I was recently working with a younger PT Director and I was reminded of an important management lesson that I wanted to share.
We had just helped him discover a problem with his front desk.
Specifically, they had a new patient in the waiting room, waiting for an evaluation. They went to verify benefits online and decided that the patient didn’t have PT benefits. Thankfully we were able to jump in and help with the situation. It turns out that the patient DID have PT benefits, but they just couldn’t be seen in a hospital outpatient PT department.
This was a private practice, so we gave them the all clear to see the patient.
If they hadn’t involved us, they would have mistakenly turned the patient away, irritating the patient and missing out on revenue and a chance to help their community.
What went wrong here? Two of the front desk staff just weren’t well trained. The Manager’s immediate reaction was, “OK I will meet with them first thing tomorrow and fix it.”
This was his habitual knee-jerk reaction. He wanted a fast fix because his schedule was busy and he needed the problem solved. Unfortunately it was also the wrong reaction.
When something goes wrong in the clinic, we should follow a three step process to make our clinic and our systems permanently better. Fast interventions rarely last.
1. Think about what happened here. Beyond the immediate issue, what was the failing that caused it and who was responsible? What system didn’t work or is simply not in place? What is the fix for that?
2. Plan a Meeting. Most of us are very busy. Unless we schedule time for a meeting, we usually won’t have the time to do it right. Write down what you will cover in the meeting. In this case it might look like:
a) Apologize to the Front Desk staff that they weren’t trained correctly.
b) Train the Front Desk staff on how to correctly carry out this part of their job.
c) Take the time to ensure they understand.
3. Update the appropriate manual.
Everything that the front desk staff do repetitively in their day ought to be defined in a manual. Take the time to update the manual with the new procedure. Share the manual with the staff of course. They will almost certainly need to refer back to it to make sure they do it correctly in the future. Especially when the next new staff are trained.
Remember, mistakes in the clinic are usually not 100% the fault of the obvious culprit. Who didn’t train them correctly? What specifics aren’t in a manual? What resources can you provide them that would make this easier? Taking the time to think through the situation will allow you to avoid the same problem in the future.