Suggestion or Comment Box. Does your office use patient satisfaction surveys? Does your office have staff satisfaction surveys? You should be using both, but for the contents of this blog we will be discussing why staff suggestions or comments should be requested. As part of the CMS Compliance requirement (not yet inforce)-staff should have an open door policy for reporting HIPAA violations and guaranteed no retaliation for informing. If an employee discovers a possible breach of HIPAA, or another unethical situation-its best for them to inform you or management, over an outside entity. Once a report is made, the employee should be thanked for coming forward and a full confidential investigation should be completed. If the information is correct, make changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again-if you must contact OIG because of the infraction your penalties will be far less than if the employee went straight to the OIG themselves. That is a “worst case scenario” of the suggestion box, but again-its better for you to be aware first and have the opportunity to correct it, than to have to hear about it from the feds. Most likely you will find comments within the Human Resources realm of your office. There could be suggestions of employee rewards or fun competitions, there most likely will be comments of specific employees not getting along. All of these comments are very useful. You want to keep your staff happy, and if you can help diffuse strained relationships in the workplace-everyone wins. Remember happy staff means happier patients too.
The scheduled staff meeting. Does your office have a regularly schedule staff meeting every week, or every month? If not, you should be having all staff members come together on a regular basis. Depending on the size of your office, and the patient volume, most staff members may not have much opportunity to interact with each other. This is a great opportunity for other departments to get to work together and possibly even come up with solutions to each other’s problems. If possible, have an itinerary to discuss specific issues then open the floor for suggestions. Sometimes having someone outside our regular area of expertise can see things from a different point of view and bring new solutions that no one had thought of before. This is also a great time to bring up any changes. If the office is now going to increase the bounce check fee to patients, bring this up at the meeting. Even though billing staff will be most affected, your nurse may be asked by a patient during her visit about the rate increase-and its helpful for the nurse to know too-since she spends face time with the patients. If you have a suggestion box, open the contents and read them aloud. See if staff have solutions or feelings about the suggestion given. The staff meeting is also a great time to discuss how each staff member is preparing for ICD 10 and to give encouragement for all staff to get onboard and learn the changes.
Rewards-Doesn’t everyone like a treat? It is widely known that positive reinforcement can get longer lasting results than punishment. It’s a longer process to wait for, and then punish negative behavior, than it is to “treat” good behavior as soon as it is observed. Have an office goal (no tardy employees for a month) or a department goal (increase copayments received in office), and reward the group when the goal is obtained. The reward can be lunch brought in, or even something smaller like nice pens for office staff, or new matching lanyards for clinical staff. The important part is recognizing each person in the office (or department) for obtaining the goal. If you set department goals-make sure each department has a goal to work towards and the opportunity to obtain the goal and get the reward. Its empowering to see other departments work together for the good of a practice (and the good of the patients).
There are lots of ways to improve staff relationships in the workplace. Having open lines of communication is very important and will help keep small annoyances from becoming World War 3 in the office. It is important that each person knows they are important and valued for the work that they do. They must also feel comfortable coming to you, or a designated person (Human Resources), when there is a problem that they are not able to correct. If you follow those 2 main goals and then mix in a little bit of team building and fun-your staff will have more enjoyment of work and your outcomes in patient satisfaction will increase as well. Besides, we enjoy what we do-but wouldn’t it be nice if you could enjoy it more?