Having a small to medium medical practice necessitates training staff for highly specific positions. Often times what may be an entire department in a larger operation is handled by a single employee at a doctor’s office. This makes sense because in a smaller practice individual staff members will likely be expected to handle entire aspects of the business from beginning to end, as opposed to splitting the tasks further between specialized team members. One unfortunate effect of this approach is revealed when a staff member is absent. There may be no one else in that department, which means no one else with the right knowledge and skills is ready to step in and take care of those responsibilities.
Cross training is the process of getting staff members trained on each other’s tasks and responsibilities. The benefits of the cross training approach are many and significant. The most obvious benefit is having someone ready to take over the responsibilities of an absent employee. This could help during a vacation, a sick day or if a staff member is called away from their regular work by some other task. Secondly, staff can be delegated to assist each other when someone’s work flow increases. If the waiting room is suddenly flooded with patients or a stack of bills needs to be processed by the end of the month, it is great to be able to have one or two extra employees assist on the fly. Cross training also comes into play when new staff is hired. Instead of hiring for a vacated position, cross training opens up opportunities for promoting from within. Finally, cross training tends to boost morale and empathy among employees. Employees gain a finer understanding of what their colleagues do and become empowered with new skills and knowledge. Transparency and accountability are also increased when everyone has a clear understanding of each other’s duties.
It would be ideal if everyone on the staff knew how to do everything. However, there is practicality to consider. You are not going to train your receptionists to administer an injection, for instance. Cross train with the goal of redundancy, but start the process where it makes sense. Below are some of the positions and tasks that will benefit the most from cross training.
Billing – Aside from being a vital part of any medical practice, billing staff will often tell you that a large part of their job is catching and fixing errors. Getting your staff cross trained on billing is a no brainer. It will have the side effect of reducing errors and you could be sure someone is always available to keep the bills going out the door.
Answering phones – This can work in two ways. If everyone knows the practice’s phone answering protocols, you should never have to worry about the ringing phone going unanswered, or a staff member missing an opportunity to make an appointment for a new patient. Secondly, if whoever answers the phone has a solid understanding of the operations of the practice, they are more likely to be able to handle the call themselves instead of having to pass it on to someone else.
Patient flow – There are three areas to consider. Train most of the staff on patient intake. If the front desk is overwhelmed, other staff members can at the very least acknowledge waiting patients and perhaps check them in or get them started filling out forms. Make sure staff members understand how patients move through the office and can direct them to where they should go. Lastly, consider training nurses and medical assistants on checkout procedures, setting up follow up appointment in particular. This could provide relief to the front desk and waiting room when the office is at its busiest.
Your cross training efforts will take time and, therefore, cost money. The resulting efficiency, transparency and morale boost will ultimately outweigh those costs. Approach this project carefully and plan ahead of time. Before any cross training takes place, have staff members put together some guidelines, or at least outlines, of how to handle to their positions. These can serve as handouts during training. Be sure to set aside enough time for the training to be in depth and meaningful. Then encourage staff to assist each other, especially in the first few weeks. Putting the new knowledge into practice will insure that the training is not forgotten before it is needed.
ProMD Practice Management offers a full range of medical practice assessment and consulting services. Our expert consultants can help you develop a cross training program that will lead to increased efficiency and productivity in your medical practice. Contact us today to find out how we can help.
ProMD Practice Management is happy to help with your billing assessment needs so you can maximize profits and increase patient satisfaction. To learn more about how ProMD can make your practice run like a well-oiled machine, call 888-622-7498 or fill out our online form to request a billing assessment.