue with the possibility of docking their pay.
The most difficult straggler to deal with is the partnered physician that evidently cannot tell time and consistently arrives late to the office. Other than a solemn discussion about the negative impact their tardiness has on the office, there isn’t much that can be done. If there are multiple partners, possibly instituting a financial penalty to be paid to the other partners might work. Fortunately, the "shame factor" of an open discussion among the partners usually will correct the behavior.
These are just a few ways we deal with the issue of tardiness. I would love to hear how other practices deal with this problem in the comments section below.