08.21.09 Issue #389 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Do You and Your Team Communicate on the Same Planet?

Dr. Barry Bronson – Case Study #216

Dr. Bronson, a general family practictioner was constantly annoyed every day by his team. Not surprising, his team struggled with the same challenges – how to communicate with one another!

What annoys Dr. Bronson:

  • His team members would catch him in the hall to ask if they could have next Thursday off because of their child’s kindergarten graduation, lunch at school, etc.
  • Instead of calling him to tell him that they were sick, they would call one of their team members. He would arrive at work short-handed.
  • Where was his assistant when he needed her? He has 3 and no one is around!
  • The morning meeting starts at 7:45 but he is the only one ready to start.

What annoys the team about Dr. Bronson:

  • They would ask him a question and his response was, “I will think about it” and they never get an answer.
  • When a team member would be sick, the last thing she wanted to do was call and tell the doctor. He thought that no one should ever be sick.
  • Dr. Bronson would be running 4 operatories at one time and the assistants are frantically trying to keep up with him, develop x-rays for the hygienists, check to see where there next patient is… and he wonders where everyone is!
  • 3 out of 4 mornings Dr. Bronson is late for the morning meeting.  As a result, they stopped arriving on time as well.

These lists could go on indefinitely from both parties. It was organized chaos in Dr. Bronson’s office. Temperament types indicated that his employees liked organization, following the same protocols daily without unnecessary changes, and a little recognition from him. He was spontaneous, ambitious and always planning ahead for the next move. Different planet, different universe! These annoyances were not “earth-shattering” issues. However, sometimes it is the little things that cause doctors to call and say “Help! My office is out of control.”

Morning meetings – Dr. Bronson and his clinical team would gather in the hall while the hygiene patients were being walked between them to briefly “chat” about the day. The meeting was non-productive and did not completely cover the areas that needed to be covered in order to have an efficient and productive day.

Morning meetings should include but not be limited to the following:

  • Review of all the procedures that are scheduled to confirm the accuracy of the information.
  • Inform the clinical team of any financial concerns of patients coming in.
  • Review medical alerts.
  • Determine any patients’ birthdays for the week that are coming in for celebration.
  • Share production goals for the previous day, as well as scheduled production for this day.
  • Look for good times for emergencies that may need to be seen for the day.
  • Make sure that all lab cases that are scheduled for the day are in the office and ready for delivery.
  • Review tomorrow’s schedule if time allows.

In conjunction with the morning meeting, the hygienists and assistants should have access to their patients’ records for the next day by lunch time in order to have time to review the information prior to the morning meeting the next day.

Walkie Talkies” could be used by all team members and doctors to improve inter-office communication.  Team members were running around the office trying to find other team members to ask questions or share information with. Team members were constantly playing hide and seek with the doctor or each other.

Questions for the Doctor – Many times the team doesn’t realize that the doctor has a lot of clinical concerns rolling around in his mind when he is moving from one patient to another. Catching him in the hall between hygiene patients is NOT a good time to approach him about any management issues, let alone a personal issue.  Unless the building is on fire, wait until the end of the day or before lunch to approach him. Doctor, in order to avoid answering yes or no to a question without giving it any thought, I give you permission to respond with, “Susie, I need to think about that. Come to me in the morning and I will have an answer for you.”

Sick!  You can’t be sick! – A system was implemented for the team to use when they were ill. The doctor was notified by phone as soon as the team member recognized that they were not going to be able to work. Dr. Bronson’s response was to be, “Susie, I am sorry to hear that. Take care of yourself and unless I hear from you, I will see you tomorrow.” The team member that is sick also contacts her working “partner” to inform them of her condition and fills her in on anything that she might need to know regarding the day.

Dr. Bronson must keep the doors of communication open so the team members don’t feel intimidated by his responses to certain situations. It is also necessary to have a mechanism in place to be able to express concerns without fear of being reprimanded: a suggestion box, whiteboard, etc. Remain open-minded about your team’s concerns and comments.  Remember – Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus!  Success is when you can all come together on Earth. 

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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