You spent four years getting your bachelor’s degree, another four in medical school, not to mention one to three years in a residency program (depending on your specialty). Next came working for another doctor. You worked hard, saved your pennies, and then you bought your own practice. Now you can just sit back (in between seeing patients) and watch your profits grow.
Ummm, not so fast. Just because you have the credentials and experience in treating vision issues, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful practice. Actually, it’s the little things that patients notice, in particular, how your office staff interacts with them. Are they friendly, yet efficient? Do they answer the phone within three rings? Are they willing to do extra, such as help a child pick out frames or help an elderly patient with arthritis fill out a form?
The office staff are the first people your patients meet, and it is your staff that sets the tone for the entire visit. They need to be not only knowledgeable in the latest software programs, they need to be able to make the patient’s experience the best it can be. You don’t have to invest in a fancy training program, you just have to make sure that you and your staff do the following:
Answer the phone promptly, politely and ready to help
It isn’t enough to answer the phone within three rings, if your staff going to just put people on hold. Voicemail isn’t a replacement for a receptionist. If your staff is keeping people on hold for too long, maybe it is time for a separate phone line to give out to vendors and other doctors. If you aren’t able to do that, have your staff ask the person on the line if she or she is a patient, vendor, an insurance company, or calling from a doctor’s office. If the caller is a patient, then that person is a priority and should be handled right away. Vendors, insurance companies, and doctor offices can be put on hold, transferred to another staff member, or transferred to voicemail.
Manage the patient through the practice
Does the patient move efficiently through your practice, or does he or she have to wait at each step? While you can’t totally eliminate waiting, you can look at your office’s workflow to see what can be improved or eliminated. Are there enough well trained employees to perform vision tests? Did the patient get the requisite forms to fill out? How did the patient get them? Postal mail? Email? Did he or she fill them out at the office? Were the forms on paper or on a tablet computer? Are you structuring your appointment according to procedure/type of visit? There are ways to move patients through the practice that is both efficient and doesn’t sacrifice patient care. It can be as simple as sending forms to a patient before he or she visits or scheduling patients according to category of visit (i.e. procedure/glasses or contact lenses pick up).
Be willing to do extra
Collecting pens around the office isn’t in any employee’s job description, yet if he or she does that, then patients will fill out forms more quickly since they don’t have to hunt around for a pen. It isn’t mandated that a staff member helps a patient pick out frames but doing so will make for a pleasant experience for the patient. Having an employee who isn’t too busy take a phone call or help with paperwork isn’t required, but those things can help get the work that doesn’t involve patient care out of the way. That way, when the patient arrives, your staff is ready to help. While everyone is busy, whatever help an employee can provide to either patients or other staff will go a long way to making the practice run efficiently.
After all, that is what you want, an efficient practice that provides the best in patient care.