Posted by: Ashley Choate
Having a skilled and efficient support staff is vital for a strong practice. Practice staffing decisions can impact various aspects of the practice, from profits and patient satisfaction to overall practice culture.
In fact, practices with staffing issues could experience any of the following problems:
- Over scheduling
- Consistently incomplete tasks
- Less patient interaction time for the physician
- Long wait times
- Low quality of patient-staff interaction
- Missed collection opportunities
These issues could be the result of either poorly trained staff, problems with office culture, lack of sufficient staff, too much staff, or missed delegation opportunities to relieve physician workloads. Other factors can contribute to the severity of the issue, but effective practice staffing strategies make up a big part of the solution.
Below are some tips for making good practice staffing decisions and build an office team that will meet both physician and patient needs.
Every established practice has experienced fluctuations in productivity, efficiency, or patient satisfaction at some point, particularly when a senior staff member leaves. The adjustment period can be brutal.
When the numbers are either too high or too low, whether those numbers amount to total wait time minutes or total minutes that staff members are idle, it doesn’t always mean the total number of staff should increase or decrease. Sometimes, it’s smarter to shift responsibilities, delegate, or grow patient numbers instead of changing staff makeup. Work to understand the source of the issue, then take steps to ensure staff members are on track with practice improvement goals.
Finding the right person for the job is every hiring manager’s top goal—and greatest source of anxiety. Office managers who have decided on increasing practice staff should always take their time with the interview process, ensuring they understand the work ethic, personality, and professional goals of each candidate before making an offer. Hiring regrets are not something any decision-maker wants to face every day, so be selective.
Brenda Day, a former office manager at a practice in Maryland, advises hiring based on practical experience and good decision-making skills. She recommends offering scenarios to potential hires in order to determine how they would react in real-life situations. Assessing the interviewee’s openness to cross-training is also a good approach, as most small practices need staff members who are willing to fill different roles and be flexible as needed.
Find a balance.
Part of effective practice staffing is keeping staff members motivated and making sure to delegate when needed. Creating balance between staff duties and physician duties is essential, and productive employees should be rewarded for their good work.
Effective office managers work hard to find a balance between work duties among staff members and a balance between work and reward. These ideal thresholds are sometimes challenging to find, but when the right team comes together with good attitudes and a willingness to take on new challenges, the outcome is well worth the effort.
Make everyone’s life easier by taking advantage of technology that can cover the simpler tasks, such as patient check-in, payments, and some patient records access. Effective practice staffing techniques revolve around efficiency and should strive to offer as much face-to-face time between patients and staff or physicians as possible.
The right technical tools can take care of the tedious stuff, allowing staff to focus their time on ensuring patient questions are answered and major topics, such as health insurance coverage or outstanding bills, are covered.
Mastering the art of practice staffing—and it is an art form (think casting director for a high-budget film)—can take a lifetime. The tips above are a few different ways to assess a practice for areas of improvement and target the best methods for inciting positive change.
While real change doesn’t happen overnight, every step in the right direction is another move closer to creating a balanced healing environment in which patients, staff, and physicians can thrive.