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STAFF TRAINING

Develop a habit of training your staff and create a corporate culture of excellence

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation,” said Aristotle. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

If excellence is a habit you’d like to instill in your staff, then you need to train them properly and make a habit, too, of training and retraining.

Why invest in training employees?

There are many reasons there’s an ongoing need for training in medical offices, such as the growing use of technology, as well as regulatory and legislative changes.

Your staff members need to learn many new skills so they can be proficient at their jobs. By providing proper training and committing to a culture of learning, you’re setting the stage for your people to succeed. This makes your practice a productive and desirable place to work.

Developing a culture of learning and growth

To make a training program succeed, though, it’s important that you obtain buy-in from both the doctors and the staff. Worker morale, job satisfaction, and productivity are all improved when employees believe that an organization is genuinely interested in their development.

There are several ways you can demonstrate that your practice has a culture of learning. You can:

  • include training in your annual budget;
  • include learning opportunities for all levels of the practice, including IT, administration, physicians, assistants, etc.;
  • create a policy on employee training, including how often employees are expected to take training and whether or not they will be reimbursed for workdays missed for training;
  • offer regular lunch-and-learn sessions, beyond regular training sessions;
  • encourage input from employees, such as evaluations and suggestions for future topics;
  • provide desk-side support; and
  • offer mentoring. Peer-to-peer learning is not only an effective training method, it is also great for team-building.

Encourage your team to view everything as an opportunity to learn, such as a new piece of legislation, a new piece of software, a seasonal event, a successful transaction, or even a mistake.

Take, for example, the HIPAA enforcement fines recently levied against Presence Health for failure to write timely notification to those affected by data breaches. This error should be looked at as a teachable moment on Breach Investigation and Notification Process for every medical practice.

Identifying your training triggers

There is often an event that triggers a need for training. It can be anything from putting the wrong patient’s name on a document to forgetting to set a follow-up appointment. These errors reflect poorly on the practice. It’s embarrassing. And the patient’s now thinking, “If you can’t get my name right on a document, I don’t want you.” That’s a sign that it’s time for refresher training.

Of course, it’s preferable to go the route of “intentional learning,” where opportunities are sought out with the intention of learning. Some training triggers for intentional learning would include:

  • the purchase of new equipment or technology, such as a billing system or phone system;
  • practice reorganization or a merger. You want to ensure that everyone is following the same procedures;
  • office relocation;
  • promotions, transfers, or new hires;
  • job redesigns;
  • performance issues;
  • changes in laws, procedures, or regulations;
  • succession planning; and
  • safety issues.

Don’t ignore the basics either, such as Windows file management or email etiquette. Many people have not received formal training on these tasks or, if they had, may require a refresher.

Assessing your practice’s training needs

So how do you determine where training is needed and how much to provide? There are many different approaches to making this assessment. Some knowledge gaps can be identified through:

  • exit interviews;
  • patient feedback;
  • employee complaints;
  • personal observations;
  • employee surveys; and
  • performance reviews.

There are pros and cons to each of these methods. For example, a survey, whether web-based or print, will enable honest and open feedback. However, it can be tricky to design appropriate questionnaires and the survey itself might not provide any insight into the reasons behind the need. A personal interview allows for flexibility in the type and scope of questions, but, in a large medical practice, can be very time-consuming. And while personal observations may reduce interruptions in work, it would require a trained observer.

Of course, employees can also simply tell you what they need. For example, you could share with your staff members the long-term goals of the practice and invite their input into how these goals will affect them and where they might require training.

Other approaches can be:

A skills survey: This is an anonymous self-assessment a practice can administer to allow staff to report their level of knowledge on certain technology platforms, or even particular features of a single piece of software (such as Microsoft Word). The goal is to gather self-reported data in a non-threatening manner. This is a non-scored assessment.

A knowledge check: This is a graded quiz on a specific feature or features of an identified application. The cumulative scores can be used to guide a training plan.

A skills assessment: This is a comprehensive task-oriented online test designed to definitively determine skill gaps and proficiencies in an identified application.

How much time should be scheduled for training?

The time required to train your staff will, of course, vary depending on the topic. For example, moving from an old platform to a new one will require more time than would be necessary if training on software upgrades.

It’s important to be flexible. And remember that if you opt for shorter training sessions, then you will likely require more desk-side support and follow-up sessions to fill the gaps that were missed in the training.

Choosing a trainer

Of course, you don’t need a training consultant every time the practice acquires software. Software packages have embedded training. But there are different levels of use, depending on the staff member’s role in the practice and how much of his or her job involves that particular software, so be sure that the training and trainer are suitable.

The responsibility for training staff often lands on HR or IT managers, but those managers do not always have the requisite skills to develop a training program. It takes a certain type of person to be informative and engaging. Your IT person may be too technical, and you don’t need an advanced financial expert training everyone on your billing software.

Conclusion

Develop a holistic approach to training and make it a part of the practice’s culture. Your staff, patients, and bottom line will all benefit from the investment.


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