3 Mistakes Clinics Make

#1: Communication

We have encountered plenty of clinics that do not set aside any time to communicate problems and to celebrate their successes. Often clinics fall into the trap of feeding into the ‘rumour mill’. The result is not a consistent and reliable form of communication. The easiest way to do so, is to schedule regular meetings. There should be an opportunity for staff to meet with management and physicians to meet separately with management. Even solo practices should check in with their employee(s) and have a chat about operations. Make sure there is an agenda distributed several days beforehand, minutes taken and action items documented. Make sure to follow-up of those action items discussed at the next meeting. Minutes should be distributed in order to communicate what transpired during those meeting to keep everyone in the loop. Minutes from physician meetings can be shortened to inform employees only what is applicable to them.

Staff can often fail to communicate effectively about patient care. For example, an employee calls a patient, she leaves a message to call the clinic back, but neglects to document in the EMR that they had called and the reason for the call. Imagine the result when the patient calls back and another MOA answers the call. It can take a while to figure out who had called the patient and what they needed.

The style and method of communicating patient orders to staff can also be problematic. A reminder for physicians, to use the EMR messaging or tasking tool. Try to eliminate verbal orders as much as possible to avoid errors and potential breaches in confidentiality.

Encouraging staff to really listen and convey empathy when speaking with patients, despite how busy they become.

Make sure the clinic is communicating with patients efficiently. If you have a website, ensure you have all your policies available to patients. This helps to make sure they are fully informed regarding your referral process, prescription repeats, policies, etc. Having a robust website with enough valuable content will help decrease phone calls for repetitive requests for information.

The old policies of “No news is good news” is no longer sufficient. In accordance with College policies (in some provinces), clinics must notifying patients and the referring physician’s office of the status of the referral and how long they can expect to be in the queue. Introduce an add-on program to your EMR such as Ocean by CognisantMD.

#2: Complacency

Clinics get comfortable and are so busy with patient care they don’t see the importance of investing time into operational improvements.

We often visit clinics that are conducting tasks that had become redundant year ago. Lean exercises are valuable tools for clinics to apply. To explain further, Lean exercises look at processes or workflow and breaks it down to ensure all the steps that are taken make sense and are necessary. Systemic can help you with this.

Clinics also overlook considering succession planning for key personnel and physicians. It is imperative to have a plan for those that are nearing retirement.

Advances in tech are accelerating rapidly. Not being aware of these advancements and introducing them at the right time puts Clinics behind the “8 ball”. From AI, virtual care to ensuring the clinic’s firewalls are robust enough to prevent a ransomware attack. Keep an eye on tech and invest in solutions to improve the delivery of care, save staff time and protect your patient data.

Loose policies surrounding missed appointments and charging for uninsured services can allow thousands of dollars to slip through the cracks. It also affects the efficient delivery of healthcare. We have been able to help clinics capture from between 15 – 58% more uninsured billing revenue. Are you consistently charging for uninsured services?

#3: Human Resource Blunders

If performance issues are not addressed correctly and go unchecked, the clinic is setting themselves up for a multitude of problems. Address performance issues as they happen. Choose a private setting to talk, understand the issue, use diplomacy and clear language when you outline your expectations. Repeat if it happens again and consult with an employment lawyer on next steps. Don’t forget to document these discussions.

Clinics with more than 4 or 5 physicians benefit from strong administrative leadership to manage the helm and to coach employees. Clinics that choose not to hire a clinic manager and do it themselves typically have operational problems.

Employing the wrong people in the wrong positions. For instance, Alesha who is not a particularly patient person, should not be placed on phones to book appointments or at reception. She is likely better off billing or doing other administrative tasks.

Staff need to be rewarded and recognized for their dedication and contribution. They need to feel part of the team and need to feel appreciated. They need to feel they have a voice and that their opinions count. Give them an opportunity, and allow them to come up with some reasonable solutions.

We repeatedly visit clinics not investing enough time and money into training. For example, not investing in additional hours of training on the EMR for employees and physicians. We recommend you wait a few months after everyone is comfortable with the program before the second wave of training. We want to see clinics maximize the use of all the tools available at their fingertips. Otherwise we are doing tasks that are more time-consuming than necessary.

In summary, by being aware of these issues and acting on them, you can position your clinic to succeed now, and well into the future.