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Unexpected issues can impact medical office efficiency

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

I’m surprised at how often business owners and managers see office efficiency and personnel management as separate issues.

Clearly, there are workflow designs or equipment issues that can make or break an organization and are not directly related to personnel. But like most workplaces, medical offices and their efficiency are usually a reflection of their people and how they interact.

Here are three very different areas where simple or seemingly unrelated issues can have a big impact.


Meetings can be great and are a necessary means of communication for any organization. They can also be life-sucking vampires. Some people are just good at meetings, but even if you’re not, there are some steps you should follow to run the best meetings possible.

Planning is the first thing. You’ve no doubt heard that every meeting should have an agenda. Equally important, the agenda should be written and distributed in advance. Participants should have time to prepare if they’re expected to answer a question or give a report. Items not on the agenda should usually be scheduled for future meetings; otherwise you risk a meeting that devolves into an open forum.

For most medical offices, the agenda’s length should be reasonable. If you need to tackle a major issue that is likely to consume large blocks of time, consider scheduling it for a separate session or break it into smaller components. If you still have a big agenda, don’t put the biggest issue at the end when everyone’s attention span is likely to be wearing thin.

Layoffs and terminations

With reimbursement reductions and other pressures, there’s always a temptation to look at “belt tightening,” and nothing saves money like eliminating personnel. Unfortunately, this can start a downward spiral that is often disastrous. Morale will suffer and increased office stress may negate any savings you gain. This is especially true if staff has reason to believe other economies that don’t target individuals have not been pursued.

If you feel forced to examine this route, first look at any “weak links” you have on staff. I often note that typical workplaces indeed have employees who are coasting, and a small percentage who are actually disengaged, even working against the organization. If staff reductions must be made, looking for these possibilities can justify layoffs or terminations in the eyes of other staff members and result in a more efficient workplace.

Crummy offices

I hate to bring this up because medical office environments vary so much, but many could benefit from a few easy improvements. In some cases, there are inexcusable problems that should be fixed.

What am I talking about? Everything from a fax machine that is located a long walk from the person who uses it the most, to worn out chairs or poorly lit hallways.

The possibilities are almost limitless, but the common denominator is that these problems often cause long-term morale issues as well as immediate inefficiency. In some cases, they may be tolerated because the office is in an older building and a solution seems almost impossible. In other cases, it might be due to the fact that the person affected the most doesn’t have a strong voice in the organization.

Several years ago, there was a management program called “Total Quality Management.” It had one concept I especially liked: the internal customer. The idea was, primary customers like your patients or other payers are obvious. But organizations also have internal customers who deliver services to end customers. If the internal customers don’t have what they need to do their jobs, they won’t be able to adequately serve end customers. That inconveniently located fax machine isn’t just inconvenient; it might result in a missed payment because it can’t easily be monitored. You get the idea.

There are other aspects to this “people/office” perspective, but this gives you a few examples so you can begin looking at where seemingly simple or one-dimensional issues might have more impact than expected. When people are involved, it usually pays to look for unintended consequences.

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit or call (913) 927-0229.

The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.









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