So, your practice is growing in leaps and bounds and you are finding it more and more difficult to keep up without spending 15 hours a day in the office. In addition, the “umpteen” hours of overtime you are dishing out every pay period is beginning to make any additional revenue vanish before your tired eyes. And then you have the increasing expense of additional supplies (ordered to treat all of those new patients), and the mountains of compliance paperwork and disability forms that are piling high on your desk. If any of this sounds familiar, it may be time to consider the options for change and expansion in your practice.
One option includes taking a look at how you are utilizing your time and your staff’s time during patient hours. If you are truly a “hands on” doctor, and feel that you are the only qualified person in the office to perform nearly every task from filling out forms to drawing injections and casting for orthotics, it may be time to reconsider your approach. Taking the time to thoroughly train your team can make all the difference between a chaotic atmosphere and creating a steady, controlled flow of patients moving in and out of treatment rooms all day long. The physicians who choose to provide services that could easily be delegated to properly trained staff find that fitting even a few more patients during clinic hours to be nearly impossible. While others who delegate tasks (after proper training has taken place), find it easy to see a much higher volume of patients, with little more effort. Commonly, both front and back office staff members are eager to learn more only to be told by their doctors that “it’s easier if I do it myself.” Or, an assumption is made that patients would be upset by staff performing simple procedures that they have become accustomed to the doctor performing.
As a general rule (and we all know there are exceptions), patients don’t spend time analyzing who is participating in their care, or performing non-invasive procedures. They focus on more important matters such as if they are seen at the time of their appointment, if they are tended to in a timely and professional manner, and the quality of the care they receive. It’s the overall experience that keeps patients coming back, year after year, and referring their friends and family to do the same. With this concept in mind, I encourage you, as a physician and practice (business) owner, to take a closer look at the team you have employed to represent you and your practice and determine if they are able to help you increase production and efficiency. If the answer is “No,” I strongly urge you to consider if you have the right team in place. Many doctors in similar situations have found that by replacing less motivated staff members and spending the time and effort to promote further education and development of practice protocols, which are followed by all, the need for hiring an associate becomes less of an urgent matter.
If your team is functioning at full speed and it is indeed time to consider bringing on an associate doctor, there are a few points to seriously consider. Hiring as a whole, should never be rushed. You know what they say, “Hire slowly and fire quickly.” After all, the faces that patients encounter within your practice (and before they ever meet you) can make or break the entire experience. When it comes to hiring an associate doctor, this becomes even more of an issue, as conflicting personalities or dramatically contrasting treatment styles can, not only ruin the reputation you have spent years establishing, but leave you in a situation far worse than when you were spending 15 hours a days trying to keep up. In order to avoid this difficult situation, physicians/practice owners should allow between 6 and 12 months minimally to find the associate doctor that melds well with their current practice and can actively participate in building and improving it well into the future.
In summary, if you find yourself contemplating whether you are really ready to hire an associate, take some time and assess the situation fully, exploring the options and weighing the benefits, costs and time involved in both. If you aren’t sure which way to go, ask a colleague who has been in your shoes before, or seek out help from an outside source to guide your decision. In matters such as these, it often takes an uninvolved set of eyes to truly see what is happening. No matter which path you choose to explore—whether it be additional staff training and delegation of responsibilities, or hiring an additional provider to care for your growing patient base—take your time and be confident in your decision. The future of your success and your practice depends on it.
by Cindy Pezza