I have a saying about management that I try and keep front and center in my mind whenever I interact with employees.
“There are two things you should never mess with: a person’s paycheck, and a person’s time off.”
If you heard a lot of noise from your staff when they received their first paycheck of 2013 – you were not alone. This New Year’s Day, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 seeking to avoid the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” even if only temporarily. The “Fiscal Cliff” was a combination of tax increases and spending cuts designed to force Democrats and Republicans into negotiating a longer term deal on the country’s finances. Included in the fiscal cliff spending cuts were the scheduled reduction in Medicare reimbursements that has been long-forestalled by temporary delays. The Medicare cuts were stopped with another delay (or “Doc Fix”) until January 1st, 2014, while other cuts were pushed back as little as two months as Congress continues to negotiate the outlines of a bigger deal.
Last week Mary Pat and I had a chance to meet and sit down for a while with a smart guy whose new venture is doing some really exciting things in the healthcare space. One of our favorite things to do! In an effort to keep on readers on the edge of what’s new, and to give more of the people we meet a chance to say hello and connect to our audience, we present the first in the MMP Interview series.
We first got in touch with David when he commented on one of our 2.0 Tuesday posts on Medigram– a new, private beta secure communications service. David let us know that Medigram wasn’t the only player in the space, and we agreed to meet for coffee and a chat. We got a chance to sit down with David soon after for a coffee and a demo of his company’s flagship product qliqConnect– also currently in Beta.
David is a sharp, passionate guy, and we loved having the chance to talk to him. Check out the interview below!
I don’t often find articles that reflect my own views as closely as the article “10 Ways to Keep Employees Happy” from HowStuffWorks by Cristen Conger does. Not only does Ms. Conger hit the list with 10 strong concepts, but she also gives great sources to back up her points. Here are her 10 points – click each one to go to the page for more information.
10. Offer Flexible Work Options Some jobs in medical practices are ideal for flexible work options, but most are not. Any position that requires face-time with the patient will likely need to adhere to appointment hours. My question: is it “fair” to allow some positions to have flex-time and others not? If you have a group of people all doing the same general job, letting some people have flex-time and others not may lead to a mutiny. Consider carefully the precedent you are setting when allowing flex-time, and make sure employees understand that as the needs of the organization change, work arrangements may need to change.
9. Practice Open Communication I couldn’t agree with this one more. Communicate, communicate, communicate. One-on-one, in departments, in all-staff meetings, in all-organization meetings. I typically send out an electronic newsletter every Friday (an idea from my mentor, Tom Girton) that announces/reminds people of events, clarifies policies and acknowledges achievements. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure that people are understanding what you’re trying to communicate. Touch base every once in awhile to make sure the message you’re sending is the one they’re receiving.
8. Pencil In Face Time When beginning a new job I often meet with every employee who reports to me (and sometimes meet with everyone in the organization in a smaller practice) for at least an hour to learn a bit about them and hear what they think the practice is doing well, and what the practice could be doing better. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but it starts to form a bond with individuals and it gives me more information that anything else I could do to start to learn about my new group. People are fascinating and I really enjoy an uninterrupted hour with someone – it’s almost a luxury in this day and age. Once you’ve established that bond, make sure to nourish it by connecting with individuals on a regular basis. Letting people know you truly care about them as individuals is how dynamite teams are created. And the karma ain’t bad either.
7. Recognize Success and don’t save it all up! Recognizing efforts, going the extra mile, dealing with a difficult patient, all deserve a pat on the back in front of other employees. Remember to always praise in public and counsel in private. Share the joy of something well done, and let the employee have the privacy of a critique.
6. Set Goals I like to establish individual goals every six months during the annual performance review and six months later during a less-formal touch base. 12 months is a long time to keep a goal in mind, so I prefer to deal with 6-month goals. Performance evaluations should not be a rehash of what was done right and wrong over the year, but rather should be a time to review the goals from the last six months and see what wasn’t accomplished and why, as well as celebrating the goals that were accomplished. See my simple evaluation for more information.
5. Explain the Big Picture I’m often surprised how many medical practice employees don’t understand how their job (especially done well) contributes to the big picture. Check-in staff might not understand how their job impacts billing. Scheduling might not understand how their job impacts the nurses. Nurses might not understand how their job impacts the check-out. No one may understand what their efforts mean to the financial viability of the practice. If all the staff know that they haven’t had raises for two years yet new medical equipment is being purchased for a new service line, they need to have some insight into why a decision was made and what potential it may have for keeping the practice viable.
4. Provide Career Growth Opportunities This fits in well with the 6-month performance evaluation when you set goals with your employees. Goals may include projects, new skills, improved skills, shadowing other jobs, cross-training on other jobs, conferences and workshops, and online or classroom training. Never think that someone can’t do something as predicting success is one of the hardest things in the world. Encourage everyone!
3. Give Employees Respect Give everyone respect. Know that every single person is much deeper than you will ever know and more fragile that you would ever expect. Never forget that you can make someone’s day and break someone’s day. Being a manager is making a choice to care for and respect the people who have chosen to work with you. In many ways, management is the most powerless job (next to parenting) there is.
2. Provide Consistent Feedback For you to effectively provide feedback, positive or negative, the employee must have been trained, must have resources to help them do their job and must understand the expectations of the job. Do not take for granted that your front desk person knows instinctively that your expectation is to have the day’s charges posted and reconciled before the end of the day. Have written performance expectations for each person, then explore the reasons why those expectations are not being met (communication, misunderstanding, workload, etc.)
1. Build Trust I’m so glad Ms. Conger put this as #1 -I agree! Here’s how I build trust: Keep confidences. Follow the same rules I set for the staff (if they can’t eat at their desks, neither can I.) Make promises sparingly and fulfill all promises. Don’t mess up peoples’ payroll or their time off. Understand the details of their job. Don’t allow the doctors or the patients to abuse them.
He said, “I’m looking for a doctor that uses email.” He said he would not use a doctor that doesn’t use email because he doesn’t have the time to fool around on the phone when he needs an appointment or has a question. Of course, in the practice, we don’t have time to fool around on the phone either, and we’d LOVE to do everything via email, but this is something that seems hard to implement.
Everyone (including me) is uncertain about privacy and HIPAA when communicating with patients electronically.
Everyone (including me) worries about the liability issues related to electronic communication with patients. How do you index it on the EMR? Do you print it out if you’re using paper charts?
Systems that are designed to facilitate email with patients seem limited and restricted as to specific uses like making appointments.
Managers worry that email opens the door to patient communication falling through the cracks when we/they are already working very hard to keep that from happening.
Most wonder if it is worth adopting technology early when it’s expensive and untried.
Most wonder how many patients would really communicate electronically if given the chance.
If you could design a safe, low-risk system to communicate electronically with your patients, what would be the uses for this system? What are your communication logjams? Are you aware of or using any systems that have cracked the electronic communication conundrum?
I’ve been reading blogs and blog comments so much lately that my eyes are almost crossed, but one thing that does jump out at me is the tendency for many writers to confuse the two words your and you’re.
Remember the rule for its and it’s? This one is almost the same.
If you can substitute the words “you are” in the sentence, use the apostrophe. For example, “You’re reading my blog” can also be expressed as “You are reading my blog.”
If the words “you are” make no sense whatsoever as a substitution, do not use the apostrophe. For example, “You’re blog is fascinating,” sounds fine, but makes no sense when you substitute it with “You are blog is fascinating.” This is the place to use “your”, as in “Your blog is fascinating.”
Your choice of words makes all the difference, and you’re the one to make that choice.