Accident vs. Intention: 6 Ways to Improve Office Protocols

All too often, the way things work in a medical practice evolves by accident. Someone decides something should be done a certain way, everyone follows suit and then it becomes standard operating procedure — based on a rationale of “we’ve always done it that way.” But it’s better to think intentionally about your processes and develop systems that staff can use as guidelines for meeting your practice’s goals.

Here are six ways to create efficient and effective office protocols with a minimum of effort:

  1. Plan continually. No matter how carefully you plan for every eventuality, surprises will happen, whether in the form of emergencies, no-shows or other issues. Nonetheless, planning — not only how you want your practice to run, but how you envision a typical day running — can make your office life more predictable and stable.
  2. Communicate with staff. A plan that comes from only one person probably won’t work. Listen to your staff — they’re in the trenches and will likely have good ideas on how to keep things running smoothly.
  3. Keep the focus on your patients. Every procedure or business goal should have the patient at the center. Evaluate to determine why any procedures are being performed in a way that prevents or detracts from the highest level of patient care.
  4. Be a leader. Examples of leadership are set at the top. Staff will follow your lead. If you’re distracted and disorganized, that confusion will be transmitted down the organizational chart.
  5. Make sure to prioritize. Focus on the things that give you the most satisfaction and that only you can do — which with any luck are the same things. If you want to increase revenue, the obvious way is to work more hours and see more patients. But this can lead to burnout. Delegate the things you can delegate.
  6. Establish standard operating procedures (SOPs). A good way to create efficiencies is to develop SOPs — written protocols or checklists for you and your staff on things that need to be done or said in particular situations. These won’t fit in every case, but they’re a place to start. And they can be useful if, for example, your practice offers ancillary services or dispenses durable medical equipment. Many physicians and staff fail to mention these services, but creating SOPs to manage them can create unexpected dividends.

Making a plan for how you want your practice to run and taking steps to implement it can help you ensure that your protocols are well thought out — rather than random and confused.

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