Much of the discussion during last week's Medical Group Management Association's (MGMA) annual conference surrounded the idea of teamwork. All kinds of teams exist (or should) in healthcare: physician-administrator, physician-patient, administrator-staff and physician-staff. A major common denominator among all of these types of teams, according to presenters, is communication.
And one of the most significant barriers to good communication, according to a post from the MGMA blog, is that many people's perception of their communication skills is inaccurate.
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place," Kenneth Hertz, FACMPE, told attendees. Another common communication derailer, according to Hertz, is the issue of "power/authority/intimidation/status."
The good news, however, is that practices can improve the effectiveness of their teams' communications by trying the following strategies:
- Apply existing skill sets to communication. For example, physicians are often reluctant to get involved in human resources issues, Pediatrician Rebecca Fox, M.D., explained during a session about strengthening physician-administrator teams reported by Physicians Practice. "But you do it every day with your patients. We discuss difficult, gut-wrenching decisions with them, so you have the skill set to do this with employees at your practice. As physicians, we need to bear witness and back up our administrators."
- Use tools. For administrators presenting financial information to physicians, for instance, Fox recommended using a worksheet to help demonstrate whether physicians are "earning their keep when it comes to their patient panel." "We love worksheets because we love to have all the answers," she added. The worksheet should lay out a "common language" to discuss the numbers, noted Practice Administrator Lucien Roberts during the session, and include the following five numbers: total days the provider worked; total charges; total number of patients; the cost of the provider (including salary, malpractice and overhead); and their collection rate percentage.
- Reverse roles. During Hertz's presentation, he relayed stories about practice administrators hosting group meals and asking doctors to serve staff. The simple role reversal helps staff members feel more comfortable about approaching doctors, he said, and can reduce tensions that impede success.