As providers, we spend most of our days seeing patients. With little to no time in between, we rush from one appointment to the next. Our focus is on the patient, of course. But sometimes we’re so focused on the patient, that we forget about the many people who came into contact with the patient before he/she ever made it to us. Our support staff is often the first and the last people our patients come into contact with when they visit our office.
It’s often easy to overlook our support staff, though, while giving our full attention to our patients. However, this leaves our support staff feeling forgotten about and unappreciated. Unfortunately, the result is often high turnover which results in increased costs, low team morale, and a poor patient experience.
The value our support, and front office, staff provide to our patients is huge. Therefore, it is vital that we ensure they know that we value, appreciate, and support them. Their happiness is key to our patients’ happiness.
So, how do you ensure your support staff is happy?
Give them the freedom to do more. Let them make decisions. When you empower them, you show them that you trust them. Your front office staff is interacting with your patients every day. They’re the very first impression of your clinic that your patients have. Give them permission to make decisions that will better your overall patient experience. They have the knowledge they need to make decisions that are in the best interest of your clinic. And when you give them your trust, they’re empowered to make decisions that could truly better your business.
You’ll feel more comfortable empowering your support staff to make decisions on your behalf when you know they have the knowledge they need to make those decisions. So, educate them. Find learning opportunities and share them. For example, when making a decision regarding patient care, explain to them your decision-making process and rationale behind the decision. Share with them interesting cases as a means of educating them. You’ll be surprised how eager your support staff will be to learn. You taking an interest in their education will also make them feel truly valued.
Treat them as colleagues!
Treat them as your equal. There was a recent shift in the airline industry when pilots were trained to not only treat their support staff as colleagues and equals, but to respect them as such. This change came about because the airline support staff previously felt intimidated to correct or question the pilot. However, since making this shift, the airline industry has significantly reduced errors.
Another important part of this shift involved implementing other safety measures, such as important checklists. While the healthcare industry has adopted similar safety measures, the industry could benefit by encouraging an even greater shift towards treating staff as equals. Your support staff are not just there to make your life easier … they can truly add great value when they’re treated and respected as your colleagues. They can save you when (or before) you make a mistake. And they will, especially if they feel valued and cared for by you.
When you take the time to empower and educate your support staff, as well as treat them as colleagues, you will see your practice transform. Happy support staff = happy patients = happy providers! The result of keeping your support staff happy is a better overall patient experience, low turnover (and saved costs), high employee morale (therefore a better working environment for all), and support and respect. Our patients are important, but our support staff’s happiness must come first. When it does, our patients’ experience will improve tenfold.
Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.