Imagine this scenario: You’ve been seeing your GP for years, and you like him a lot. You’re pretty healthy, so you only see him once or twice per year. Then, all of a sudden, you have a serious, life-threatening health problem. You’re in constant contact with your GP, who facilitates referrals, blood tests, ultrasounds, CT scans, and visits to specialists. You still like your GP, who you trust and who takes the time to answer your questions. There is, however, a major problem—his office staff. You need to follow up three times to make sure forms are completed, appointments are made, and prescriptions are filled. Constant mistakes are being made. You are unsure of what is going on at any given moment because office staff does not communicate. You start to wonder whether it’s time for a new doctor.
This scenario plays out every day in practices across the country. Doctors are cognizant of the patient experience when the patient is in their direct care. But what happens when the doctor leaves the examining room? If your office is run similar to the example above, your office staff may be undermining the patient experience, despite your best efforts.
Evaluate your office staff
Evaluating your office staff needs can be done by comparing your practice to a benchmark standard. The American Medical Association, the Medical Group Management Association, as well as the American Medical Group Association, all provide data for benchmarking. Comparing your practice to other similar practices will help you address whether you have enough staff to do the job and whether costs are in line with similar practices.
Consider adjusting salaries
A 2013 survey of clinical and medical office staff reported that more than 70% of medical records clerks and more than 60% of receptionists earned less than $30,000 annually. While physicians are the ones to administer care, receptionists and records clerks are often the face of a physician’s practice. They are the first and last people a patient interacts with in an office, and they are the ones a patient deals with whenever they have a request, schedule an appointment, or have a question. While pay rates have been stagnant during the last several years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the improving economy will yield substantial pay increases in 2015, increasing the likelihood that underpaid office staff will seek better paying opportunities in the near future.
Provide additional incentives
The key to retaining quality staff members, in addition to providing adequate compensation, is to make them feel valued. Providing additional incentives, such as flexible hours, education credits, retirement benefits, or health club credits can be attractive incentives for staff. In addition, fostering a team atmosphere by rotating staff in different positions or allowing staff to shadow a physician, for example, will increase staff’s engagement in the practice.
Physicians often take special care to provide their patients with a positive experience. However, that experience too often falls short once the physician is out of the equation. Evaluating every aspect of the patient experience from a holistic perspective will prevent your office staff from undermining your efforts to provide quality care.