> Starting and Running a Practice

Tips for Improving Efficiency at Your Practice

Part 1 of 2

Improving the efficiency at your practice will not only make the day flow more smoothly, but will also help to avoid any problems that could arise. One of the best ways to increase efficiency for dermatologists new or already established in practice is to strive for consistency in daily operations.

One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to implement a written employee manual. This manual can be drafted by the physician or a commercially available manual can be purchased from sources such as the American Academy of Dermatology. An employee manual provides a basic outline of rules and guidelines that should be applied uniformly to all employees and used as the point of reference when tackling matters relating to human resources. All memorandums issued periodically within the office should be attached as addenda in the back of the employee manual. Manuals should be reviewed on an annual basis either by the physician or by the practice manager to identify points requiring change or clarification. Copies of the manual should be clearly labeled and available in the office to all staff at all times. All new employees should spend the first hour of their employment reviewing the manual, and it is suggested that they sign a statement indicating that it was provided to them and they were given an opportunity to review it. This statement should then be filed in their employee file.

Likewise, having a binder that contains original copies of documents that are used routinely helps the office to maintain consistency and accuracy with respect to patient forms and handouts. The original documents in the binder should be used anytime additional copies of documents are required, such as when photocopying. The bottom of each document should include the date it was last updated. This is intended to eliminate what occurs all too often in most offices, which is several different versions of every document are floating and at any given time, and thus any version can be photocopied and perpetuated even if it’s content is out of date.

Staff meetings should also take place periodically. This provides a structured forum to refine day-to-day operations as well as serve as a gathering ground for input from team members as to further enhancements and improvements that can be made. When more than one provider is present in an office, it is encouraged that input be gathered from all providers and used to generate a staff meeting agenda. Items on the agenda should be presented in a constructive fashion with clear objectives and a plan for following up in subsequent meetings should be defined. It’s important that all suggestions gathered from the staff be presented in a constructive fashion rather than permitting a “blame game” to occur. What works well for some offices is to first complement something that is going well and then make a constructive suggestion.

In each meeting, it’s important to emphasize the overall goal of the practice is to provide quality patient care and reinforce how each and every individual present in the meeting needs to have vested interest in accomplishing that goal.

Lastly, physicians should be consistent in their clinical practice hours and the time that they are available to provide patient care. Obviously, everybody has issues that arise and emergencies do come up from time to time, but physicians should set an example and serve as role models to their staff by demonstrating that they are reliable, consistent, and present to provide patient care. In addition, it’s important to recognize seasonal patterns in the practice and if possible plan time away from the office in downtimes or slower periods. In northern climates, the departure of snowbirds often equates to relatively calmer schedules from January through March. This is a perfect time for clinicians to attend conferences and take vacations. The same is true for staff and should be promoted with respect to them.

In summary, clinicians both new and established can help to increase their office efficiency and overall satisfaction with the practice by providing staff with defined structure. Providing an employee manual, maintaining a folder of original documents, holding regular office staff meetings, and planning time away from the office during downtimes are all examples of structure that one once introduced into the office will result in increasing overall patient care as well as general office efficiency and staff satisfaction.