The Importance of Teamwork for Ophthalmology Practices

Do you want your ophthalmology practice to have the best reputation in the area? Receiving word of mouth referrals from satisfied patients is free.

They can be far more effective than print advertising or social media. Having a reputation for excellence doesn’t only depend on your technical skills as a doctor. The patient care experience also includes how polite and helpful the administrative staff is, and the patience and perceived skill of the ophthalmic technicians.

Patients notice inefficiency, lack of communication and tension in the office more than providers may realize. They will recommend you to their family and friends based on their interactions with everyone at your practice.

Your entire staff need to be invested in the goal of creating a positive experience for every patient. If you are interested in creating a culture of excellence that achieves high patient satisfaction for your practice, you must foster teamwork with your staff.

This may sound “touchy-feely”, but taking the time to develop a culture of teamwork can have many benefits to your practice. This includes better communication, more efficiency, and staff retention.

Developing this culture won’t just happen by itself. An MSO will facilitate a culture of excellence that will optimize your practice’s reputation. Their teams can take an objective look at the culture of your practice, and have special skills in team building and improving staff communication.

Foster Communication

The doctors and managers at your practice must model good communication for the staff. No matter how stressed and tired you may be, don’t “bark” at your staff if they forget something or make a mistake.

Demeaning or embarrassing a staff member in front of patients or their peers will create very low morale. You can hold employees accountable and correct performance problems by addressing them calmly in private.

Hold regular staff meetings (at least monthly) and encourage all staff to talk openly about issues such as long wait times and/or slow patient flow. Don’t allow a “blame game.”

Talk about the bad, stressful day that occurred earlier in the week, and how to avoid similar problems in the future. Be willing to try a new system or process that a team member suggests.

In larger practices, it may be necessary to hold quarterly staff meetings that all providers and staff are expected to attend. Some practices find that daily 5-minute team huddles at the beginning of the day avoid problems and delays later on.

Value Every Team Member

Foster an attitude of mutual respect among all team members. Everyone should have clear roles and responsibilities for their position.

The practice can’t run without everyone doing their job. Try to reduce hierarchies where some roles are not respected.

Be clear with your team that every employee plays an important role in the practice’s success. You couldn’t run your practice without them, and they can’t function without each other!

Wherever possible, encourage staff to make constructive suggestions about how the practice could have better communication systems or run more efficiently. Often front-line administrative and technical staff can clearly see what is slowing down patient flow and figure out creative solutions.

Create a culture where every staff member feels valued by the team and is comfortable with offering suggestions for improvement. Playing favorites with your staff is a sure way to create resentment and low morale. While it’s human nature to like some people better than others, leaders must treat everyone fairly and with the same set of rules.

Know Your Staff

This may sound unbelievable, but some staff in large multi-specialty practices complain that the doctors don’t even know their names! Needless to say, staff who feel dehumanized will not be motivated to contribute to a positive team culture.

Greet staff members by name and with a smile when you arrive. Take 20 minutes to have lunch in the staff room once or twice a week and get to know them.

Ask about their recent vacation, or how their children are doing. They will be motivated to “go the extra mile” if they feel seen and recognized by you.

Don’t Tolerate Negativity

Complaining and negativity in the office makes everyone miserable. Anyone can have a bad day, but if you notice a staff member who often has a negative attitude, find out what’s going on and address it.

Make it clear that it’s not acceptable for staff to talk behind each other’s backs. Staff don’t have to be friends, but they need to treat one another with professionalism and work through their differences.

It can be difficult for doctors and managers to confront staff who are otherwise valued for their skill and expertise, but you can’t allow toxic behavior to fester.

Mentor Your Staff

No one wants to feel stagnant or bored in their job. The most satisfied employees are those who feel challenged and interested in what they do.

Technical staff appreciate doctors who take 2 or 3 minutes during the day to explain a concept or show them an unusual eye condition. Hold monthly “lunch and learn” services that provide basic teaching on eye diseases or new technologies you want to implement.

This will help improve skills and keep your staff interested in what’s going on at your practice. Don’t forget to include your administrative staff, who field phone calls and questions from patients all day.

Career Ladders

Encourage your staff to advance and improve themselves wherever possible. Opportunities can vary depending on the size of the practice but try to be creative.

Create special roles such as lead technicians or tech trainers if your practice doesn’t have them already. If you notice that one of the administrative staff is very bright with great customer service skills, ask if he or she has ever considered training to be an ophthalmic technician.

Your recognition and encouragement will mean a lot, and you may gain a loyal and motivated new tech!

To learn more about how MSO Eye Partners™ can help you build and maintain a highly functional team for your ophthalmology practice, contact us today.