The use of processes and procedures can be instrumental to the success of you business. They allow you to reliably repeat the steps that resulted in favorable outcomes offering a chance for steady improvement. Standardization of your methods provides a way to continuously monitor execution and make adjustments accordingly. If you track progress with key performance indicators you can increase, decrease, or alter your efforts timely and intelligently.
Is It a Process or Procedure
Utilizing processes and procedures starts by understanding the difference between them. A process is an overall view of how you will achieve a desired goal. Procedures are the combined, individual parts needed to accomplish it. Let’s say your clinic has the goal to improve patient compliance with their prescribed care plans. You have to first determine the steps to do so. Multiple departments will play a key role in the success of this new process. Reception, medical billing, and clinical providers make up at least three of them.
It is important for each member of the team to have defined roles and responsibilities. In this example, the physician is responsible for evaluating the patient and prescribing their care plan. The receptionist sets the patient’s appointments while addressing their scheduling needs. The medical billing department researches the patient’s health insurance and reports back the patient’s coverage and financial obligations. Finally, the patient has to understand each aspect of this process so it is everyone’s responsibility to effectively communicate their part.
Building the Process with Procedures
You can to see multiple areas where procedures must be in place by reviewing this single process. The medical provider needs a procedure for the initial visit. The appointment must be focused, within the allotted time, building rapport, while outlining their expectations to the patient. Next, they need a procedure to inform the receptionist of the prescribed care plan.
Now, the patient is handed off to the receptionist. There needs to be a procedure in place to accurately scheduling future appointments according to treatment frequency and duration. The scheduling procedure is part of the new patient process that initially welcomed the patient to the practice, conveyed office policies, and promptly input their demographic information into the clinic’s systems.
The practice needs a procedure for the acquisition of the patient’s insurance information before these steps even take place. It is imperative that financial responsibilities are conveyed to the patient, and the team, in a timely manner. On top of all that, the patient will have their own procedures for committing to care, agreeing to the schedule, and pay their bill. This last part will always be a variable, but you can implement procedures addressing the most common outcomes empowering your staff to handle objections before they arise.
Increasing patient compliance by improving the scheduling process, shows you how many procedures need to be considered for progress. Even though I used a simplified example to demonstrate my point, this process consisted of multiple procedures across several departments. Practices can easily get overwhelmed and bogged down trying to implement processes and procedures for every phase of their business.
Your goal should be to have them in place for all aspects of the company, but our recommendation is to start simple, start small, and start now. Keep in mind, you will continuously make adjustments as you go. Don’t let this be a massive undertaking consuming all your resources at once. Pick one area for improvement and start there.
Include Those Actually Involved
The main reasons to implement processes in your business are quality control and repeatability. The process, and the procedures that make it up, need to be formalized, written out, and communicated to all staff involved. Managers need to have their employees understand expectations and the reasons for doing so.
We also recommend including them for feedback with new processes and for evaluating existing ones. You can do your best to guide your staff, but unless you are the one executing the steps day in and day out you just don’t know what you don’t know. Your employees are the ones that can tell you what you are missing and how to be more efficient.
Make Decisions with Data
Our final point is you must use performance indicators to evaluate the success of these new processes and procedures. You can’t leave it to chance by assuming things are going well because the week went “smoothly”. The right metrics will provide objective data to guide you on how well you are or are not doing.
Track each new patient and how many appointments they schedule, in accordance with their prescribed care plan, to evaluate effectiveness of this process. Once that metric is in place, your next step can be to separate these statistics based on the individual receptionist and provider. Expand that data even further by monitoring how many appointments were kept and how many were cancelled. The goal of this added data isn’t to shame a poor performing staff member, but to find who is succeeding. Determine where there is difficulty and seek guidance on ways to adjust and improve.
Standardization Doesn’t Prevent Individualization
Many business owners object to the standardization of processes and procedures at first glance. The most common objection is that everyone is unique, and they want to provide an individualized experience to their clients. We couldn’t agree more, but this should happen in patient communication and the specificity of care.
The overall patient experience should be based on your unique selling proposition (the reason customers choose to do business with you instead of your competition). Having protocols at each stage allows your staff to focus their mental energy on higher level activities and the patients themselves. Employees will have increased confidence when they know what is expected of them. You will also gain “peace of mind” knowing each client will have a reliable and consistent experience every visit.
Give It a Try
Your homework is to pick one aspect of your business that has been an ongoing obstacle for you. Decide on a process for you to overcome it. Have each department work collaboratively and establish procedures for accomplishing the goal. Determine an objective way to measure performance over a set timeline, and evaluate your team’s progress at specific intervals along this period. Make adjustments to the procedures based on your metrics and their feedback. Make sure you are using reliable data to remove the guesswork and assumptions. You will find you and your team will become increasingly more effective and efficient at overcoming obstacles by using this method. Comment below, and let us know about your experience with this project. Good luck!