MGMA16: Three damaging communication mistakes practice members make

A doctor at a desk holding up his hand to say stop

SAN FRANCISCO--Poor communication can be costly to medical practices, says Skip Weisman.

Consider research that shows the average employee wastes 40 minutes per day because of ineffective, poor communication, says Weisman, a consultant based in Poughkeepsie, New York, during a presentation at the Medical Group Management Association's annual conference.

That amounts to an average annual cost of $5,220 per year, per employee as a result of poor communication skills.

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“You do the math,” Weisman tells members of his audience.

The following are three common communication mistakes that can create problems in physician practices:

Lack of specificity. Take for example, the person who says they can be available “anytime” to discuss a project. But then they aren’t available when you propose a specific time for a meeting. Or someone says they want a report "as soon as possible" or "at your convenience." Lack of specificity can waste a lot of time.

Lack of immediacy, urgency and promptness. These are the workplace or business conversations that people put off. “It’s another big time and energy waster,” Weisman says. Keep in mind that sometimes the timing isn’t right to have a conversation. Maybe you need more information or don’t want to bring up a topic in a public setting. But that’s different from avoiding a conversation, which can be distracting, debilitating or even destructive, he says.

Lack of directness and candor. These are the people who avoid talking about the elephant in the room. People who beat around the bush in a conversation make a common mistake, as well as those who give generic feedback to the “team” rather than addressing a problem created by one individual.

Every communication can have only three options--building trust, slowly eroding that trust or instantly eroding that trust.

“There is a 67 percent risk of damaging the relationship every time you communicate,” Weisman says. But champion communicators possess three traits: they are prompt, direct and respectful.

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