Leading Through the Pandemic – Relevance of Caregiver and Staff Engagement to Patient Satisfaction

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We all know the importance of maintaining high levels of patient satisfaction. You consistently focus on it.  And as this focus evolves within the healthcare industry, we are learning more about the factors that drive sustained success in this critical area.

One of these factors is the engagement level and work satisfaction of both office and clinical staff. Having a highly engaged office and clinical team will not always ensure high patient satisfaction numbers. However, it’s highly unlikely that any clinical enterprise will maintain a high level of patient satisfaction absent a similarly acceptable level of job satisfaction within the walls of the office delivering care. This impact may be even more pronounced during our current time of patient uncertainty. Let’s face it: many patients still have concerns about how practices are mitigating risks associated with COVID-19, and higher patient satisfaction can ultimately translate to higher patient retention during this critical time.

If your office is not where you believe you need to be relative to staff morale and engagement, you are not alone.  These have been especially stressful times, and even the healthiest work environments have been tested over the past six months. Whether you are just beginning to consider implementation of a formal engagement initiative, or you are feeling the need to jump start your practice culture, focusing on the five areas below can help you gain positive traction.

  1. Intentionally Connect

Create opportunities to connect with team members on a personal level. Ask meaningful questions.  Demonstrate empathy and caring.  Foster an environment of trust by listening and acting. Ensure that team members have time to converse with each other while at work. Healthy relationships are therapeutic during times of uncertainty.  Avoid the assumption that your team feels well connected to you, the practice, and to each other.

  1. Consistently Communicate

Be honest and transparent with your team. They know more than you think about state of the practice and the environment you are operating in. Be timely in sharing information.  When holding back, team speculation fills the void and may become a distraction. Create a regular rhythm around communication – office huddles, staff meetings, update emails, etc. Share what you are thinking so they don’t have to guess.

  1. Listen, Always

Communication is effective and complete only when it works both ways. Give your team members permission to speak their minds and take to heart the perspectives they share with you. Create formal channels for feedback, including sharing of both concerns and new ideas. This may be a dedicated email box or formal “listening sessions” as a part of regular rhythm. Never penalize a team member for speaking up. Consider feedback and shared perspective a gift. Whether you agree or disagree with what you hear, always follow up with acknowledgement to ensure that the team member knows you were listening.

  1. Be Inclusive

Whether a part of your culture today or not, it’s time to allow your team to share some of your burden of leadership. Engage your staff in problem solving. Take advantage of their willingness and ability to help you find opportunities for improvement. They have great ideas and simply need your encouragement to speak up. Enable and empower your team to help you build a better practice, and their ownership will show through in both engagement and performance.

  1. Have Fun

Making time for fun may not be at the top of your “to do” list when leading through times of crisis and uncertainty.  This understood, identifying ways that your team (and you as well) can find relief from day to day stresses, share a laugh and a smile, and experience positive emotions together will pay dividends. You can plan ahead or simply be spontaneous. Order lunch for everyone, have a happy hour, celebrate anything and everything, buy everyone a fun gift…  And most importantly, personalize it by being present. Your staff needs to see you smile!

Team members who appreciate their jobs, enjoy being with the people they work with, and know that they are cared about by the people they work for are more productive and proficient. Whether administrative or clinical in job responsibility, they will treat your patients the way that they feel you are treating them. No different than the objectives of delivering high-quality care and patient satisfaction, maximizing staff engagement is a never-ending endeavor. The standards are high and continuing to rise.

During these unique times, we should not take anything for granted, especially those who support our clinical and business efforts. Taking the steps necessary to ensure that your team’s energy and approach are positive will make your patients feel comfortable, secure, and welcome.

Jerry L. Kelsheimer is President of Medic Management Group / MMG Healthcare Solutions.  His background includes extensive work in areas including leadership development, strategic planning, and process improvement.  MMG is a national provider of consulting services and back office administrative support to independent and system owned physician practice groups.  Additionally, MMG has been formally recognized as a multi-year Northeast Ohio Top Workplaces award winner.      

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