Simplify Practice Management with Better Inner Office Communication
How does your team communicate with each other in the office? Do they shout across the lobby? Do they walk back and forth between the front and back office? Or do they send each other emails or text messages hoping that the recipient sees it in a timely manner?
Tony Robbins, said: “The quality of your communication is the quality of your life,” and we believe that line of thinking can be extended to the quality of your practice management as well. Without clear communication and systems for sharing information in your office, your team is bound to get bogged down with messages.
In the 1990s email replaced much of paper communication, and it was a far superior solution to mountains of memos and faxes that had cluttered up offices for years. This new tool had the benefit of being immediate, paperless, and immediately actionable. Plus, it was a vast improvement for record keeping and searching for information from past correspondence.
In a dental or medical practice, the urgency of communication often means that email is not a viable option. Weave’s HIPAA compliant team chat system is a great solution for fast and secure inner-office communication.
In this guide, we’ll share insights into why good inner office communication is key to successful office management, review best practices to apply with your team, and discuss some of the high-tech, easy-to-use options available from Weave.
Communication Best Practices
Clear communication and procedures for sharing information will lead to stronger relationships and better efficiency in the office. When your team is on the same page, you’ll see better patient satisfaction and less employee turnover. Your office will run like a well-oiled machine. Those chaotic Monday mornings will run infinitely more smoothly if your team follows some basic best practices for communication.
It’s not as hard as you think to improve your inner-office communication. It just takes some thought and preparation. We’ve distilled it down to the following 14 tips:
- Define systems and procedures and make them easily accessible: You should have a system in place for your most common scenarios and document them in a handbook that your entire team has access to. Include procedures for how to notify a team member at the back of the office that her patient is running late, you’re held up at an off-site meeting or a patient has arrived, but you don’t know where the doctor is.
- Define communication rules: Once you have your most common scenarios outlined, develop communication rules. What messages should be sent via email and which ones are better suited for an online chat? If you send an email to another member of your team, what is the expected timeline for a response
- Have an internal language: Industry terms can be complicated and end up taking forever to type. Instead, use office-approved abbreviations and acronyms to speed up and streamline your communication. To add some fun, incorporate some inside jokes every now again to encourage fun and smiles in the office.
- Have a goal you’re all working toward: Do you have monthly practice goals? Perhaps it’s a goal of seeing 10 new patients or achieving a specific revenue figure. By involving your entire team, you can all work toward something together and have buy-in. Your entire team will be invested in this singular goal. And, of course, when you meet the target don’t forget to celebrate.
- Rearrange your office: Take a look at your office and consider whether it’s allowing your team to communicate. Do you have cubicle walls between a technician and your office manager? Many offices are moving more toward an open concept, meaning that your administrative staff will all be in the same area and workspace without being separated by walls. While this isn’t ideal for all offices, it can foster more open communication, so it’s worth considering.
- Get out of the office: Teams that get to know each other in other locations outside the office tend to communicate better and may even like each other more! Schedule a weekly lunch or monthly hangout where you can all relax and talk about things that aren’t related to work.
- Schedule a work retreat: If you meet a big goal, a retreat would be a fantastic way to celebrate! Whether it’s a weekend cruise, a quick getaway or a day at the spa, your staff will love that their work has been appreciated and it’s another opportunity to get to know everyone’s interests outside the office.
- Attend annual conferences: Doctors often attend yearly conferences, and we think it’s a great idea to bring staff every once in a while. Some practice-related seminars even encourage you to bring your team, and they’ll have breakout sessions geared specifically toward helping them improve and grow in their roles.
- Let employees take time off to recharge: Everyone needs time off, and sometimes a planned vacation isn’t quite enough to come back relaxed. People often come back from vacations saying they need a vacation from their vacation! We recommend surprising an employee occasionally with a paid day or two of time off so that they can relax and recharge. If you’ve had a hectic month and your employees are frazzled, give them some time to take a breather.
- Encourage friendships: Traditional offices tend to frown on “fraternization,” but as long as you’ve hired mature professionals, then the risk of any complication should be minuscule. The benefit of your staff becoming friends is that they’ll enjoy coming to work more, knowing they’ll be around people they actually like. That positive attitude and familial feelings will come across to your patients, and the entire atmosphere in your office will shift.
- Have a CRM platform: A Customer Relationship Management system should be standard in all office, but it isn’t always used to its potential. Remember to keep all relevant patient data in the system, including birthdays and other relevant information you learn about them as they remain a member of your practice. Encourage your team to acknowledge things like birthdays or a pending move across town. Up-to-date electronic records will also make it easier for your staff to identify patients who miss appointments, are chronically late or have payment issues. These can all be addressed in a timely and sensitive fashion, as long as your entire staff is aware of the problem and has a procedure for remedying the situation.
- Have a (short) daily status meeting: No one likes long, drawn-out meetings, but a short daily catch-up session can set the tone for the day and make sure you’re prepared for everything coming your way. A 15-minute pre-work staff meeting also gives everyone an opportunity to share any concerns or critical status updates they have for the day.
- Nurture shy employees: In an office environment, you may have some team members that are gregarious and do all the talking, and you might have someone who tends to be more on the shy side. Your shy employees may have fantastic ideas or insights, but if you never hear from them, you’ll never what they’re thinking. Take note of anyone on your staff who doesn’t seem as comfortable talking, and gently encourage them to come out of their shell.
- Get feedback: One of the most important things you can do as a boss or manager is to get feedback from your team. How do they prefer to communicate and receive information? Are they more comfortable with emails? Using an online messaging system? Or do they want more face-to-face interactions? While you might not be able to accommodate all of their requests, if you know their preferences, then you can potentially meet in the middle.
The High-Tech Solution
As employees have begun to experience the painful shortcomings of email, they’ve turned to instant messaging platforms to communicate with each other.
Instant Messaging Apps
Apps like Skype and Whatsapp are replacing email for quick soundbites and notes like “want me to get you a coffee?” These applications can be convenient, but not necessarily built for professional use. You also run the risk of staffers doing more personal communication with their personal network than their office network, since both of these platforms are open to anyone.
These apps are also off the table for any office dealing with patient information. The data shared on these networks aren’t secure. All conversation threads are saved and vulnerable to data breaches. Further, Skype has been accused of leaving themselves open to malware. When a user unknowingly exposes themselves to malware, all of their calls (both audio and video) and chat messages are recorded.
Slack is quickly replacing both personal and professional instant messaging systems. If you’ve never heard of Slack before, it’s a collaborative team software program, designed for messaging and project management. People can communicate with each on different channels based on teams, projects, or even a tennis club. It also has file sharing and storage features.
The problem with Slack is that it is not HIPAA compliant. The company has recently launched a HIPAA-compliant version of their application called Slack Enterprise Grid, but it’s designed for companies with 500 employees or more, which puts virtually every dental or optometrist office out of the running.
The other issue with Slack (as if that wasn’t enough) is that it can be overkill for what your office really needs. Ideally, your office should have something easy to use and provides instant communication while remaining secure.
Workplace by Facebook
In addition to the obvious issue of not wanting your employees tied to Facebook all day, Workplace by Facebook is also not HIPAA-compliant.
You might be wondering if a chat system that’s not compliant with HIPAA rules is that big of an issue.
Remember that any Protected Health Information (PHI) must remain secure at all times. This includes information about health statuses, care, and payment that can be linked to an individual. So, if one of your employee’s chat messages is “Patty Hearst is on her way to the front desk. Make sure to collect her $195 payment before she heads out the door,” you’ve just violated HIPAA.
We recognize that sometimes you’ll need to share this type of information to streamline your practice management, and we also think it’s inefficient to have to use two systems to communicate. Can you imagine having something like Skype for checking in with your team when someone is running late and then a secure network for patient-related communications? That flies in the face of simplifying your practice management!
There is another way…
Weave Team Chat
As part of the Weave application, Weave Team Chat allows coworkers to communicate instantly while dealing with time-sensitive client information that sometimes needs quick action. This targeted communication between employees goes a long way toward reducing the “communication clutter” that is so prevalent in offices today.
In addition to streamlining communication, Weave Team Chat allows you to edit and delete messages. It also accommodates cross-device communication between computers, smartphones, and even a smartwatch. You can also create different groups in your office based on their department or specialty, so all of your hygienists can have their own private group.
And, of course, the most critical aspect is that it’s HIPAA-compliant. Plus, it’s already included in your Weave app.
In today’s fast-paced office environment, keeping everyone in the loop is essential if you want to maintain an efficient and smoothly-running office. Email is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution for all inner office communication, and it’s being supplemented with chat systems that allow for quick messaging and responses among savvy teams.