When it comes to health care staff training, a lack of accountability in your clinic could be coming from the top
If you had to fire everyone in your company, would you rehire them? If the answer is no, maybe it’s because they lacked accountability. Regardless of whether a company is in health care or general business, accountability is part of the culture. Culture can be created, but it all starts at the top. If you are an unaccountable CEO, you can’t expect your team to be accountable. You have to lead the way in your health care staff training, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to become a motivational speaker.
Leadership and teamwork
Creating an accountable culture requires work from you and your team. Sometimes it requires you to set some people free from your organization and other times it just involves a little coaching. If you’re looking for more accountability, recommended reading is Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”
Lack of accountability leads to poor outcomes. If someone is consistently unaccountable, other team members won’t delegate work to that individual. This leads to great team members doing other people’s work. These great team members will eventually burn out and leave and your business will suffer.
Business owners seem to agree that finding great people is getting harder and harder. Get the most out of your current team, especially if they perform reasonably well and want to improve at their job. If you create a culture of accountability, you’ll create a culture of A-players. This helps retain existing team members and attract new team members as great people love working with great people. It’s that simple. Keep in mind it’s never too late to make a change, no matter where you are in your practice.
Health care staff training and team structure
Great; now that we understand that, where do we start?
- Map out all the positions and duties on your team. You may have the same person in multiple roles if you are a small team. A person at the front desk may be in charge of many things, from answering the phone, returning calls and emails, scheduling patients, processing payments and various other tasks. However, there should be a few main things they are measured on. For example, a front-desk staff member might be in charge of monitoring and increasing the total weekly visits statistics. A number of things affect your total weekly visits, including the percentage of existing patients who keep their appointment, new patients who show up for their first visit, and the number of reactivated patients. In addition, the doctor might be measured on how many treatment plan conversions, completed treatment plans, and maintenance care conversions they have.
- List the key performance indicators. Usually these are statistics that objectively measure how an individual team member is doing. You can’t measure them on too many things because they wouldn’t be key performance indicators anymore. If there are too many measures, they will get overwhelmed and won’t know what to focus on, and nothing will be accomplished. Ideally, the person in charge of the metric should be able to influence it positively. If not, they will feel helpless and unmotivated.
- Assign responsibility to one specific individual. Only one person can be in charge. If you have multiple people responsible for a metric, then rotate the lead each month. My mentor used to say, “one neck, one noose,” implying that only one person is to blame if things do not work out.
- Troubleshoot. If someone isn’t consistently hitting their metrics, you or the manager need to sit down with that team member and find out how you can help them accomplish this critical task. Maybe it’s a health care staff training issue that requires showing them how to get the job done. Perhaps that person has too many duties, and something needs to be delegated to someone else. Suppose you have worked on the first two issues, and the person consistently doesn’t perform. In that case, it’s time to have that uncomfortable conversation about moving them to a different position or out of your organization.
- Prune. Terminating weak employees is like pruning a plant. When you remove the unproductive employees, the rest of your team rises to the occasion.
The front desk
Those are the foundations for most positions, but let’s look more closely at the front-desk staff in most practices.
This position is more complicated than most owners think because they are constantly interrupted by phone calls, patients and other team members. This means they usually have to wait for “down time” to figure out what they have to work on. For example, if you are interrupted every five minutes while writing a personal injury report, it takes much longer because of the refocusing time.
Many advances in technology have made things easier for the front-desk staff. For example, offering online scheduling options to your patients can cut down on phone calls, voicemails and patients waiting at the front desk. Also, using your business phone number for texting allows patients to easily communicate with your office at their convenience, all while allowing your staff to communicate with multiple patients at the same time. These tools reduce the amount of time spent on the phone, increase the time available to focus on patients in the office, and provide a written history of conversations for your review.
Collections and technology
Chasing down patients for payments after they leave the office is a waste of time and is often unsuccessful. The same applies to attempting to schedule patients for their next visit after they have left the office.
Frequently your staff will have to make several attempts to chase down a payment owed or get the patient to schedule their next visit. Ideally, payments are collected and future visits are scheduled when the patient arrives. Many offices attempt to do this at the end of the visit, and unfortunately it often leads to the patient leaving without paying or scheduling their next visit.
If your office is busy enough to have a dedicated staff member for checking out patients, then you might be OK. Most offices only have one front-desk staff member, though, and these items usually slip through the cracks. Fortunately, new tools are available to reduce strain on your staff members and help them be more efficient and effective. A little preparation for each day goes a long way. There is software now that can help them quickly identify the patients who need to pay and who need to schedule their next visit.
If you know the key performance metrics, invest some effort into making it easier to perform. If you could leverage a CRM that integrates with your EHR, use that. If you have to restructure how you schedule or how patients flow through your office, that might improve your office production.
Accountability starts at the top
If you want your organization to be accountable, you need to be accountable to yourself. I’m a fan of exercising before I start my day. I listen to something that inspires me, and I make time for essential things in my life. If you schedule out your week and fit in the crucial things, you will feel better about yourself because you’re getting things done.
Accountability starts with you and your model of health care staff training as a leader. Motivation is great, but the execution is what matters at the end of the day. Most try to motivate themselves to do things, but it’s fleeting at best. For example, if you want to get up early and exercise but have trouble getting out of bed, try going to bed earlier and getting everything ready to exercise before you go to bed.
Focus on making it easier to get things done; sometimes that means using technology and getting help from others to coach you. Warning: This may require change. Remember, if nothing changes, nothing will change.
NAOTA HASHIMOTO, DC, is the co-founder of TrackStat, activity-based software that gives real-time feedback of where your patients are so you can identify positive or negative trends in your practice. This tracking boosts your stats and features automated emails, texts, reviews and scheduling to solve all of the chiropractor’s needs. Visit trackstat.org.