Panel offers tips for improving efficiency, morale of office staff

Feb 01, 2008, 5:00am

A panel of experts offers short tips for making things run smoothly, creating a positive work environmen and generating more revenue. Empowering staff improves efficiency and boosts morale.

Key Points

Las Vegas - Problems with office efficiency and personnel performance can present significant challenges to smooth operation in a dermatology practice.

In a rapid-fire session at the Fall Clinical Dermatology Meeting, a panel provided a series of short tips for making things run smoothly, creating a positive work environment and generating more revenue.

Scott Dinehart, M.D., served as moderator, and the participants included Susan Weinkle, M.D.; Joseph Bikowski, M.D.; Vasilio J. Kalogredis, J.D.; Brett Coldiron, M.D.; David Pariser, M.D.; and Mark S. Nestor, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Weinkle's comments focused on optimizing personnel satisfaction and performance, which has benefits for promoting efficiency and reducing turnover. She suggests physicians show interest in their staff, compliment them and encourage them to use their own talents.

"Your staff works partly for money, but importantly, they also need a sense of self-pride," says Dr. Weinkle, a private practitioner in Bradenton, Fla., and assistant clinical professor of dermatology, University of South Florida, Tampa.

At the same time, it is important to set appropriate goals and state expectations clearly to staff.

Dr. Weinkle also provides incentives for performance, which include reimbursement for attaining goals and periodic "attitude adjustment nights," where she treats the staff to dinner in a restaurant.

"I always try to let my staff know how much they are valued. These dinners are another way to extend my sense of appreciation, but they also promote camaraderie and friendships that enhance cooperation back in the office," Dr. Weinkle tells Dermatology Times.

Dr. Weinkle also advocates spending money to improve the appearance of the office with purchases intended to please both the staff and patients.

"We try to create a homey atmosphere with holiday decorations, and I allow the staff to pick out the supplies they use, because I think it helps motivate them by making them feel they are part of the team," Dr. Weinkle says.

Dr. Dinehart also has a tip for bolstering staff confidence - get all employees business cards.

"It's helpful for patients if they need to follow up with someone in the office, and it is a very inexpensive way to empower your staff and make them feel important," says Dr. Dinehart, a dermatologist in Little Rock, Ark.

Mr. Kalogredis, a healthcare attorney in Wayne, Pa., specializing in practice management, provides some tips focusing on personnel management. He recommends checking references before hiring, as well as giving merit-based pay raises to lay staff.

"Checking references is common sense, although a lot of people say 'Why bother?' - expecting that a prior employer may not say much," Mr. Kalogredis says.

However, investigating prior employment at least allows verification of the accuracy of some information on the job application, such as dates of employment, pay levels and job title/responsibilities.

"You can also always ask if they would hire that person again," Mr. Kalogredis says. "Even if they do not say 'No,' hesitation or a brush-off answer may speak volumes."

Regarding pay raises, Mr. Kalogredis acknowledges employers are concerned that merit-based raises may cause hurt feelings. However, he believes across-the-board raises may create even more discontent, and unfortunately, among the good workers, also cause employees to work to the lowest denominator.

"Dedicated staff may find no reason to continue working hard and go above and beyond if they see a poorly performing co-worker getting the same raise," he says.

To stave off problems with computer misuse, Dr. Dinehart recommends creating an Internet policy.

However, in order for it to be effective, it must be discussed in office staff meetings, and personnel must sign off that they accept the rules.