11 Oct Setting Up Your Pediatric Practice for Success when Business is Anything But Normal
Since early 2020, many pediatric practices have been forced to juggle increased patient demand against new safety precautions and a reduction in the number of people they have on staff. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant stressor on the pediatric community, with one December 2021 survey finding that 60% of pediatricians were experiencing at least one dimension of burnout.
The lingering effects of the Great Resignation, coupled with increased workplace dissatisfaction and insufficient staffing levels are all contributing factors to the feeling that pediatricians are drowning trying to meet patient demand.
The question becomes, what can a pediatric practice do to survive and thrive when business is anything but normal?
Change your Mindset: Forget about “Business as Usual”
First things first. Forget about business as usual. Practices can’t scale their way out of high patient demand coupled with a shrinking workforce and provider burnout. Trying to do so will only exacerbate higher levels of burnout.
Between patients calling to ask about flu shots, COVID-19 boosters, and fears about monkeypox, many providers find that they can’t keep up with all the questions. Add in visits for injuries, illness, well checks, and vaccines, and the list becomes never ending. It’s no wonder it feels like you’re drowning.
Looking at things with a new perspective can help you prioritize what’s important and what can wait. Focus on your needs first and save the nice to haves for when you are fully staffed and equipped to take on more. Here are some suggestions to help jumpstart the shift in mindset:
- Assume positive intent. If you choose to believe the best in people and trust that they have good intentions, it will help elevate the performance of your entire team.
- Decide whether stress is good or bad, then choose how you want to deal with it. Weigh the pros and cons, then consider what’s best for yourself and your staff. There is a discernible difference between reacting to stress and responding to stress. Choose response.
- Reimagine your team culture. With the input of your staff, evaluate where you are, where you want to be, define a desired set of values and behavior, then create a plan. While the shift may take some time, the key to success is holding everyone accountable.
- Set clear goals to reflect the changes in your business. Create an action plan and timeframe to implement your new goals, then share them with everyone so you are all striving for the same outcomes.
- Set clear goals for yourself. If you set a clear, achievable goal for yourself, it will allow you to focus on one task at a time, keeping you focused on the end result.
- Focus on selfcare. You work to provide the very best care for your patients. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Here are some tips to get started.
Changing your mindset doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by choice. Sometimes just a minor shift in perspective is all it takes to have an outsized impact on the results you’ll see.
Push Key Information Out to All Practice Families
Once you have made peace with the fact that you can’t work enough extended hours or hire enough extra staff to fill all your needs, the next thing you should do is create a strategy to push essential information out to all your patients. That might limit your patients’ need to contact you personally, taking the stress off of you and the front office staff.
Figure out what the most frequently asked questions are that families are calling about. Make a list, then create resources that address these topics. Some relevant timely subjects to cover right now may include flu season, routine vaccinations, and pediatric mental health. Once you’ve developed these resources, make sure the word gets out!
Whether you connect on Facebook Live, publish short videos, send practice-wide email updates, or text invites to go back to your website for updated content, you can reach far more people using social media than you could in one phone call or office visit.
Can’t find a staff member to take on this work? Hire a patient engagement or social media expert to manage the creation of these resources. Feed them content and let them create the engagement vehicle. Ask them to gather a patient advisory group and poll them on how they would best like to receive content. Don’t assume, find out.
Another valuable tool you have to communicate with your practice families is your practice website. Make it a hub for information and communication between your patients and your practice. You can use your website for patient education resources, practice updates including changes in holiday hours, a hub for the latest trends in healthcare (such as COVID or monkeypox) and more. You are only limited by your imagination to the things you can provide on your website.
Thinking about how to serve all of your families, not just the ones that reach out, can be impactful through extremely busy times and beyond. If you foster an ongoing relationship with families and build trust through repeated valuable interactions, you will start to create lasting bonds.
Focus on What Matters Most
It is crucial that you also cut yourself and your practice team some slack during busy times. Take a serious look at what is possible and start prioritizing. Well visits? They are a must-have. Catching warning signs of physical and mental health issues that are addressed early help set the stage for healthier outcomes as adults. Run a recall report, then touch base with families who may have fallen behind, and tell them you are here for them.
Vaccination rates are also high on the priority list. And it’s not just COVID boosters and flu shots that we need to keep on the radar. Staying current with the ACIP recommendations will protect children from a variety of preventable diseases. Use the VacLogic built-in to OP to take the guesswork out of vaccine management, inventory and decision-making. Automation is key. Use it to your advantage.
If you are strapped for time or staff resources, look at the screenings and surveys you do for all of your well visits and decide if any of them can be deferred. Ask a few screening questions during each visit, then insist on in-depth surveys if needed.
Give Yourself Grace
The most important tip we have for you is to give yourself grace. Partner with others and be honest with your families. Everyone is feeling the stress of “so much to do, with so little time to do it”, and your patients and their families understand that. Share a short video from one of your doctors explaining how everyone is under stress, including your team. Explain how you absolutely want to give every patient what they want, but you have to make sure that all patients get what they need.
Giving grace means giving people what they need to succeed. Ask for patience, understanding and kindness and make sure you give it in return.