I am often asked what is the most common deficiency I find in medical practice operations when I conduct a full operational assessment. Managing a medical practice has to be one of the most challenging careers a person could ever have, and in today’s evolving health care industry, those challenges can come tenfold on a daily basis. It is no surprise, then, that in such an environment it is easy to identify areas where we, as an industry, have “needs”. It is somewhat harder to generalize, or to single out any one area of weakness as being consistently the most prevalent. That said, we do find both a number of common strengths and deficiencies in medical practice operations.
One – frequently hidden – deficiency that is both common as well as significant in its impact on the overall performance of the organization would have to be in regard to the training of staff. Almost without exception, I will find staff working on tasks where they have not been adequately trained. This includes not just technology areas but also “soft” areas such as the people skills needed for interacting and working effectively with patients. Make no mistake; to step away from the many daily crises and take time to invest in training your people requires tremendous discipline. And, making the omission even easier, the significance of not doing so can remain hidden for some time. Most of the medical management information systems, for example, are found to be utilized only to about 50% of their potential due to inadequate training of staff.
After a short introduction, very few practices participate in follow up training, cross training, or user groups where many innovations are shared among users. It is often not until someone undertakes a quantification of the resulting costs (from diverse areas such as stress-related turnover, error rates, increased liabilities, etc) that attention is allocated to the issue.
So for the moment, and in general, I would have to say that a blanket recommendation could be made to medical practices to implement, as part of their strategic plans, staff training by position and to implement an intensive and formal start up training program for new hires.