Training CAs and clinical staff to provide the best patient outcome and experience has always been my focus and passion as a practice consultant. So far in this series, I have covered administrative excellence, outstanding customer service, and educating and closing the patient as key tenants of this training, but there is still much more to learn.
Throughout the past 25 years, I have worked with hundreds of practices, and I have discovered some undeniable truths. The most recognizable truth is that each and every office is unique. You have unique demographics, unique individuals providing care and customer service, and unique personalities. But in the light of this truth, I have also discovered many similarities. I have developed my 6 Components Necessary for a Successful Practiceto address the areas of importance that universally affect every practice.
- Standardization of All Processes
The standardization of all processes applies to both administrative and clinical aspects of the office. Once processes and protocols are standardized, implemented, and managed, you have laid the groundwork for growth and success in the practice. These processes should follow a step-by-step protocol to ensure that the goal is accomplished.
Administrative processes include:
- Phone scripting,
- Multi- and prescheduling,
- The Business Report of Findings,
- Patient surveying, and
- The generation of referrals.
Clinical processes include:
- The consultation and new patient protocols,
- The Clinical Report of Findings,
- Rehab protocol,
- DME processes, and
- Transitioning the patient to maintenance care.
- Effective Communication
We communicate with others for the better part of every day, but we rarely focus on the quality of our interactions until there is a misunderstanding.
To master the art of communication, you must work diligently and practice awareness in every interaction. In a successful interaction, you maintain open body language, comfortable eye contact, and engage in open questions and active listening.
Effective communication requires you to be proactive and not reactive; use open communication and avoid closed questions; be assertive, not passive or aggressive; and practice active listening, not passive hearing.
Proactive and Not Reactive
Proactivity in communication, rather than reactivity, is the anticipation of needs and situations with the focus on solutions rather than putting out fires. Being prepared will facilitate a smoother flow in open communication, ensuring that your message is received with more clarity and enabling you to guide and lead the patient through the treatment process. When you are proactive, you control the scheduling and the rhythm of the practice rather than letting the patients dictate the flow.
Open Communication, Not Closed Questions
Open questions lead to stories and descriptions and are the heart of communication. Unless you are trying to fact check or get a specific answer, such as “yes” or “no,” remember that the answer and communication is always limited with closed questions.
Avoid phrases like:
“Do you want to schedule?”
“Does that work for you?”
These are clearly closed questions that provide you with a “yes” or “no” answer. It is very easy for a patient to give a negative response to these types of questions.
Instead, guide and lead the patient by saying:
“The doctor has prescribed a three-day-a-week treatment plan for you. What three days work best for you?”
Follow up with:
“Do you prefer morning or afternoon?”
Do not ask the patient any further questions. Your interaction with the patient should be well-scripted and clear and free of communication-blocking snags in order to facilitate open and unrestricted communication.
Be Assertive, Not Passive or Aggressive
Being assertive means that you can express what you think, feel, and believe and talk about yourself comfortably, no matter the company. Assertiveness is about owning your thoughts and opinions and taking responsibility for your words and actions. It is about respecting yourself and others and expecting others to treat you with respect in return, holding them accountable when they don’t.
In the office, being assertive requires you to take control of each situation through guiding and leading the patient. For example: You do not let the patient dictate his/her schedule; you lay out options for the patient and control the situation in a measured and confident manor.
In order to cultivate an assertive personality and mindset, we must be able to identify behaviors that do not fit into our assertive ideal. Passive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive personalities and behaviors are damaging to our relationships, communications, and environments.
Practice Active Listening, Not Just Hearing
One of the most important elements of conversation has nothing to do with speaking. The art of active listening is essential in two-way communication. When someone starts talking to you, it is an invitation to engage, and you need to stop what you are doing and actively participate. Face the person, make eye contact, and listen to the message and meaning they are trying to convey.
Accountability is the willingness to claim 100% ownership for the results produced as a consequence of your involvement, both individually and collectively, with others in your workplace.
This breaks down into personal accountability, team accountability, and managerial accountability. When all is in place, a network of accountability is created.
Personal accountability means holding yourself responsible for achieving your goals, completing your job duties, and following through on your commitments. But in order for the practice to run cohesively, all members of the team must hold each other accountable for job performance and meeting of goals. In addition, for those in management roles, it means holding those you manage responsible for achieving goals, completing job duties, and following through on commitments.
Holding yourself and others accountable is merely one step within the greater process of managing by objectives. Therefore, holding yourself and particularly others accountable for anything can only be done when specifically identified objectives are set and communicated, when job descriptions are clearly defined and communicated, and when systems are in place to measure goals and objectives.
What creates an environment of accountability?
- Specifically identified objectives are set and communicated.
- Job definitions are clearly defined and communicated.
- Standards and systems are in place to measure goals and objectives.
- Regular staff meetings are held, following an agenda.
- Successes are acknowledged as well as failures.
- Statistical Tracking and Analysis
Statistical tracking and analysis is the act of recording and reviewing your practice’s activities. You can track anything you want, but at the very least you should be tracking the following:
- New Patients
- Prescheduled Appointments
- Total Visits
- Missed Appointments
- Rescheduled Appointments
- Reactivated Patients
It is not enough to simply record statistics. Stats need to be tracked and analyzed, and both management and staff must be aware of individual and team statistics so everyone understands how to maintain or improve to reach goals.
Stats should be posted prominently in the office in a place where all staff members will be sure to see, for instance, a breakroom or meeting room.
At your weekly staff meeting, statistics should be shared and discussed. This is the time to develop the action plan to improve down statistics and maintain up statistics.
- A Strong Team with a Positive Attitude
In order to grow and support the team culture and mentality, the practice must:
- Foster effective communication,
- Set clearly defined plans and goals,
- Define job descriptions and objectives,
- Hold weekly staff meeting and daily huddles,
- Acknowledge successes as well as failures,
- Promote positive reinforcement, and
- Use rewards and motivation.
Team Building allows us to:
- Improve communication,
- Work toward common goals,
- Foster healthy competition,
- Strengthen relations,
- Break down barriers & reduce conflicts,
- Improve problem-solving skills,
- Recognize and appreciate each individual’s contribution,
- Get to know each other better,
- Identify & capitalize of each individual’s strengths,
- Create a motivating & enjoyable environment, and
- Have fun!
- An Expansion and Development Mindset
Successful practices do not stop at the front door of the office. If you are not proactively marketing your services to current, past, and potential new patients, your growth will be slow and unpredictable. In order to maintain steady growth and profitability, a solid marketing plan needs to be in place to maximize revenue opportunities.
All staff must be of the growth and expansion mindset; marketing is not an island by itself.
The plan for marketing your practice should include:
- A referral program,
- Patient appreciation,
- New patient orientation,
- Community and corporate outreach,
- Surveying and lead generation,
- Testimonials, and
- Internal events (holiday celebrations, charity affiliations).
Remember, the best source of a new patient is an existing or past patient. These marketing programs give you access to a wealth of new patients, but only if everyone in the practice is focused on growth and expansion.
Through the implementation of these 6 components, you have the keys to increase your volume, improve retention, reduce turnover, improve efficiency, grow your practice, and maximize revenue.
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