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Large West Virginia office finds easier way to solve small problems

When managing two offices, eight physicians, and 35 staff became a job of “constantly trying to put out a fire,” a West Virginia manager did what many managers do. She named supervisors – one for the clinical staff, one for front office and billing, one for lab, and one for the satellite office.

But along with that, she set up an easy way “to put a large number of people together” and still stay in touch with all the elements of her office’s operations.

It works like this: Staff take their “challenges, issues, complaints, concerns, and recommendations” to their supervisors. And to make sure they think through what they mention, all nonemergency items have to be emailed to the supervisors. Putting things in writing not only cuts down tremendously on the personal complaints, but also prompts staff to give ideas for solutions.

The supervisors solve “anything that needs immediate attention,” but everything else they save for a weekly meeting with the manager.

The e-mailed concerns cover all aspects of operations. One, for example, was that the front desk was not updating patient phone numbers, which created a big problem when the office called for appointment reminders or rescheduling. The solution was a new form that patients now fill out at each visit.

Another was that items were not always flagged correctly in the computer, with the solution being a new flagging procedure. Still another was forged prescriptions for controlled substances, and the outcome was a policy that the office will not mail those prescriptions but patients must come in and pick them up.

Beyond the problems staff cite, the supervisors report on the things they have taken care of on their own, because those too often signal a need for change, the manager says. In one case, for example, a supervisor reported taking care of a double-booked appointment slot, and the group decided to alter the scheduling process.

The last item on the agenda is recognitions. At that point, the group recognizes all staffers “who have gone above and beyond,” whether in outstanding work or patient service.

Minutes of the meeting go to all staff, with the last page showing the people who have been recognized and why. The outcome is that the office can stay on top of every little thing and is assured top efficiency.

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