Best Practice Management
The 10 Golden Rules of Professionalism
The 10 Golden Rules of Professionalism
- Treat patients promptly and courteously
Consider each new patient that walks into your office and sees it for the first time. This initial connection is an opportunity for them to judge your practice and (make no mistake!) your staff plays a critical role in making them feel welcome by offering a friendly, first impression. The patient’s immediate need for acknowledgement and guidance should be everyone’s number one priority, because if they are made to stand there unattended for ANY length of time, they are uncomfortable. Ignoring them (even for 5 seconds) is never an option.
- Don’t blame someone else for mistakes
Whether mistakes are yours or someone else’s is not important. Patients do not want to hear excuses like, “Well, your orthotics would have been here if Mary sent them out on time, but she forgot to.” Instead, work hard to rebuild lost credibility by apologizing to the patient and making an extra effort to correct the mistake. “Mrs. Jones, I’m so sorry for the delay. I will have Mary call the lab today, check on their progress and if not yet shipped, request rush delivery. I’ll be back in touch with you later today after we get more information.”
- Staff should never do anything they are not qualified or trained to do
Staff should never administer patient care without first being properly trained in the procedure. Don’t assume they know…make SURE they do by observing them perform a hands-on demonstration on you or on a co-worker before giving approval to go solo. Take advantage of the many opportunities to increase their knowledge – in house training, seminars, workshops, webinars, etc. Also, assure they are educated in what they are doing so that they can appropriately respond to patient questions.
- Never criticize your physician or another employee in front of your patients
“I would never!” is what I’m told, yet I hear comments from disgruntled staff to patients like, “Oh you think the doctor is so great? You should WORK with him/her!” Or from doctors, “My staff doesn’t know any better…next time just ask me!” Comments like this are a very poor reflection on the practice and patients see it as a personality flaw. They may think, “If doctors and staff in this practice talk negatively about each other, what do they say about me when I’m not here?” Similarly, if a patient looks to you to concur with a disparaging comment they’ve made about another physician, refrain from agreeing with them. This sort of defamation of character always seems to come back to you in a bad way.
- Dress appropriately
A professional appearance contributes significantly to the reputation of the practice and sends a non-verbal message to your patients. That means everyone’s general appearance should be neat, not sloppy; clean, and free of body odor or overpowering perfumes/colognes. No wrinkles, rips, tears or stains on scrubs or lab coats. Wear scrubs that fit, shoes that are clean and name badges to help patients connect. No visible body tattoos, facial piercings, heavy makeup or extreme jewelry. It is important that the practice enforce their own dress code to outline appropriate and inappropriate appearances.
- Protect patient privacy
The introduction of HIPAA into our lives has made all of us (including patients) more aware of ways in which we should protect our patients’ privacy. Even though patients are genuinely concerned about a friend or family member, we must all remember our responsibility to the patient and not release unauthorized info if you think you are being helpful. It would be beneficial to have your patients list and sign off on particular individuals with whom it is acceptable to share their PHI. To stay compliant, continue to keep your team educated in HIPAA policy via continued education and compliance updates.
- Keep personal phone calls brief and quiet (follow your written office policy re: usage)
Cell phones are pervasive today, so if you don’t have a phone/Internet/texting policy, do everyone a favor by developing and initiating one. Then make sure everyone understands the particulars, including the consequences for non-compliance. Remember, too, that policies have much more credibility and respect if the one creating it is also the one following it. Set the example.
- Don’t eat or drink in public areas of your office
It’s disappointing to see a giant Slurpee or smell the remnants of a half-eaten hamburger at the front desk – even though staff defense is that they are working through their lunch. There is no denying the unprofessionalism of hearing someone answer the phone with something in their mouth. Spit out the food before engaging in any conversation and make arrangements to either close the office during lunch or alternate shifts between staff so eating while answering the phone is prohibited.
- Treat each patient as if they were a member of your family
…and I should add…a member of your family THAT YOU LIKE. It’s unethical to offer a treatment plan solely on what type of insurance they have instead of the clinical needs of the patient. The best rule of thumb when offering a treatment plan is to think first, “Would I recommend this if this patient were my mother?” That puts everything in perspective and allows you to offer the best care at the most affordable cost.
- Treat each patient as a person, not a condition
The “wart” is not in Room #3 and you are not awaiting the arrival of the “fungus toe nail.” Patients are people…not conditions and should be referred to by their given name. Speaking of which, if you really want to address your patients correctly…find out how they preferred to be addressed and make a note of it in their record for future reference. Some prefer “Mr, Mrs, or Ms" while others prefer you use their first name. Nicknames should only be used as suggested by your patients. Avoid using “hon”, “honey”, “sweetie” or any other terms of endearment. They should not be used in a professional setting.