Modern medical practices serving social patients within the current healthcare system continue to seek new ways to improve the balance between efficiency, wellness and patient satisfaction. Obviously there are many contributing factors and these factors vary by the type of care/ specialty provided.
That said, there are factors that remain constant across all practices, and social patients are looking for them. These factors include the need for improved technology and communication (In a recent survey 41% of patients said they would consider switching for that purpose and 15% actually do annually). In addition, social patients want seamless processes provided by courteous friendly staff members as well as timely appointments (service). In other words they would like to be treated the same way the folks working in the office want to be treated, not exactly a new concept.
Consider the following story:
If you have visited a local Dunkin Donuts (or other advanced coffee chains) within the past week, this will make total sense to you. I personally visit at least one of the chains on a very consistent basis.
Recently, I stopped in North Kingstown, RI to pick up a bagel with cream cheese (on it) and a medium coffee. Although I was tempted by the seasonal Christmas donuts, coffee flavors, etc. The girl at the register was receiving guidance from a more experienced associate. I assumed she must be new. When I stipulated that I wanted the cream cheese spread on the bagel, the older associate asked the young girl, “how do we handle this type of request,” and she walked her through it. In less than 20 seconds I saw the manager train the associate on:
- What to do
- Why to do it
- How to do it
- Then do it.
This is a very sophisticated training process in action.
[box color=”sugar” title=””](Effective personnel are extremely important to the success of the practice for many reasons. Turnover can be disruptive to say the least. Many practices lack the time, resources or training systems to onboard and keep motivated staff. Thus relying on individuals vs. effective processes.)[/box]
Next, I was asked to wait at the sandwich counter for my order. While I was waiting I noticed the two young ladies staring up at a computer monitor. The monitor showed every order pending (think patient pending / receiving care) from both the counter and the drive through window. It also showed the time elapsed since the order was placed. I was more impressed by the manager who noticed the temporary log jam at the sandwich station. As the manager approached the two young ladies she pulled on a pair of plastic gloves and literally said, “Talk to me guys what I can do to help?” She obviously took customer service VERY SERIOUSLY.
As I was driving into work I thought about what I had just witnessed:
- Sophisticated training and coaching focused on learning and constant improvement.
- A CRM / order management tool that allowed key employees to monitor the progress of every order placed.
- A floor manager dedicated to on-time delivery, quality control and process management.
I thought to myself, I have been receiving treatment from local family doctors, pediatricians, chiropractors, optometrists, gastroenterologists, physical therapists, nutritionists and various surgeons for 47 years and what an incredible lesson could be taken from a company that makes billions from selling donuts. And then it occurred to me, it’s not about donuts or healthcare, it’s about people, process and tools.
- Do you have a written process for new / existing employees to follow for every aspect of their position? Or, do you assume because they have been doing it for 20 years that everything is being done correctly?
- Do you have a written training and orientation manual that provides your employees with the tools they need to be successful in their position?
- Do you have a formalized mentoring program for feedback and constant improvement?
- Do you have a well tracked blended marketing strategy designed to increase patient wellness while maximizing the office calendar
- Do you utilize a sophisticated patient management system that allows you to automate (via email, text and phone) important relevant wellness information to your entire patient population.
The Billion Dollar questions:
- Do you think you SHOULD?
- What is stopping you?
- What will the long term implications be for your practice?
Every industry in America is confronted with the issue of decreasing margins and in many cases the added layer of regulatory complexity. These are macro factors over which you have limited control. This is not unique to the US healthcare system. Difficult, but not unique… The real question is what to do about it?