Monday, September 30, 2013

The Ultimate Partnership: Getting Patients on Your Side

Getting Patients on Your Side
An interview with Judy Capko of Capko & Company discussing strategies on developing and maintaining patient loyalty.

NC: Judy, we hear that patients are more demanding these days. Why do you think this is the case?

JC: I think it begins with the fact that patients are less loyal. Years ago patients kept the same doctor for 10, 20 years. Now, at the drop of a hat, a patient changes doctors or, more importantly, at the drop of an insurance company. So, the way we pick our doctors today is to look at the panel of doctors that our insurance plan has, do a bit of online research, and talk to friends or relatives about our choice. Patients seem to be more demanding because they feel they have lost control and they don’t like it. It makes them insecure and more fearful too. That’s a recipe for a more demanding patient.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Employee Appearance and Dress Code in the Medical Practice: A Touchy Topic

staff appearance in the medical practice
Practice management guru Jeff Denning takes a straightforward approach to the challenging and controversial subject of employee appearance. The idea of “business casual” seems to have gone to extremes even among some Fortune 500 companies. Consequently, some medical office staff members want to push back the boundaries of what you might consider "professional appearance." But you can’t really afford to ignore the issue in your practice—everyone knows how staff appearance influences the way patients and referrers view your practice. First impressions are still lasting impressions, and they’re critical to establishing a good physician-patient relationship. Denning’s article helps you think about what’s appropriate for your practice image and provides advice for enforcing a reasonable dress code.

Although developing and enforcing a dress code  comes under the general topic of “human resources management,” the fact of the matter is that it’s an internal marketing issue. It’s an important part of providing your patients with a comfortable, convenient environment in which they can find reassurance that they’ve chosen the right place to receive their healthcare. But in an era of self-expression and widely varying personal tastes, physicians and their managers find themselves doing battle with staffers who have individual definitions of “professional appearance.” But there’s no need to run away
from the issue; you can define an appropriate dress code and enforce it in a positive environment if you follow these principles:
  • Determine what’s appropriate. Capitalize on the wide range of professional appearance recognized in today’s business world. Ask yourself what image you want to project to the community. A successful plastic surgery practice with an exclusive clientele may express its professionalism with a more tailored look. But an orthopaedic group with an emphasis on sports medicine may decide to dress the staff in polo shirts, khakis, and athletic shoes. Pediatric patients and their families expect something different than those who frequent a geriatric practice. To start out on the right foot with your staff members, bring them in on the discussions about the image your practice wants to project. Discuss why it’s important to patients and referral sources; ask for their ideas and input, but don’t try putting it to a vote. It’s a business, not a democracy.
  • Fine-tune your practice “look.” Remember that not everyone looks good in the exact same style, color, and cut. Go for a uniform look that allows enough variation to help staffers feel comfortable while compliant. Determine how narrowly you will define the dress code. In some ways, a true “uniform” is easiest to enforce.
  • Enforce your policy. Start with a written policy that clearly outlines your dress code. Make it unambiguous and as detailed as necessary: Don’t neglect issues such as skirt-hem length, blouse necklines, and other questionably appropriate issues like visible tattoos or piercings. Providing an actual uniform may prove a worthwhile investment just to reduce the hassles that accompany individual interpretations of even the most clearly written guidelines. When a staffer shows up inappropriately dressed, consider it a challenge to authority. It’s a test of wills, and you dare not ignore it. A “minor” infraction may require a simple comment from you to remind the staffer that you’re serious. A more serious violation requires at least a warning that the next time it happens, you will send the noncompliant worker home. It takes only one or two such incidents to convince your staff that you mean it.
Finally, as you consider the appearance of your support staff, take a long reflective look (a mirror will help) at your own outward image. Do you convey a picture of what patients expect to see in a professional? Will they take one look at you and say, “I’ve come to the right doctor.”?

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Your Personnel Manual: Policies and Rules for the Medical Practice

Employee Handbooks in Medical PracticeSmaller practices notoriously neglect their employee handbooks. That disregard tends toward one extreme or the other: Either the practice never got around to putting a personnel manual in place, or it has allowed an old manual to languish without update in the back of a file cabinet. While a well-crafted and properly utilized handbook documents policies, builds trust, and helps you comply with federal and state laws; an inadequate or neglected handbook can work against you. Further, the latter type of handbook often surfaces as prime evidence in court when an employer faces a plaintiff who happens to have been his or her employee. A physician or practice manager can find numerous tools for building a practical and effective employee handbook, but it also takes the commitment to review the document once a year to keep it up to date and relevant to your staff.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Your Medical Practice’s SWOT Analysis

SWOT in Medical PracticeNow part of basic business vocabulary, the term “SWOT analysis” has its origins in research conducted and published by the Stanford Research Institute back in the 1960s. Fortune 500 companies funded the research in an effort to understand why corporate planning often resulted in failure. Its success as a “forensic” tool led to its adoption as a strategic tool, and eventually it became the standard process for Western business planning.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Patient-Centric Practice: Practicing Compassion

Patient Centered Practice
Physicians and others in the “caring professions” risk suffering from a special type of burnout called “compassion fatigue.” Physicians are expected to demonstrate compassion toward every  patient they treat—regardless of the pressures facing them day after day. Maintaining high patient numbers makes it very difficult to show each person that you genuinely care.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Don’t Misfire When You Have to Fire

How to properly fire in the medical practice
Firing a staff member ranks near the top of most personnel managers’ list of dreaded tasks. The emotion and drama can unnerve you and shake your self-confidence; you may wonder, "Am I doing the right thing?" Diligently following clear policies and procedures when hiring, training, and supervising staffers will shore up your confidence and protect your practice from sometimes serious legal consequences.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chart Audit: Is Your Practice Billing What It Should?

Medical Coding Audits
Missed lab charges, understated injection units, and missed office surgeries can subtract tens of thousands of revenue dollars from your income every year. Conducting an internal chart audit can help you discover and correct flaws in your system that allow costly omissions like these. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on an outside consultant to perform an effective review. Using an orderly procedure and recording your findings in a spreadsheet to track anomalies, you can quickly see:

Monday, September 9, 2013

10 Ways to Lower Your Overhead (But Be Careful When It Comes To Your Knowledge Workers)

Lower overhead carefully
To stay ahead of today’s unstable financial curve, physicians need to cut costs. Financial advisors recommend the “two-thirds” rule during a down economy: Put two-thirds of your effort into cutting costs and one-third into increasing revenue. A collection of practice management consultants offers a top-10 list of cost-cutting strategies:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tips to Avoid Malpractice Suits

avoid medical malpractice
More often than not, documentation will make or break a malpractice case. Too often these days,physicians seem to obsess over the relationship between documentation and E/M coding levels fearing a Medicare audit and potential financial penalties. But the threat of a chart being examined by a plaintiff attorney far overshadows the damage you might sustain from an audit! When charting patient visits, aim for consistency and thoroughness.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Appraising a Practice: The Art of the Deal for Buyers and Sellers

Selling a medical practice
Most physicians and their managers will likely face buying and selling their medical practice (or shares in it) at least once in their careers. Healthcare financial advisor David Marcinko offers straightforward advice for anyone wondering what a medical practice is worth.  Arriving at a satisfactory price presents a daunting challenge to everyone involved - buyers and sellers alike must understand that an appraisal will produce only a price range - a starting point for final discussions. All the math and science, due diligence, and top-level appraisers’ fees will only create an environment for good old-fashioned negotiations. In the end, the only accurate valuation is the amount written on the buyer’s check.