At a time when patient satisfaction matters more than ever, with reimbursement rates tied directly to patient feedback and 60% of prospective patients considering patient reviews in their decision-making process, practices cannot simply afford to ignore the patient experience. It’s more than an adage, it’s table stakes today, you must take care of your employees, who will in turn take care of your patients.
Employee and customer experience are linked and as a consumer, you’ve likely experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of this correlation. Ever had your expectations of a new restaurant shattered by disgruntled wait-staff stretched too thin? Or, happen to call a cable or cell phone provider lately? Find yourself loyal to a retailer because of their exceptionally friendly staff?
Consider, most of your memorable experiences, whether positive or negative, likely involved an interaction with an employee; giving employees the profound ability to impact the customer experience. The same holds true in your practices every day. A patient’s experience with a provider, front office staff member, or any other practice employee directly impacts the patients overall experience.
As administrators, faced with daily competing demands from practitioners, patients, employees, requests for more equipment, upgrades, staffing challenges, employee conflict resolution, and don’t forget responsibility for bringing in the P&L; the last thing you want to hear is you need to review compensation, benefits and rewards. The good news is, taking care of employees isn’t about standard comp packages. More simply, it’s about creating an environment of value-based care in which every employee feels their role in patient care is not only important, but crucial, well respected, and understood by every other employee in the practice.
How often do employees across specialties spend time together? What about across roles? Do the physicians know the practitioners across other specialties?
Creating personal connections fosters an environment of caring for one another. And when teammates personally care for one another, titles and roles become less relevant, paving the way for a practice focused on a holistic patient care approach. Organize regular all staff meetings. Take the opportunity to share highlights and challenges across each specialty to foster understanding of the practice and patient care in total, but also dedicate time to team building.
Team building isn’t just about ropes courses and trust falls. A variety of simple exercises exist to encourage teammates to get to know each other more richly and understand each other’s personal motivators. Disc, True Colors or other personality-based assessment tools have worked well in many ENT practices struggling with employee culture.
It’s easy for employees to get caught up in the stressors of running the business and lose sight of the patient experience. Consider, if you were to poll your waiting room at any given time, you’d be hard pressed to find a single patient who is excited their situation has led them to be sitting in that chair today. Ensure that the waiting room is considered part of the patient care paradigm as it is the first impression and a place where stewardship of such can be owned by every employee.
A variety of patient care training programs are out there, many made readily available through industry and association partnerships. Look for training which include topics such as: active listening, positive language and non-verbal language. All employees can benefit from this training, regardless of whether they regularly interact with patients. Applying the same rules to interactions with teammates fosters a culture of care among employees which becomes felt by patients.
Start by identifying the relevance of each specialty across the care continuum from infancy to adulthood and senior. Where are the intersects in both the patient and familial care across specialties within the practice? What comorbidities exist that cross specialties? What risk factors are prevalent across specialties that providers should look for?
Each specialty should take ownership in educating the rest of the practice on the application of their specialty across the care continuum. What should patients be aware of? What are risk factors? Where do comorbidities exist? Why is their team the best of the best in delivering patient care in the specialty?
It then becomes the mission of all employees, practitioners, physicians, staff, across all specialties, to identify opportunities to create awareness for overall health and advance the care of a patient, where applicable, through applying relevance to other specialties within the practice. Award and recognize behavior that supports the betterment of patient care across specialties. Everyone wins, the patient, and the employee, when all are aligned around the same road map.
It's easier said than done when inevitably difficult decisions must be made on the operational side of the practice, many of which benefit one specialty over another, creating potential tension across specialties or roles. Mitigate both real and perceived interdepartmental rivalries by implementing these relatively simple approaches: