Profitable Communication Systems

One of the key elements in running a successful practice is the actual communication level of the practice.

This communication level is not just how people talk to each other. “How” is important, but there is more to it than just that.

It’s also not how many telephones, computers and email addresses the practice has. How they are used is what is important.

Think of communication as a series of systems or channels. These channels consist of not only the methods, but also the importance and reasons for interchanging ideas, information and knowledge.

These ideas, information and knowledge are the elements that keep the staff and patients in tune with what’s going on in the practice as it relates to them.

It is the quality of these communication systems that make or break a practice.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these communication systems.

The first is the methods and quality of how communications are delivered between the staff and the patients at an organizational service level. These communication channels can be in the form of verbal, policy, dispatch or memo, phone, intercom, emails, etc.

The next and maybe the most overlooked aspect of interoffice communication is the job description itself and how well each staff member knows it.

Often overlooked in job descriptions are the elements of what communications are required, necessary, and important relative to the jobs of other staff and the form these communications should take.

Check your office job descriptions and make sure that they include this vital information.

It is also important to include in an office manager’s job description procedures and policies governing the implementing and maintaining of office communications systems.

The question is, how well and how easily can communication be initiated, relayed and received in the practice and with the patients?

It can be proven empirically that the speed, flow and quality of how well communication can be initiated and received will distinguish a well-run and profitable practice from one that is struggling.

Understanding, implementing and maintaining high quality communication systems in a practice is vital to the success of the practice.

Smooth out the communication and watch your practice grow.

Fill out the form  on this page to read the outline on implementing profitable communication systems (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Fill out the form on this page to read the outline on implementing profitable communication systems (highly recommended).










The Truth About Collections

Accounts receivable and collection percentages are a subject that we hear about frequently. Every doctor has a different idea about what a good collection percentage is as well as how to collect money for services rendered.

For example, I have talked to many doctors who feel obligated to let patients/clients go without paying. They feel guilty about trying to collect from someone if they feel that the person is in a financial hardship.

While this is quite altruistic, it is very short-term thinking. These doctors must also understand that they can’t continue to provide help to their patients/clients if they can’t afford to keep the doors of their practice open. Another fact that is not commonly known is that failing to pursue a bill and persevere in asking for payment can actually have a negative effect on the patient/client’s self-respect. People expect to be billed, even when they complain. While it can be uncomfortable to deal with objections, realize you are making it possible to help many more patients over the years – and that is worth mentioning to them, as well.

Failing to insist on payment for services rendered can also lower your own esteem, making it harder to collect the next time. If you provide a service, you should be compensated for it. Period. Unless you go into a situation knowing in advance that it is going to be a charity case – and there is certainly room for that in any practice as long as it is planned for – you should always insist on being paid for rendering that service.

Of course, this is great in theory, but being able to actually collect all monies owed is another story and requires good group coordination and effort. If you and your staff are trained on how to do this from initial contact through patient discharge, including having the proper policies in place with your staff and patients/clients, your chances of collecting at the time of treatment go up exponentially. We believe that you should be collecting 98% or better of what you are producing, minus insurance adjustments. If you are collecting less than 98%, you are losing net income out of your own pocket.

Here are a few other tips that may help you when dealing with the uncomfortable situation of a patient/client who is saying they cannot make payment:

  1. Believe it or not, smiling is one of the strongest tools you have to deal with uncomfortable topics. Frowning or looking worried can have a subtle but negative effect on the conversation. Smiling naturally in a friendly manner when it is appropriate to do so is the best method.
  2. Speak confidently, concisely, and firmly. Never apologize for your prices.
  3. Listen carefully, but also use silence to control the conversation. One of the most powerful things you can do in a conversation is state your piece…and then shut it. The silence will become uncomfortable for the person, and they will often try to fill it by giving you reasons why they cannot pay. Acknowledge those, and continue to gently insist that a solution is found to make payment.
  4. Stay calm, even if the patient/client gets upset. Your emotions should not give the person any excuse to take offense or try to wiggle around the main topic of the conversation.
  5. Focus on one thing only – the patient/client – when making the calls to collect. Do not multi-task, but instead, concentrate on the person in front of you. This makes them feel important to your practice (which they are), and shows a level of care that can make paying easier to face.

By using these tips, you can gain better control of your collections percentages and thereby the level of care you can provide to future patients/clients. Any staff who deal with collections in your practice should be drilled on a regular basis in how to handle objections, present payment requests, and demonstrate a genuine, caring attitude. Whether you are asking in person before the person leaves, or trying to collect over phone, text or email, these same points apply.

Staff normally dislike roleplaying, and it is too easy to avoid in the busy week. But the reason for the distaste is often only a few simple (and very easy to correct) mistakes on the past of the executive doing the drilling:

  1. Only correct one thing at a time. Letting people have wins is one of the most overlooked, and therefore most important parts of drilling. When your staff first start out practicing objections-handling, they may make many errors all at once. THAT’S OKAY. It’s a drill, not a test. Simply pause the drill, correct just one thing, and have them continue drilling until that one thing is handled. Then take up the next error.

Failing to balance criticism with praise. When staff do something right during a drill, pause and let them know. This reinforces what you want, and in fact can often be more powerful than any negative criticism you might offer. In other words, push the hardest on the thing you want more of.

If you are a practice owner and would like free help regarding collections or any other management topic, we will help you if you help us by doing a 15 minute anonymous interview regarding practice management. Fill out the form to your right, and we will be more than happy to assist you. (highly recommended)

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If you are a practice owner and would like free help regarding collections or any other management topic, we will help you if you help us by doing a 15 minute anonymous interview regarding practice management. Fill out form below, and we will be more than happy to assist you. (highly recommended)









14 Steps to Safeguard Your Practice from Embezzlement

Our research staff continues to find that embezzlement is an issue that is still prevalent in practices nationwide. Consequently, we are revisiting this subject to provide additional advice.

 Minimize the Risk

More than likely, you’ve heard the horror story about a colleague whose trusted employee embezzled money from his/her practice. To preclude this from happening to you, there are steps that you could take to minimize the risk of embezzlement.

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We recommend that the following procedures become a part of your normal routine, as they will help to safeguard you from embezzlement. 

Handling Cash

  1. Make it your firm policy that you provide every patient/client with a receipt for cash payments.
  2. Cash handling and cash record keeping duties need to be segregated. Have one person collect patient/client portions over the counter and another person post balances. Have a third person make the bank deposits. As the owner, you must play an active role in monitoring sales and cash if you have too few employees to fully separate those three duties.
  3. Each month, compare the amount of cash deposited in the bank to the receipts and/or balances posted in your collections log. There could be some minor fluctuation, of course, but a significant difference for that month is a warning sign and should be investigated.
  4. Start a simple patient/client sign-in sheet listing patient names and the date signed in. Compare this on a daily basis to an over-the-counter-collections report (and day sheet or equivalent). Look for inconsistencies, such as patients/clients who are on the sign-in sheet but not listed on the day-sheet report. Spot-check by phone call to patients/clients who are reported to not have paid an amount due that day. This can be done as a “quality control” call to the patient/clients. Of the questions asked, one might be something like, “It’s our policy that all patients/clients who pay any cash on the day of service receive a receipt. Did you receive a receipt today for any cash you paid?” Put this policy in writing and IMPLEMENT IT. That will make it far more dangerous to attempt embezzlement.
  5. Make it a written policy that you conduct unannounced checks of petty cash and other cash accounts on a regular (bi-weekly or monthly) basis. Conduct those checks without fail.

Fill out the form on this page to read steps 6-14, they will provide you with the essential data regarding the proper management of your accounts receivable and other office records (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Read steps 6-14, they will provide you with the essential data regarding the proper management of your accounts receivable and other office records (highly recommended).










Dealing with a Problem Employee

I received an email from a doctor having a staff problem. I replied to her and thought this might benefit some other people out there. Please see our discussion below:

Hi Ken,

As an employer, how can you tell your employee to stop his/her: gum smacking, not to laugh at the end of each sentence, to stop blowing her nose as everybody can hear it, to stop asserting herself on someone else’s conversation?

I have such a hard time saying something to my assistant about these issues. Everybody in the office is being affected, and I am not happy at all with her. I try my best to tell her what I would prefer from her as an employee, but it hasn’t worked.

Please help me.

Dr. S


My Reply

Dear Dr. S,

There are several things that can help you in this current situation and help prevent this from happening in the future. This is a bit of a lengthy reply due to the nature of your problem. Please take the time to read through this as I believe it will give you some insight into the problem and how to handle it.

The first, and probably the most important thing is to make sure that you have very detailed job descriptions and office policies in place. In your office policy manual, there needs to be written policies about acceptable and unacceptable employee behavior. When new employees are hired, they are given a copy of this policy manual, and they are to read and sign off on them. This lets them know what is and isn’t permitted in your office. They agree to this, and you now have legal recourse for disciplinary action and/or termination for non-compliance.

As new policies are written, a copy is handed out to all employees for them to read and sign off on. These signed agreements are added to their personnel files. These can then be referenced in regular employee evaluations, disciplinary actions, and if needed, termination situations.

If, however, you only deliver your requests verbally, you leave these requests open to interpretation. It is imperative to have everything in writing so that there is no room for interpretation.

The other underlying issue that I see here is hiring the right people to begin with. There are three steps here:

  • Attracting the right kind of employees,
  • Determining who to hire, and
  • Training them to do their job properly after you’ve hired them.

When you are looking to fill a new position, the wording of your ad/listing is key. Where you are advertising is also a big factor. Utilizing employment agencies that pre-screen applicants to your qualifications can greatly increase the quality of candidates that you see, weeding out the lower quality people ahead of time.Determining who to hire is a shot in the dark for most doctors. They read a resume, conduct an interview and take a shot. No one writes on their resume that they are chronically late, don’t take directions well and can’t get along with others. What you see on a resume is only what the applicant wants you to see. Similarly, all you hear in an interview is what they want you to hear. They say the right things or at the very least what they think that you want to hear in order to get the job.

After they are hired they stay on their best behavior until they get comfortable; then, they become themselves. Only then do you know who you’ve really hired.

You need a more objective way to screen and hire people so that you have a better idea of who they are, what kind of personality they have, their responsibility level, their aptitude and their work ethic. Corporations have been hiring people this way for years. Small businesses suffer through much higher turnover rates due to their lack of successful hiring techniques.

Personality tests, IQ tests, Aptitude tests are all implemented to get a feel for who a person really is and how they will fit into your practice and interact with the staff, more importantly your patients.

Once you have hired the right person, you need to make sure that you train them properly. This is where detailed and up-to-date job descriptions and office policies come into play. It is vital that you equip your new employee with the proper tools to do their job rather than throw them to the wolves and hoping they pick up the proper way to do things as they go.

Here is a policy regarding employee performance evaluations. Take a look at this as I think it will give you an idea of the kinds of policies that should have a place in your office policy manual.

To receive “an example policy regarding employee performance evaluations”, please fill out the form to the right. This example policy can help you better understand the exact types of policies that are most beneficial to have in your company’s office policy manual. (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Building a Successful Practice Through Efficient Hiring

To build the most productive and profitable practice, having stable staff who work together to accomplish the mission of the practice is vital. Knowing how and whom to hire is a key skill. To lose employees who may have seemed appropriate for your team when you hired them, yet were not actually a good fit once on the job, is an enormous hidden expense in a practice.

In fact, based on the typical costs of finding, interviewing, testing, training and getting a new employee fully functioning on the job, turnover costs can equal six to nine months of the position salary. If a job pays $3000 per month, your costs could be anywhere from $18,000 to $27,000 each time the position turns over. Therefore, it’s vital to know how to screen applicants properly in order to hire the best possible individuals for your practice and to avoid the stress and high cost of frequent turnover.

Checking References

Checking the references that a job applicant provides is an important—but often neglected—step in the hiring process. The quality of staff can make or break a practice; so, investigate carefully and hire only those whose backgrounds indicate competence and imply that they would be good employees.

Checking references is not always an easy process. In order to protect themselves from legal or privacy issues, many employers have become reluctant to voice opinions about a former employee. However, you should still do reference checks on any candidate whom you consider hiring, to gather any data available.

It’s best to check references prior to a one-on-one interview with the applicant, since you might uncover information that will eliminate that candidate beforehand and save you the interview time. If that’s not possible, check references after the interview, but before hiring.

Here are some questions you might ask references:

  • How long was _______ employed by you or your company?
  • Can you tell me his/her ending wage/salary?
  • Why is he/she no longer employed there?
  • Was he/she a loyal employee?
  • Was he/she dependable?
  • Do you feel he/she is honest?
  • Would you rehire this person?

Again, a past employer may not be willing to answer some of those questions. The key question is the last one, “Would you rehire this person?” This question is important to ask if the person providing the reference is very guarded or hesitant in giving answers.

Keep in mind that checking references is just one of several vital steps in the hiring process. Another important part is to determine the attributes your ideal applicant would possess.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of the article and receive our Hiring Interview Checklist (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Read the rest of this article and receive our Hiring Interview Checklist that you can use to determine the characteristics of your ideal employee (highly recommended).








How Do You Hold Employees Accountable for Their Positions?

Surveys show that workers are happiest when they are productive and are contributing to the success of the group in which they work. To boost morale, efficiency and longevity of workers, one must:

  1. understand the importance of one’s production,
  2. know exactly what one is supposed to produce and have a clearly defined final product,
  3. be properly trained to get that product, and
  4. be specific. Generalized statements leave too much room for interpretations and argument.

Whether you have a staff of 2 or 30, each position in the practice needs to have a clearly defined final product. Both the manager and the employee need to know exactly what the person on the post is expected to produce. For instance, a receptionist’s product is “communications handled swiftly, accurately and in a friendly manner.” A receptionist who consistently obtains this final product will keep the flow lines and the communication lines of the practice functioning and will be a valuable group member. How many new patients have been lost because a receptionist has failed to answer a phone call swiftly, answer questions correctly and/or set an appointment?

Determining the final product for each position is a starting point. A statistic needs to be developed, so the final product can be monitored accurately. For example, one of an office manager’s final products is “staff members who are fully trained for their positions.” Using a statistic such as “percentage of employees fully trained for their jobs” would show the OM’s performance.

How do you hold employees accountable? The answer is:

  1. name a final product for each position,
  2. figure out a way to quantify that product as a statistic,
  3. monitor the statistic,
  4. evaluate statistical trends, and

apply the correct formula to remedy any downward statistic or improve an upward statistic.

If you are a practice owner and would like free help with a particular employment concern or any other management topic, fill out the form to your right, and we will be more than happy to assist you. Scroll to top

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Generating New Patients by Using Surveys

How do you market for new patients in a cost efficient and effective manner? Starting with internal marketing is always the best approach­, as it produces the most cost effective return, which is of utmost importance in managing a practice. Surveys are one method of internal marketing. But how do you go about generating new patients by using surveys?

Here’s the first tip that you can use to more effectively market: do a simple survey with all new patients who come in, in order to find out what brought them to your practice. This can be done as part of their new-patient intake forms, or the receptionist or any other designated staff member can ask the questions verbally.

We have a variety of prepared surveys for our clients to use. Here are examples of some questions you can use to create your own survey:

  • If you were referred, who referred you and what did that person say to interest you in our office?
  • If you responded to an ad, which one did you see? What about it attracted you?
  • If you responded to our website, how did you locate it and what about it interested you?

A second tip is to use surveys on your existing patient base. Start by going through your existing patient records and find about 50 of your “A-list” patients/clients. Do a demographic search of where your best patients/clients are from. Then write a survey for those patients/clients to find out:

  • what attracted them to your practice,
  • what keeps them coming back to your practice,
  • what they like the most about your practice and
  • which services, if any, they would like to receive from you that you don’t currently offer.

You can then use this information to target the greatest demographic area of your A-list patients/clients and use their survey answers as “hot buttons” in a marketing campaign targeted to generate more patients/clients who are similar to those A-list patients/clients.

This is called targeted marketing. It’s all about generating quality patients and clients, not just getting people to walk through the door. Quality patients keep their appointments, follow your treatment programs, pay their bills, spend more than their insurance allotment, etc. These are the kinds of patients/clients you want to generate for your practice.

If you can determine in which area your best patients/clients reside and what brought them to you in the first place, you can then design a marketing campaign to generate more of those types of patients and clients.

Don’t just guess at what you think will bring new patients/clients in the door. Find out what got your best patients/clients there and use that information to your advantage. “Know before you go” is the motto of all good marketing. You find out the “know” by surveying.

If you are an owner and would like free help on collecting past due accounts or any other management topic, fill out the form to your right, and we will be more than happy to assist you. Scroll to top

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12 Steps to Collect Past Due Accounts

Collecting on past due accounts is a function that the Accounts Manager will find herself/himself having to do. Any contact with a patient/client, even under these circumstances, should be kept on a friendly, professional and dignified basis. This will promote respect for the office and its business practices.

Always remember the following points with regard to your patients/clients:

  • Most people have good intentions and want to cooperate with agreements that they have made.
  • Although a person’s account may be overdue, most people still have a good intention to take care of it.
  • Most people prioritize their bills and will first pay those that they feel are most pressing.
  • Most people with past due accounts will pay those bills where someone is actively requesting them to pay.

Bearing in mind the above, your role is to arrange to be one of the creditors that your patients/clients will not delay paying. The following points may be helpful in this regard:

  1. Bill promptly every month.
  2. Ensure that your bills are accurate.
  3. Ensure that you have the original signed financial agreement from your patient/client.
  4. Contact the patient/client as soon as you realize the account has become delinquent.
  5. When you speak with the patient/client, let them know that you believe that they are able to make payment.
  6. Let the patient/client know that you expect to be paid, and refresh their memory on the signed agreement.
  7. Allow the patient/client their self-respect; never back them into a corner, insult or badger the patient/client.
  8. Explain to the patient/client that you want to help him/her work it out so that they can maintain the agreement that they made with your office.
  9. Be prepared to offer some options to the patient/client that they may not have considered.
  10. Be willing to really communicate with the patient/client so that a true understanding and agreement can be reached.
  11. If absolutely necessary, utilize the credit reporting associations. Let the patient/client know that you are planning to do so and that this will go on their credit rating.
  12. As a last resort, utilize the services of a collection agency, and let the patient/client know that you plan to do so.

If you are an owner and would like free help on collecting past due accounts or any other management topic, fill out the form to your right, and we will be more than happy to assist you. Scroll to top

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If you are an owner and would like free help on collecting past due accounts or any other management topic, fill out the form below, and we will be more than happy to assist you.










The First Step to a Successful Marketing Campaign: Research

To craft a successful marketing campaign for your practice, you must first conduct some basic research that will start to identify what your marketing plan and promotional pieces will look like and the message they should deliver. The first step in your research is to work out the general mindset and styles that dominate your particular geographic area. Every state, city, town or area has its own mindset and styles that are unique to that place. If you have lived in the area where you practice, chances are you know them well. Additionally, it is smart to check with others from the area to ensure that your opinion agrees with the general consensus. If you are new to the area, ask locals, as they generally have a good idea.

Some examples are provided below to give you an idea of what one might list as the mindset and styles for his/her area.

Example #1:

Mindset: “Slow and steady pace”, “Friendly”, “Easy going”

Style: Earthy. Lots of greens and whites used in colors.

Old fashioned.

Example #2:

Mindset: “Efficient and Professional”, “Friendly”, “Straight to the point”

Style: Modern and Edgy. Lots of blues used in colors.

High-tech.

Next, identify the top three practices in your area and find out how they market themselves. Doing this will enable you to see which marketing approaches have been successful for your area. Looking at your three competitors’ websites is a good start, as well as looking in the Yellow Pages, local newspapers, Valpak/ADVO, etc., to see how they are marketing. Look for which words they are using to sell their services to people, which offers they are advancing and what their designs look like.

The next step is to identify the successful campaigns or promotional pieces you have created and used thus far. You need to look for any promotional pieces, slogans, brochures, ads, internal marketing campaigns, discounts and word-of-mouth success that resulted in notable increases in delivery. Again, pay attention to the words that were used, the offers that were put forward and the visual impact of the design. It is also good to consider the general demographics of your area. A good website that provides this information for free is: http://www.city-data.com. Gathering this data should enable you to get a good idea of both what worked for you and what works for other similar professionals in your area. It also provides you with a general impression of what people in your area like and will respond to.

This basic homework will provide you with a foundation of information that can be used as you work out new marketing campaigns, whether internal or external.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of this article and find out the second step in crafting a successful marketing campaign. (highly recommended). Click to scroll to the top of the page.

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Your Responsibility to Your Staff

Just as your staff has responsibilities to you and your practice, you likewise have several responsibilities to your practice and staff.

The complexity of active leadership can be best understood by breaking it down into its essential and integral parts:

1. Communication: It is vital for the owner of a practice to maintain excellent communication with his/her staff and to provide active and visible leadership. The following are key elements involving communication that you, as an executive, should implement:

a. Communication of Goals.
Determine the purpose of your practice (most often presented in the form of a mission statement) and communicate that to your staff. Impart the goals of the practice to the staff and keep them informed of the projects that you intend to implement to achieve those goals. The better informed your staff is and the greater understanding they have of such matters, the more likely they will be working in tandem with you.
b. Communication Tools.
There are some fundamental communication tools to implement in the practice; see to it that your staff uses them. These tools can be established and maintained by your office manager; but, as the senior executive and leader of the practice, you must reinforce them. Examples of those tools are: written requests or proposals, written office communications, written office policies and the use of an effective communication relay system.
c. Responding to Communication.
It is vital that you and your staff respond swiftly to written communication. When people do not receive a reply to their memos or emails within an appropriate and reasonable period of time, thereafter they become less willing to communicate. As a result, the business can have more problems on its hands. (Keep that in mind when reading the second part of this article.

2. Staff Meetings: It is also vital that you ensure that the practice holds staff meetings once per week. This is one of the most valuable opportunities available to you for educating staff, setting goals and targets, and handling problem areas that should be addressed by the staff as a whole. The communication lines within the business will strengthen considerably too.

You, as the owner and leader, in addition to your office manager, should continually strive to establish strong coordination and leadership for your staff. Any problems or disagreements between the owner and office manager should always be sorted out OUTSIDE of the staff meeting and should never be addressed in the presence of any staff.

Staff meetings run most effectively if the owner and office manager meet prior to the staff meeting to plan and coordinate those matters to be addressed with the staff.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of this article and find out why writing and implementing Policy in your practice, as well as setting Goals and Targets successfully, is so vital to achieving expansion. (highly recommended). Click to scroll to the top of the page.

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