According to Healthcare Turnover Rates [2021 Update] by DailyPay, For physicians’ offices, more than 60 percent of respondents in a recent STAT poll from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) said their organizations had the hardest time recruiting and retaining non-clinical staff.
By Michael Tetreault, Editor, Concierge Medicine Today/Host, The DocPreneur Leadership Podcast
I’ve often wondered why America’s Best Places to Work rarely ever includes a Doctor’s office, a hospital or even an urgent care?
We’d all want to lean on these successful medical environments in our time of need, medical curiosity or urgent care matters, right?
I’m of the persuasion to believe as many Patients do that the staff working inside a medical practice reflect the values, charisma and leadership of the Physician or group of Physicians working in the practice.
Meaning, if the staff is unhappy, typically that also means the person in charge, who is often the Physician is also unhappy.
And, we don’t need to cover the litany of reasons why a Physician might be unhappy. There are plenty of medical journal articles and blogs that do that already.
What if Patient satisfaction was dependent on employee satisfaction?
According to a recent STAT poll from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) said their organizations had the hardest time recruiting and retaining non-clinical staff. Therein, they found, Front office support staff turnover: 20%.
An article published in DailyPay notes that … As you can see, the high turnover is most prevalent with front-office staff. For many physicians’ offices, this can be detrimental to quality care and customer service, as the front-office staff is often recognized as the face of the business. Reasons for the recruitment issues are commonly attributed to the lack of career advancements in the billing and medical coding fields. Furthermore, the same MGMA poll indicates one-third of facilities reported lower turnover after raising wages for non-clinical staff indicating that financial wellness may play a strong role in retention methods. (Source/Credit: https://www.dailypay.com/resource-center/blog/employee-turnover-rates-in-the-healthcare-industry/)
What if your staff enjoyed working for you? What if they felt empowered to help each Patient feel as though their needs were met when you were running 37-minutes late?
How is this possible? How much will this be taken advantage of by your employees? Can you trust them? What will they do?
If you’re like most Physicians, a flurry of negative, uncertain and skeptical questions come to mind. You’re not alone.
If you were to empower your employees to ‘make it right’ what would this cost you? What would it or could it look like in your practice? More importantly, can you trust and empower certain staff members not to tarnish your reputation? After all, they’re the ones that can quit or move on to another job while your left with the Patients who were underwhelmed.
The article from DailyPay also noted … To offer an enhanced employee experience, facilities must get to the core of what their staff wants from an employer, whether it be financial wellness, workplace flexibility, or otherwise. Listening to employee’s feedback is a key ingredient for successful recruiting, retention and employee engagement.
Let’s pause for a minute on ‘Listening’.
Most Physician’s I’ve talked to over the years weigh certain opinions of their staff over others in the practice. We all do it. Heck, I do it too. You as a leader have to constantly measure the experience, the background and biases of the person you’re listening to to ultimately make a decision, right?
Well, what if I told you that listening to your staff when they are the ones on the front line each day hearing your Patients grievances and feel handcuffed to fix them? Wouldn’t you want to empower your staff to be able to fix these problems?
In healthcare, a lot of things are out of your control and your employees expertise. But, a few kind words, a smile, an extra five minutes of chit-chat or a phone call about the patients prescription, MRI or CAT scan may just be enough.
If you’ve been following our podcast, our conferences, etc., you know I’m a huge fan of the Ritz-Carlton and the leadership and customer service lessons they use daily to change the customer-facing and customer service experience.
I’ll summarize the main points in an article they wrote not long ago called The Power of Empowerment.
- Empowerment will make your organization more efficient and customer-focused.
- Empowerment is less expensive than you think.
- The amount matters less than you showing you trust your employees.
The idea of empowering your medical staff, your Nurses, your front office administrative team and applying some first-aid (pun intended) to alleviate the minute-by-minutes stresses your practice faces each day may seem impossible. It may also seem like an unorganized way to mess up your reputation and spend money you don’t have and cannot possibly track.
But, let’s walk this out together for a minute and analyze how this has been done and how if medical offices even did this once a week how this could change the future of healthcare delivery and improve patient satisfaction in your practice. Never mind the fact that the advice you delivery to your Patients inside the exam room would be more positively received and potentially acted upon.
According to The Power of Empowerment, Whenever one of our clients learns The Ritz-Carlton empowerment amount, their reaction is usually, “Well, that’s fantastic you can do that, but my organization can’t afford to do the same.” But the interesting thing about our empowerment is that while the full $2000 (or more, with the general manager’s permission) could be used, it rarely is. In fact, the average actual amount used on an incident is often much, much lower. There is much power for of all our Ladies & Gentlemen knowing that we truly trust them with an amount that large, per incident. They are able to make decisions in the moment to quickly resolve a guest issue or to make an experience beautiful and memorable (or both). And our Ladies & Gentlemen know they can do this on their own, regardless of their level, without having to go through levels of leadership for approval.
So, the question to you now is this, do you trust your employees, your Nurses, your staff, your administrative and front office personnel to do the right thing, all the time?
My first blush is, probably a little but not that much.
According to the Annals of Family Medicine (Citation/Source/Credit: Willard-Grace R, Knox M, Huang B, Hammer H, Kivlahan C, Grumbach K. Burnout and Health Care Workforce Turnover. Ann Fam Med. 2019 Jan;17(1):36-41. doi: 10.1370/afm.2338. PMID: 30670393; PMCID: PMC6342603.)
The authors noted the following:
- Levels of burnout among primary care clinicians and staff are alarmingly high, and there is widespread belief that burnout and lack of employee engagement contribute to high turnover of the workforce. Scant research evidence exists to support this assertion, however.
- For this analysis, we [the authors] defined clinicians as physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who manage a continuity patient panel. Staff included medical assistants, registered nurses, front office administrative personnel, and behavioral health professionals such as social workers. If respondents answered the survey in both 2013 and 2014, we used their 2013 responses to optimize the length of follow-up time for the study.
- On the employee engagement item, 32% of clinicians and 35% of staff were classified as highly engaged (promoters), with a score of 9 or 10 on the 10-point scale. Turnover among respondents was high, with 30% of clinicians and 41% of staff no longer working in primary care in the same system 2 to 3 years later.
- High rates of turnover and the high prevalence of burnout and low employee engagement in primary care are all compelling problems.
- The causes of employee turnover are multifactorial. It may reflect not only a negative “push” of burnout but a positive “pull” of career mobility and opportunities for professional growth. It may also be influenced by varying personal expectations about ideal tenure within an organization, competition among employers for skilled workers, and externalities such as local housing costs, school district quality, and commute times.26 These factors other than burnout may be particularly salient for staff.
- … health care organizations and policymakers concerned about employee turnover in primary care will need to understand its multifactorial causes to develop effective retention strategies for clinicians and staff.
There’s a lot more to unpack here but for the purposes of this topic today, lets pull one verb out for just a second.
The word ‘promoter.’
This word stands out for me as both an Instructor of Hospitality in Healthcare here at Concierge Medicine Today, but also as a Patient.
You see more often than not as a Patient when I visit my kids Pediatrician, their Osteopathy office or my own PCP, I often make conversation with those in the front of the office. I spend a lot of time with them and sometimes we even remember each others names without having to look at medical chart. These are every Doctor’s front line ‘promoters.’ They can uplift Patients and make them feel welcome and seen and you, their Physician, don’t even know that the experience of ‘seeing your Doctor’ has even begun. You see going to the Doctors office is a lot more than just seeing our Doctor. It’s about the traffic, the on-time schedule, the people I meet, the comfort of the chair I choose to sit in and the friendliness of the team you’ve selected to serve your Patients.
I’ve met lot of Doctors over the years. Very few have the same faces working for them in their office a year or two later. Why is that? Is is career advancement? Is it your own leadership or lack of leadership and business acumen not taught in medical school? After all, there was no class in medical school on hiring, firing and managing a staff, let alone on employee retention and how to be a great boss.
So the question today for Doctors is, do you trust your staff enough to empower them to do the right thing? To fix what needs fixing? To write a handwritten note whenever the need arises to Patients? If not, why? If kind of, how can you and who can you trust?
According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, the key to happy customers is happy employees. There’s just so much data out there outside of healthcare that supports this that its mind boggling how healthcare doesn’t focus more on its ‘customers’ like other business sectors do!
It’s no wonder why Doctor’s offices are routinely understaffed, and your employees unhappy. They too are under a lot of pressure and probably overworked and stressed as well. These effects are always felt by your Patients, who then get slow service, frustrated faces and the worst of you.
Believe it or not, job satisfaction correlates with Patient satisfaction. How happy your Patients are is a direct reflection of your employees happiness at-work and your leadership qualities as their boss. Proactively empowering your team to help Patients can create an environment that we’ve all seen that people want to work in. That’s somebody I’d want to work FOR! After all, and we say this a lot around here … “It is no longer about being the best Doctor in the world any more, it is about being the best Doctor FOR the world, FOR your Patients and FOR your local community.”
This week, take a step toward empowering your employees. Here’s four simple questions you can ask them.
- Ask them for feedback on how they think they could be more empowered as employees to help your Patients?
- Ask them for their thoughts on ways the office can remove obstacles or barriers that would improve Patient Satisfaction immediately?
- Ask your employees if they could improve the patient experience for one person, who would it be and how could it be done?
- Repeat the process each week because we all get busy and we think one great idea is nice for a moment, but then we all tend to slip back into our normal patterns. But, don’t let that happen … because as one leadership axiom by an author and source I do not recall at the moment said … ‘What gets rewarded, gets repeated!’
Let’s let your medical practice today be the one practice in your community empowering employees to make the lives of your Patients just a little bit better. Then, rinse and repeat.
Willard-Grace R, Knox M, Huang B, Hammer H, Kivlahan C, Grumbach K. Burnout and Health Care Workforce Turnover. Ann Fam Med. 2019 Jan;17(1):36-41. doi: 10.1370/afm.2338. PMID: 30670393; PMCID: PMC6342603.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6342603/
- Healthcare Turnover Rates [2021 Update] by DailyPay June 14, 2021 https://www.dailypay.com/resource-center/blog/employee-turnover-rates-in-the-healthcare-industry/