As the healthcare industry witnessed many technology trends over the past decade, it has now become much easier to improve outpatient services and reduce prolonged hospital stays. The basic foundation for this rests on common sense and simple tools that enable an optimal medical practice. As the trend of outpatient care (or ambulatory care) increases, it is useful to know certain practices that improve the quality and standard of medical care while keeping costs at a minimum. It is however important to recognize that no compromise is made in the quality of medical care given to each patient while such practices are followed. With this in mind, we bring you a series on ‘the best practices in managing medical clinics‘.
This week talk about the best practices in managing your staff. Patient satisfaction, a happy staff and smooth operational processes go a long way in making an efficient and successful practice. It is critical to ensure that your staff is well-trained, follows best practices and keeps the patients’ needs paramount.
Here are some of the best practices is managing medical clinic staff, based on various studies and documented evidence:
Best practice #1. Strive to reduce waiting time
Training your staff to reduce patient wait times and being mindfully aware of your schedule will help you maintain a loyal patient record while running a successful practice.
A good rule to follow: Noting the patient’s check-in time and ensuring that their waiting time does not exceed more than 15 minutes. If it does, your staff must courteously explain the reason for the prolonged wait, rather than waiting for the physician himself to explain the reasons for delay.
Patients feel more at ease and it also helps in setting correct expectations in the patients’ mind, apart from also preventing chaos at the practice.
Best practice #2. Prioritize your patient’s needs
Being cognizant of your patient’s needs makes them not only comfortable, but also secure. It reduces the ‘dread factor’ which patients commonly experience while visiting their physician.
Having ample parking space for your patients with clear directions to your practice and having someone guiding them through the check-in process puts patients at ease before even they enter the doctor’s cabin.
Ensuring the waiting area is bright and colourful instantly lightens up a grim mood. Having well trained, helpful and cheerful staff that cooperates with patients and answers questions especially regarding billing and documentation, is a must. Your staff must also be trained to give priority to elderly patients, expectant mothers and children.
Best practice #3. Have a forum for exchanging ideas
You should organise combined group meetings of all staff members, to facilitate the exchange of innovative ideas to help in better functioning of the practice.
It is important to ensure that changes suggested by your staff are considered and implemented with seriousness, since your staff knows your practice best.
You should meet on a monthly basis, review suggestions and make an implementation plan. Such fora also help in setting and reviewing annual goals for the staff.
Best practice #4. Conduct role-play drills
Role playing exercises puts your staff in the patients’ shoes. It helps them understand the right way of communicating with patients, lessons in compassion and empathy, and the importance of maintaining a healthy and pleasant atmosphere.
It is equally important to note in such drills the positive efforts of your staff in handling patients. The outcomes of drills can be regarded as goals for your staff to reach and exceed.
Apart from soft skills, you must also conduct drills in triaging, emergency response, evacuation and crisis management. These drills ensure that your staff is always prepared in case of any emergency.
Best practice #5. Use technology intelligently
Relying on the manual skills of your staff for documentation and record-keeping is unsustainable and makes your practice highly prone to mistakes and errors. To counter this, you must ensure that your staff is comfortable with using computers, specifically your practice management software.
Training your staff in using software to document & manage your patients’ records helps streamline processes and reduces medical errors, apart from reducing clutter and the risks of paper storage.
Making your staff comfortable with computers and technology will not only help them in better managing your practice, but also greatly improves patient experience.
Best practices are nothing but small modifications in your processes to help your medical practice run better. Applying these proven strategies to your practice will not just lead to higher productivity and profitability, but will also help in achieving a peaceful, stress-free practice for you.
– Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD
- Coulehan JL, Block MR. The Medical Interview: Mastering Skills for Clinical Practice (5th ed.) 2005.
- Verma K. Base of a Research: Good Clinical Practice in Clinical Trials. J Clin Trials. 2013; 3: 128.