Industry Voices—To ensure patient satisfaction, get the right person with the right skills into the right position

A physician's stethoscope
Physician practices need employees with both technical and people skills. (Getty/millionsjoker)

According to an analysis (PDF) of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, 3.5 million healthcare workers will be needed to fill new jobs in the U.S. over the next seven years—and private physicians, call center supervisors, urgent care managers and hospital administrators are already eager to hire.

Photo of April Neumann
April Neumann
(Courtesy of Utlimate Medical Academy)

But getting the right person for these specialized jobs can be tricky business. As the healthcare industry rapidly evolves, employees at every level need to strike a balance of technological and operational competence while being cognizant of how their job affects patient outcomes. Employers are being challenged to successfully navigate the hiring process—and get the best-qualified candidates who are ready to contribute to their healthcare team.

Fundamentals, of course, are crucial. From the receptionist to the IT person, healthcare employers are looking for staff proficient in the nuances of healthcare and managing an efficient office. Communication skills, proper pronunciation and correct spelling of technical terms have always been basic. Excellent computer skills are essential—especially how to accurately maintain everything from insurance codes to patient electronic health records (EHRs). Precise patient documentation is a vital skill in communicating the patient's condition, organizing his or her healthcare records and facilitating payer reimbursement.

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All of this makes the case for slotting the right person with the right skills into the right position. Done well, it enables the medical practitioner to focus on quality care while their employees make sure the rest of the practice runs smoothly.

But that’s not enough. As practices are becoming more patient-centric, the “soft skills” of empathy and customer service, as well as a culture fit, are as important as technical and functional skills. Employees at every level must be able to support the specific demographics of the patient load. It’s all about positive relationships and contributing to each patient’s peace of mind.

Today, according to research from PwC's Health Research Institute, patients are twice as likely to choose or reject a doctor based on staff friendliness and attitude. Manners and greeting, language, multitasking, time management and dependability are as significant as meeting the requirements of the tasks at hand.

Understanding patients more completely—including their communications preferences, work and home commitments and the social circumstances that shape their everyday health decisions—can’t be quantified but influence their choice of a provider.

Further adding to the rapid change in the healthcare landscape is the retirement of baby boomer office workers. The new generation of millennials taking their places must be reliable, cross-trained and dynamic to meet the performance-based standards of healthcare administration. To retain quality employees and happy patients, an emphasis on developing and presenting these “soft skills” will enable healthcare workers to succeed, get promoted and assume more responsibility.

Employers seeking to augment their workforces should be looking at candidates who help them create an environment for a quality patient experience as well as possess the ability to maximize payer reimbursement. They need employees who are proficient at mining the synergies between humans and machines to improve customer service, care outcomes, and accuracy and efficiency that contribute to the bottom line.

When interviewing, employers should create scenarios to assess a potential employee’s critical thinking and problem-solving ability. Offer job shadowing for interviewing or during orientation. While onboarding and during training, have staff simulate the experience of being a patient and interact with each step of the medical practice.  

This kind of continual assessment will help the newest groups of healthcare workers make the industry smarter, faster and more empathetic, resulting in improved patient and practice outcomes.

April Neumann is a senior vice president at Ultimate Medical Academy where she oversees career services, connecting the needs of healthcare employers with its academic programs and preparing interview- and employment-ready graduates.

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