Delivering value-based care means hiring service-oriented staff

March 25, 2016

If you don’t hire and retain service-oriented staff members who can help you deliver value-based care, be prepared to take a hit to your practice’s bottom line.

If you don’t hire and retain service-oriented staff members who can help you deliver value-based care, be prepared to take a hit to your practice’s bottom line.

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“If patients don’t feel like they are getting service-if the person who answers the phone is rude or the doctor didn’t spend enough time with them-they have the choice to leave and go to another doctor,” says Samuel Lee, MD, medical director of ACC North Texas in Fort Worth.

With all the changes in healthcare today, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) setting value benchmarks in the near future, you need to update your hiring strategy, says Rita E. Numerof, PhD, president of the consulting firm Numerof & Associates. 

“It’s a different skill set than might have been used five or six years ago. It’s more team-based, more consumer-centered, patient-centered. This is a service business,” she says.

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When interviewing job candidates, don’t just look at qualifications such as their education and experience. Look for strong interpersonal skills, Numerof recommends. Look for signs that the individual is a “people person” who will care about the other employees on the team and about the patients and family members who come through the door.

Next: Finding the right fit

 

Always look for evidence of good judgment in assessing priorities, protecting patients’ privacy and responding quickly to complaints. “If you’re not coming with good judgment there’s not going to be enough days in the week for me to train you,” she says.

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Flexibility is another, especially important skill to look for when you’re hiring a new person for your staff, according to Numerof. 

“Most people in physician practices hire too narrowly. They think of the tasks at hand that are required today and don’t think about what they’re going to need tomorrow,” Numerof says. “People are brought in to fill silo roles. They get burned out because of the nature of the work and, perhaps more importantly, because they are not able to flex.” 

Find the right fit

How can you tell if an applicant has the right skills for the job? Ask open-ended questions about times when they had to exhibit flexibility or good judgment. Ask them for examples of coping with difficult people or handling challenges.

This behavioral interviewing “is harder than just looking at a resume and checking off a box,” Numerof admits, but it’s critical for being able to find the right people who can help you deliver value-based care.

Next: Don't be afraid

 

Don’t be afraid to turn to colleagues and peers for advice about good hiring practices, Numerof adds. Medical society resources and how-to books on hiring also can be helpful.

Examining the resurgence of primary care

Lee suggests using a good staffing agency, one that understands that, due to the upcoming CMS changes, practices must be prepared to be judged by patient satisfaction. 

If you hire someone new to working in a physician’s office, “you probably don’t have to break any bad habits. You can start fresh and teach them how it’s done now,” Lee says. “If you hire someone who has been doing it for awhile, it’s hard to get them to understand that it’s not just about filling up the schedule.”