Efficiency is key to the well-being of any medical or dental practice. It influences the doctor-patient experience and plays a critical role in the satisfaction of patients as well as staff team members.
Chaotic work environments, overwhelming time pressures and high levels of stress combine to create emotional exhaustion and interpersonal disengagement. If these symptoms sound familiar, you may be dealing with practice inefficiency.
To create an environment where your practice can thrive, understand the importance of practice efficiency, recognize where you can improve, and implement measures to improve efficiency.
Practice efficiency is a key factor in both staff burnout and professional fulfilment. An efficient practice leads people to feel happier and more purpose-driven at work. And, when the office runs smoothly, patients notice. Without chaos and pressing timelines, you can spend more quality time with patients.
Practice efficiency is also an important way to improve cost control and boost staff morale. Practices that don’t focus on efficiency have higher overhead costs. Staff morale increases with more seamless processes that promote a healthier work-life balance. And, with higher quality care comes greater patient satisfaction and improved loyalty.
There are various reasons why practices fall into inefficiency. The following factors could be stunting the productivity of your practice:
Outdated technology: Are you still manually completing administrative tasks? Switching from a manual to an automated system can save substantial time and manpower resources. If your technology is old, it could be hurting your practice by slowing down your processes.
Undefined administrative responsibilities: If your staff isn’t utilized in the right way your practice could suffer from inefficiency. Is your team overwhelmed by administrative tasks that stop them from completing their primary responsibilities? Are you and your staff using the skills you were trained for? A significant proportion of professionals who report burnout attribute their condition to an overwhelming number of bureaucratic tasks.
Lack of performance management: Is your practice’s work environment so busy that you have no time to track performance? Lack of awareness of what causes disconnects among staff will result in repeated, unwelcome surprises that stunt efficiency.
Practice efficiency is about working smarter – not necessarily working harder or longer. Here are some ways that your practice can increase efficiency with minimal investment of time and resources:
Focus on process improvement: To be successful, practices must be willing to take a deep dive into their workflows. Pick one process at a time. Interview staff members who contribute to that process and ask them to detail the specific steps that are required. Look for unnecessary and/or missing steps, both of which cause additional work.
Utilize the latest technology: Ensure the system or software you choose is up-to-date and will continually update – if your technology is old, it could serve as a hindrance by slowing down administrative tasks.
Formalize your admin team: Consider hiring an individual or finding a third-party service or other resource dedicated solely to managing administrative tasks, including procurement, scheduling, billing and insurance claim processing.
Institute a performance management system: Participate in preventive care for your practice. Just as early-detection is vital to patient health, acknowledging and anticipating challenges within your practice is key to increasing efficiency. Look for gaps in communication and dips in productivity and address them before they happen again.
Provide staff training: Consider providing additional training for your front-office staff so they can become patient educators. When staff are well-equipped to educate patients at the point-of-service, less follow-up will be necessary after the appointment.
Conduct daily morning meetings: Morning meetings are another way to take preventive care of your practice and improve communication among the entire team. Take fifteen minutes to cover the daily outlook by addressing key questions – what challenges might your team encounter today? How can you solve them? What does the schedule look like for today? Were appointments cancelled or rescheduled? How might this affect the entire team? What other information could benefit the staff in striving for practice efficiency?
Implement proper scheduling practices: A majority of practitioners claim they fall behind because appointments are booked too closely together or are over-booked. Open the lines of communication between practitioners and administrative staff – do your scheduling guidelines need to change?
Practice efficiency is rooted in both doctor and patient well-being – strive to improve these experiences with streamlined, up-to-date systems and administrative processes.