Sunday, August 30, 2009

Are You Ready to Interview?

Many physicians and administrators dread the day they have to start recruiting and interviewing. Let me suggest to you that recruiting for a replacement employee is a opportunity to upgrade the departing staff member. Yes, that's right...upgrade. That is not to say the departing employee was a bad employee, though that might be the case, embracing the attitude that you are striving to upgrade will lead you exactly down that path.

Finding qualified candidates in the current economic environment is not that tough. What is tough is finding the right candidate for your situation. Ensuring the new employee meets all of your expectations and fits in your culture is the crux of the recruiting and intervi9ew process.

The interview process need not be cumbersome. Taking a few steps to properly prepare yourself will make the process run smoothly.

First, have you identified the "core competencies" you look for in a new employee? If not, you should. If you do not know what you are looking for, then you cannot adequately evaluate one candidate from another. Examples of core competencies might include:
  • Initiative
  • Adaptability
  • Resilience/Tenacity
  • Work Ethic
  • Customer Service
  • Motivation Fit
  • Judgment
  • Oral Communication
Secondly, have you clearly defined the job descriptions for your employees? Again, how can you evaluate the core competencies as they relate to the candidates job responsibilities. Having solid job descriptions also play a large role in your employees' annual review process.

Thirdly, prior to seeing any candidate in your office, you should conduct phone interviews to identify 4-6 potential new employees. Phone screening interviews should take no more than 30 minutes each. Here you are looking for basic educational background and to determine if their prior work experience will satisfy your requirement. Look for direct answers to direct questions. If the candidate leads down long tangents, move on. It is likely this candidate cannot, or will not, meet your requirements.

Fourthly, conduct the face to face interviews. Since you have identified 4-6 candidates, you should plan to see all of the candidates back-to-back, with a 15 minute break in between. This allows you properly evaluate each candidate compared to each other. Be sure to ask them the exact same questions. Again, you are looking for comparisons between candidates. During the interview, ask questions to focus the candidate on their past experience and how their behaviors controlled the outcome. Candidates that speak to "the ideal" or "what I would have done" are speaking in theories. You want real experiences and real behaviors.

Lastly, from the 4-6 candidates, select 2 candidates for a final interview. If you have executed the interview process correctly, either of these candidates would do. In the final interview, you are really looking for the motivational fit the candidates bring to the table. After your final interviews, review your notes and pay particular attention to how the candidates met your list of core competencies. Identify your best choice, and then make the offer.

One last thing, be sure to follow-up with the candidates you did not hire. That's just common courtesy. You want to make sure the candidates at least walk away feeling they were treated with respect.

Recruiting and interviewing need not be the dreaded task. With a little preparation, you can make recruiting and interviewing a smooth and pleasant experience.


Monday, August 24, 2009

What Consultants can Help You With

My last blog asked a simple question, "Do you use a business consultant?" Since then, I compiled a list of items I routinely work on with practices. I am sure other consultants can add or take away from the list, but you can see there are many things consultants can help you with.

  • Business Planning
  • Strategic Planning
  • Overall financial performance
  • Understanding revenues sources
  • Physician collections
  • Hourly collection rates, and their influences
  • Mid-level provider collection rates
  • Ancillary resources collection rates
  • Key metrics to your practice's financial health
  • Budgeting
  • Account receivables management
  • Check-in processes
  • Back office processes
  • Check out processes
  • Patient flow and efficiency
  • Telephone skills
  • Patient Scheduling
  • Staff management
  • Patient/physician interaction
  • Patient/staff interaction\
  • Super bill management
  • Cash management
  • Insurance co-pays
  • Job descriptions
  • Employee work performance reviews
  • Handling discipline issues
  • Staff surveys
  • Quality improvement
  • Internal marketing
  • External marketing
  • Physician referral processes


Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Consultant Advantage

Are you working with a consultant? Maybe you should be. Consultants are a wealth of information and can help you navigate issues that may arise in your practice.

Most consultants come from business backgrounds, either from running their own business, or from corporate America. In either case, they have the business knowledge and experience, most physician do not have. I've met some really sharp physicians who happen to be really good business people, but sadly, most of their learning comes from the school of hard knocks.

Business consultants have resources that most physician owners would love to tap in to. For example, consultants have access to financial benchmark data that can be so important to doctors. Yes, physicians can, and should, conduct their own benchmarking, comparing financial data from quarter to quarter, year to year. But how many physicians have access to broad range benchmark data to measure themselves compared to other like practices?

Consultants can also serve as your contract employee should you have the need to implement a new initiative or conduct a special project. Projects such as practice performance surveys, staff surveys, annual review processes are good examples. Your staff may simply not have the time to conduct these projects, or may not know just how to get started. Consultants can help you in these environments.

Fee structures for consultants vary, but generally fall into one, or a combination, of these structures:
  • Hourly rate
  • Project rate
  • Retainer
Hourly rates are good if you need is simple and need only a few hours time. Project rates work well if you a sure of a specific project you want to conduct, e.g., practice performance survey. Lastly, the retainer affords you the best option. With a retainer, you can use the consultant as much or as little without the worry or inconvenience of frequent billings. Retainers can also be budgeted much more easily. And I would suggest you discuss any fee questions with your consultant prior to any commitments. As a final note regarding fees, there are a lot of consultants who will talk with you about your issue at no charge. Take advantage of that.

At Primoro, Inc. our philosophy is "thought medical practice consulting." We are here to assist you where we can and to offer solutions or other resources where needed. Be assured that at your consultation, Primoro, Inc. will have your best interest at heart.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Leadership and the Grocery Store

My wife and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary yesterday by having lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant. On the way home, we stopped by a local grocery to pick up a few things and my wife said, "I hate this store." Of course, I was curious and asked why. She went on to tell me they have very poor customer service and the employees are not very friendly. She finished her story by saying, "I am not sure why this is, other grocery stores are much friendlier." As you might imagine, being a consultant, I have an answer.

Clear and simple, poor customer service is the result of poor leadership. For years customers of a leading computer manufacturer enjoyed some of the best customer service; that is, until the founder retired. Sadly, today, this company is struggling because their product quality has slipped and their customer service is poor. But, how does this happen?

As I stated, poor customer service is the result of poor leadership. Simply put, if the owner or senior management doesn't put customer service as a priority, nobody else in the organization will. And, it goes further. Simply stating the goal does not make it so. Owners and senior managers have to live it! You have to know what is going on in your business - Inspect What You Expect!

Living and breathing excellence in customer service is everyone's responsibility, but it begins with the owner. Make sure you are delivering your very best every day. Train your staff properly. Inspect what you expect. Conduct a practice performance survey to find your weak areas and improve them. Enhance and broaden those aspects of your practice's customer service that already excels. Think about the businesses you like doing business with and emulate their level of customer service.

Delivering good customer service to your patients should be an expectation. Believe me, your patients expect it.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Strings Attached

No matter what your need is, or what you think your need is, there is always strings attached. Consulting is an interesting business. There are many consultants out there ready to sell you their service or product. And I am no different.

Business owners too often "self-diagnose" there issue and hire the services of a consulting group to solve the problem. I suggest beware. Self-diagnosis can become expensive, and in the end, may not solve your true issue.

I used to work for a organization that provided its customers complimentary consulting services. Not a bad thing, except the client was too often offered a very biased recommendation based on the product the company was trying to sell. While their recommendations perhaps would provide for increased revenue for the client, it was always to the benefit of the organization's product offering. Therein lies the rub.

As a business owner, physicians must make the choice between "free" consulting vs. "fee for service" consulting. We all know that there really is no free lunch and strings are always attached.

I am particularly fond of consulting generalists. The consulting generalist is very much like the family doctor. While not the specialist, we know which specialist the client really needs and can help the client ask the right questions, focused on the real issue. I once had a physician who just could not wait to purchase and install a new practice management software system. After spending nearly $100K, he found the software did not really solve his issue. Had the doctor consulted a consulting generalist, he could have achieved a better result by spending a few thousand dollars on staff training on his old system.

Primoro, Inc., like other consulting generalists, is in business to make a living. Businesses hire outside consultants to help them see their business with fresh eyes. Paying for their services is almost always a wise decision. The old adage still holds true..."You get what you pay for."


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Planting Trees

Years ago, a good friend planted a row of beauty ornamental trees along her driveway. In the years following, she enjoyed watching these trees grow and display their beautiful flowers and foliage every spring. One day, upon returning home, she was shocked to see that her neighbors had sheared the limbs that protruded beyond the property line. The trees once beautiful now looked horrible.

I was surprised to see my friend's response to this action. Instead of reacting to the insult, though the neighbors were within their rights legally, my friend looked at the event in a philosophical way. The next day all the trees were removed, the following day, new trees were planted...well within her property line. She told me she was "planting trees." That was her way of saying she was investing in her property, and, I suspect, in her soul.

How many of you are "planting trees?" Planting tree can be as easy as taking an extra minute with each patient. Make sure you have answered all their questions and that there is no doubt in their mind about the treatment you propose.

Benchmark data would suggest that your new patient ratio should be about 33% of you total patient schedule. If it isn't, perhaps you might consider "planting trees" for your business.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Writing a Blog Is Not Hard - Think Simple

Many of you are interested in setting up a blog for your practice, and now, you are wondering "How do I write a blog?" My experience shows that it should not be an arduous task; instead it should be simple. When I work with clients in setting up their social networking/blog project, I generally also offer some critique on a few of their initial blogs. For doctors, I always have the same critique - KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Doctors are smart people, but too often they let their knowledge on their area of expertise get in the way of good communication with their patient. I always tell doctors to keep it simple and in terms their patients, and prospective patients, can understand. In the case of a plastic surgeon I have worked with, I had to tell him to be cautious about how he described the liposuction process. In his blog, he continued to reference liposuction as a "de-bulking" procedure. While technically correct, I know few patients who would want to be considered "bulky."

There are some wonderful blogs on how to write effective blogs. I am particularly fond of the ProBlogger at Here you will find some very straight forward talk about what makes a good blog, and how to make yours better. Check it out.

On a second note, you may have heard that Twitter crashed today. While inconvenient, it does demonstrate the overall utilization of social networking sites. Get involved - TODAY!


Monday, August 3, 2009

How is Your Practice Doing?

Knowing how your practice is doing, from the eyes of your patients, is critical to success. Having done countless Practice Performance Surveys, I can tell you there are things happening in your practice that do not necessarily spell overall quality. While I readily admit that most physicians are providing high quality medical care, how does the overall quality of the patient visit rate?

Remember, in previous blogs I have touched on the patients' perspective of "value." Value is the emotional aspects your patients feel when they compare price, access and quality to virtually any other business they use. Yes that's right; you are competing for high quality and value to every other business in your community.

It is important to recognize that patients can only compare their perspective when comparing their experience with your office as compared to other business. That is to say to their local Wal-Mart, Target or Publics. They look at the overall experience. Do the sales people or clerks treat them with respect? How about real interest?

In a recent Practice Performance Survey, the practice rated pretty well in all categories. Funny, the physician was concerned that perhaps his fees were too high for the community. The survey revealed that price was not an issue. Instead, patients reported that certain staff members and departments were less than customer oriented. Patients love the doctor, but had pointed comments about the staff. Of course, the doctor is taking corrective action. Without the survey, he may well have gone on for some time before knowing what his patients really think about his practice.

If you are getting complaints, or even suspect there is something not quite right, do a survey. Ask you patients what they think of the practice, ranging from getting an appointment, seeing the medical assistants, seeing the doctor and finally checking out. You may find new opportunities to improve your patients' perception of a quality practice.