Why is Morale in the Practice Important?


Your practice holds an important asset. While not reflected on your financial statement, it is potentially your most valuable tool. There are few tangible reports that show its productivity and worth. It does not require an insurance policy or maintenance contracts, but it does take time to gain the full capability of this resource. The asset is your staff.

Your employees are arguably the most valuable asset in your practice. A high-functioning team can be the key to success, even when other factors are putting pressure on your practice.

There was a time where employees possessed an extreme loyalty to their employers. They were punctual, efficient, and invested in the organization. While we still have these great team members, in our practice the dynamics have altered. A new generation has poured into our workforce, and a simple paycheck in exchange for loyalty is a thing of the past. This new workforce wants something different. Research shows they want a mission, to be inspired, to make a difference and to be happy at the same time. While high morale is not always directly correlated to happiness, the link between the two is strong.

Retention is the primary reason to keep morale high. Staff retention is vital to a healthy practice. People want to be happy at work more than ever before. Therefore, they will leave if morale is not satisfactory. High staff turnover is a profit killer. The cost of hiring and training an employee, on average, is 150 percent of that new hire's salary. These additional costs are embedded in training, lost productivity and recruiting costs.

In addition to the actual hard costs of turnover, your remaining staff bears additional responsibility in absence of a position. The team is often overworked while the new hire comes up to speed. This increased workload not only affects productivity, but can also kill the morale of the remaining staff. With high turnover also comes lost traditions and knowledge. Ideally, you should have current staff members write down their job duties and responsibilities. This not only helps both parties understand the requirements of the job, it also helps the next person hired if an employee leaves.

A tremendous amount of knowledge leaves when a staff member terminates. This hidden knowledge can be a preference for patient desires, vendor discounts, passwords to files, physician traditions, understanding of processes and outside relationships, to name a few. To illustrate the point, think of your two most valuable employees. Now, terminate them from your practice. Where does that leave you? Can your practice survive? How long would it take to get back to normal?

Not only is retention a by-product of high morale, but your individual production productivity and profit can be linked. Happier employees work harder, are more creative, and are more efficient. While your own work effort is a key driver of practice productivity, the work effort of your team can enhance or diminish the revenue cycle. The revenue cycle begins in advance of the physician-patient engagement. An appointment reminder call, collections of co-pays, window introduction, greeting, escort to the room and check-out all happen by the work of a team. If any part of the patient experience has a kink, your profit will suffer.

Excellence in patient care and patient retention are other reasons to keep employees happy. As mentioned earlier, the patient spends more time with your staff than they do with you. Happiness and discontentment are both contagious. Both will spread from your staff to your patients. Happy patients are more likely to be compliant with your medical advice, are more willing to pay all balances, write you a positive review, and refer other patients to you. Is your practice a place where patients feel welcomed by your team?

Office morale links many items together. It creates an environment where you can focus on the things that are important to you. Retention of staff, higher productivity, and excellence in patient care all result in higher profitability, better work/life balance, and ultimately, higher morale within yourself. Now is the time to create a practice environment of high morale. You will not regret the effort.

Maddox Casey is the practice leader for Warren Averett's healthcare division.


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