Tap employees for practice improvement ideas

The pressure toward efficiency in practice management has never been greater.

To guarantee that all practice decisions are made with the bottom line in mind, you must be everywhere at once – controlling all processes, overseeing all procedures and directing all activities even remotely connected to revenue and expense.

Impossible, you say? You think it would require a team of dedicated efficiency experts to pull it off?

You’re right – it would. Fortunately, though, you have such a team at your disposal: your own office staff.

Who is more familiar with the intricacies of your practice than your employees? Who better to identify areas of inefficiency, opportunities for improvement, and obsolete or unnecessary procedures?

But, if your employees have good ideas for improving your practice, wouldn’t they just give them to you? Not necessarily.

Historically, employees are reluctant to suggest cost-cutting and profit improvement ideas for a number of reasons, including:

  • Fear of stepping on another employee’s or manager’s toes
  • Fear that eliminating an unnecessary assignment will leave their jobs in jeopardy
  • Fear of reprisals for questioning the status quo

But the most common reason employees do not share profitable ideas is much less complicated. It is simply that no one has ever asked them.

Here are some tips to help you turn your staff into a team of efficiency experts.

Step 1: Poll your staff – The first step in involving your employees in the process of creating a more efficient practice is simply to ask them for ideas. Hold a staff meeting and introduce the concept of employee involvement in the success of your practice.

Distribute input forms containing three sections, each with three to five blank lines. Title the sections “My Suggestions for Improving the Practice,” “My Suggestions for Improving My Department,” and “My Suggestions for Improving My Own Position.”

Ask for at least three ideas per category but no more than five. Usually it takes a couple of ideas to warm up to the process. The task may seem too daunting if you request more than five ideas.

Remember the purpose is to get the best ideas, not a long list of unworkable suggestions. Ask the employees to concentrate on efficiency improvement, cost-cutting and time-saving ideas, as well as ways to improve patient satisfaction.

Step 2: Offer incentives – Encourage your employees to leave no stone unturned in making your practice as efficient as it can be by offering incentives. Offer a reward for suggestions that pay off.

Make employees partners in the process. For every idea that will bring cost or time savings, increased profits or patient satisfaction, reward the employee immediately with a suitable token. For example, offer movie tickets or gift cards.

For significant monetary contributions, consider tying a percentage of the cost savings to the reward and returning that portion to the employee at the end of a set period, say six months or one year.

After all, without that employee’s contribution, your practice would not have realized any portion of the financial gain.

Step 3: Follow up – Even more important than rewarding employees for ideas that work is following up on all ideas submitted. If an idea is unworkable, thank the employee and explain why it will not work at this time (financial considerations, staff availability, etc.).

Your follow-up will not only serve as a reward for trying but also help educate your employees about your practice’s business needs. It may even spur them to generate more appropriate ideas in the future.

And don’t let too much time elapse before the follow-up. The most important reward employees can receive is realizing that their ideas have been heard and valued.