Your Practice Staff & "Perceived Care"

Female physician with stethoscope What is “good” medical care? And, is it only provided by clinicians? Many health care providers might view “good” care as something related to positive clinical outcomes and measurable health improvements, but how do patients view good medical care? You might be surprised, but many patients have a much larger definition of medical care and it can include the “care” your staff provides, too.

A recent article by Beth Balen, entitled, “Medical Practice Staff Can Help Prevent Patient Lawsuits,” talks about the many ways patients perceive whether or not they received good care. She mentions that some patients view good care as, the doctor did something for me (like, he/she gave a prescription or a referral), the receptionist was kind to me, or the billing was accurate. While those last two examples have nothing to do with clinical outcomes, many patients still view them all as part of their care.

So, what does this mean?

It means that if all aspects of your practice provide excellent “care” and customer service, it can go a very long way to ensuring that patients are happy and satisfied. And, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that satisfied patients are much less likely to sue for medical malpractice. So, the article argues, you should consider your staff just as helpful in preventing a medical malpractice lawsuit as you are with the quality of care that you provide.

So, what can you do to foster this larger care philosophy?

1. Hire quality staff. When hiring staff, it’s not just about skills and experience –it’s also about personality. In fact, it may be better in the long run to hire someone who has a great customer service personality and train them, than to hire someone with excellent skills and a bad attitude.

2. Train your staff well. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them. Do not assume anything. Ensure that all staff know not only what their job responsibilities are, but also your expectations about excellent customer service (like how you want complaints handled, for example) and what the limits are of their position and when they should refer someone to you or someone else in the practice.

3. Foster teamwork. Following from #2 above, the best way to do this is to make sure that every member of the staff knows what every other member of the staff does. This can minimize staff hand-offs and make for a more efficient practice and, again, happier patients.

4. Reward your staff. We all know, a little recognition goes a long way. And, just like satisfied patients, satisfied staff are likely to stay with the practice.

5. Continually offer training. Many med mal insurance carriers offer free in-office training for staff in risk management and patient relations. Closing the practice for one afternoon to have your med mal insurance company come in can be a very efficient and easy way to train staff.

Establishing a wider view of care, by seeing it as everything that happens within your office, can provide many opportunities to increase customer service, increase patient satisfaction, and ultimately, reduce medical malpractice lawsuits.

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