Monday, March 30, 2015

Time to Transition Away from, "We've Always Done it That Way"

change in medical practice

“We’ve always done it that way!” “That’s the way I was told to do it!” These statements have served you well over the years because the business (your practice) has been successful and new patients have come. I believe that now is the time to set your intentions to “transition” to the future. I recently re-read a book by Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma (Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2003), in which he suggests that any innovation is based upon the business’ resources, processes, and values, which are all related but should be looked at as a ladder, with resources as the base.

One of his main points is that resources can be improved; processes (how and why we do things) are a lot harder to change and are where bottlenecks in improvement programs stop. Therefore, this might be a good time to look at your resources, one of the most important being employees. Do you have employees who buy into your practice purpose? Do your employees have the right skills for today and tomorrow? It has been proved over and over again that an employee problem is 85% the “fault” of the business (manager) by not selecting, training, and developing the staff. So whether your answer is yes or no, there are some things that should be done now to prepare this valuable resource for the future. First, do you have a training program? Is there time for orientation of new employees, which includes the “compliance” (OSHA, HIPAA) and the practice mission, values, benefits, etc.?

Set aside an hour or more monthly or at least quarterly for a formal training session, involve physicians and all staff, make it mandatory. Make reviewing the purpose, sharing ideas, and learning new things part of the program. Second, communicate well. This is not only about e-mail; it involves face-to-face interaction in group sessions as noted above and also individual or department discussions. Share the plans for the year, discuss what happened in the past, challenge everyone to be aware of the industry—healthcare is in the news almost daily. Any group meeting should include an agenda to prepare the participants as well as to help ensure maximum benefit in the time allowed. Minutes should be taken and made available (posted or on intranet) for all to see and review. The employee who understands, is involved, and is asked for suggestions will contribute. Third, involve employees by acknowledging their skills and ability. An employee who understands the business’ purpose will be more committed to becoming involved. As practice leaders, you can not only develop (train! communicate!) employees but you can delegate tasks. This will expand the use of resources but also may help lead to improvements in processes. The employee who understands, is involved, and is asked for suggestions will contribute. Developing and utilizing your employees will go a long way in preparing you to be proactive rather than reactive to future change.