How Doctors Can OPTIMIZE their PRODUCTIVE Time

When I am called into podiatry offices, I usually spend a good amount of time focusing on ways to bump things up to the next level; you know, the old “work smarter, not harder” theory.  Typically, the first thing we’re faced with is how many doctors insist on doing all patient care tasks themselves.  When I see a physician leave a treatment room to get a DME product out of the lab or spend an excessive amount of time either fitting a patient with a night splint or explaining stretching exercises for example, I know they are not using their staff in the best possible way.

I’d love to see every doctor focus on tasks that best utilizes their “productive” time (defined as time in which they perform those tasks that only they, as doctors, are licensed to do) but that’s not always the case.  So whenever I see productivity compromised or patient logjam, I have to ask:  “Why don’t you delegate more hands on patient care to your staff!?” prompting a number of responses:

1.       “My staff is not trained to do that.”

That actually is not so much a problem as it is an opportunity! Having a trained staff is a major plus if training is properly done. Training means teaching, explaining and showing them how…not just telling them. While training does cost precious time up front; it is more than recovered down the road as staff become more proficient. By allowing them to take the lesser tasks off your plate, you can focus more on the “productive” ones that generate additional revenue.

2.        “My patients only want me to take care of them in the treatment room; not my staff!”

Although some patients may resist staff intervention in the beginning; their acceptance will ultimately depend on the doctor’s presentation. It all comes down to trust. If doctors truly trust their staffs’ competence and abilities, they’ll find it easy to communicate a professional “care team” concept to their patients and delegate with confidence. Likewise, if the patient TRUSTS their doctor, they, in turn, will have faith in whatever decision he or she makes. Conversely, if the doctor demonstrates the least bit of apprehensiveness, the patients will detect it; triggering their rejection.

       3.        “I can do it quicker and better.”

No doubt...excellence comes with experience and time. Just as you trained to become an excellent podiatric physician, staff must train to become excellent podiatric assistants. Consider giving them a chance to grow and meet that challenge. In time and under your direct guidance and supervision, they can be taught to replicate certain non-invasive services to your (and your patients’) satisfaction.

       4.        “What’s the big deal? It only takes me a minute to get the night splint, draw the injection, or      demonstrate the exercises, etc.”

If you calculated what your time is worth, you might feel differently. You might even realize how eliminating one minute of wasted time from each patient encounter can equate to scheduling a couple more patients a day. By delegating more patient care duties to their capable staff, in addition to increasing volume, doctors can reduce their effort AND capture lost revenue. Those captured minutes turn into dollars and over one year’s time that can become very significant.

5.        “It’s not always about the money! The extra time I spend with my patient is important to them…and to me.”

Correct. It’s NOT always about the money. Saving those minutes may equate instead to finishing early and having extra time to spend with loved ones, or pursue hobbies. It’s all about trade-offs and choices. You get to choose how to best manage your minutes. Would you like to use them to increase revenue or time…or would you prefer to escort patients to the front office, for example, because giving that personalized attention is more important to you? There’s no wrong answer. I think the bigger point is not to confuse quantity of time spent with your patient with quality of time. If patients sense they are being “turfed off” to someone who they perceive is less qualified, they WILL understandably be apprehensive; even resentful. If however, patients feel that their overall experience in your office (by you and your staff) was first rate, they will walk away feeling completely satisfied. That feeling comes from the combined efforts of a TEAM…and in the end, a good reflection on you!