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3.31.06 Issue #212

12-Steps from Adrenaline Dependent to Efficiency Addicted

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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Always overwhelmed, constantly dealing with the urgent, the chaotic. Each day is a fast, frenetic ride on the practice racetrack. Daily stresses metamorphous into emergencies. You and the team dash from one thing to the next and each is more critical than the last. At the end of the day you promise yourself you’re going to make changes and try to get things more under control. But the fact is, it’s a rush. You’re living on chewing gum and caffeine and gulping at the fountain of adrenaline addiction, and with every near crisis averted, sudden emergency addressed, and urgent situation managed you high-five the team and congratulate yourself.

But that momentary thrill is creating long-term problems. Living in a constant state of crisis management typically means there is little happening in the way of real system management. The team is constantly reacting and scurrying in one direction one day and another the next depending on what seemingly random course your so-called urgent priorities happen to take. Your crisis addiction, urgency addiction, adrenaline addiction – whatever you call it – is being satisfied at a price.

The days are long and exhausting. What was once an exciting thrill is starting to feel a lot like burnout. The worst part, for all of your running, panting, and dashing to handle the latest and most urgent issue, practice productivity is teetering precariously between the “sorely lacking” and “barely good enough.” The problem is everyone is working hard but no one’s working smart. The focus is on dealing with whatever problem has to be managed right now and not on addressing what caused that problem and what can be done to prevent it in the future.

Had enough of life and work on the run? A mere 24 hours over the next year could transform a practice locked in a seemingly perpetual state of crisis management or lackluster success into one of superior efficiency and productivity. It also could go along way in weaning both doctor and team from an inefficiency addiction that is costing you thousands in productivity and an untold amount in long-term professional satisfaction.

It begins with one two-hour meeting each month and a genuine commitment to making a change. This is dedicated, uninterrupted time in which doctor and staff commit to continuously improving the practice. Follow this 12-step plan to practice efficiency and productivity.

  1. Create an agenda with input from the entire team.
  2. Include all areas that impact the profitability/success of the practice, such as: numbers of new patients, recall patients, collections, treatment acceptance, production, accounts receivables, unscheduled time units for doctor and hygiene, uncollected insurance revenues over 60 days, overhead, etc.
  3. Distribute the agenda at least two days in advance of the meeting.
  4. Assign each member of the team to report on the area for which she/he is responsible. For example, the Scheduling Coordinator reports on the monthly production as compared to the goal, the number of unscheduled time units for the Doctor, and the Doctor’s daily average production.
  5. Designate the amount of time you will spend discussing each issue and avoid getting bogged down on unrelated topics. Discuss only what’s on the agenda.
  6. Eliminate outside interruptions, and hold staff meetings off-site in a conference room. Many local libraries, community colleges, and other public facilities have public meeting rooms available for use. 
  7. Encourage team members to come prepared to participate in the discussion. For example, If there are more unscheduled time units than desired the team can discuss strategies for addressing the openings.
  8. Seek input from everyone
  9. Delegate responsibilities and establish deadlines for completing tasks identified during the staff meetings.
  10. Share ideas during staff meetings for improving the work environment, the patient experience, and the efficiency of the practice.
  11. Seek consensus from the staff as to the best time to hold staff meetings; meetings scheduled outside normal work hours should be paid.
  12. Hold meetings at least once per month, more frequently if you are implementing several changes.

Before long you’ll be amazed at your cravings for stability and predictable outcomes. You’ll also likely find you and your team all but addicted to the very real and measurable strides you are making in practice productivity and efficiency.

Next week, from the perfect storm to the perfect day.

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