When a staffer does business on your clock; Can an older worker be a valuable new hire? How to get patients to answer your survey; When romance threatens staff morale; Hiring: Can appearance play a role? A public phone for your waiting room?
Q: One of our medical assistants has an independent massage practice. Occasionally, she takes calls from her clients at our officeeither on her mobile phone or on our office line. Should we allow this to continue?
A: Absolutely not. When she's on your clock, she should devote her full attention to your patients. Instruct her to stop taking client calls on your practice's phone number, and tell her to conduct personal business only during her break times.
Q: We advertised for an insurance clerk, and the best applicant is over 65 and collecting Social Security. Is there any reason not to hire her?
A: No. Keep in mind that if your practice employs 20 or more people, you're subject to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits discrimination against employees or job candidates over age 40.
Q: We're going to do our first patient satisfaction survey. Should we mail the questionnaire to patients or ask them to fill it in when they show up for an appointment? How many responses do we need?
A: You'll get more patients to participate if you ask them to complete the survey when they come in for an appointment. Plus, you'll avoid postage costs. You should shoot for 30 completed surveys per physician.
Q: Our new office manager has taken a romantic interest in one our employees. He lunches with her regularly and they socialize after hours. We've heard through the grapevine that he tells her other staffers' professional and personal problems. How should we handle this?
A: Present your office manager with the facts as you know them and ask him if they're true. If he confirms the rumors, fire him. You can't afford an office manager who betrays the trust and confidence of the staffers he supervises.
Q: The most qualified and likable person who applied for our vacant receptionist's position has a small nose-piercing. We'd like to hire her, but we're worried that her appearance will put patients off, and perhaps call into question our credentials. Is this a legitimate concern?
A: Yes, but it's not insurmountable. When you offer this candidate the job, explain that she'll have to honor certain dress-code policies and that nose-piercing falls outside your guidelines.
Q: Is there any liability in allowing patients to make personal calls on our back-office phone? If there is, do your advisers recommend putting a phone for patients in the waiting room?
A: Allowing patients to use a phone in the back-office or clinical areas could pose confidentiality problems. Patients could stumble upon others' charts or overhear private conversations between you and your staff or other patients.
If you opt to put a public phone in your waiting room, put it where patients will have some privacy, block the outgoing number as well as incoming calls, and bar access to long distance service, except for credit-card and collect calls.
Do you have a practice management question that may be stumping other doctors, too? Write: PMQA Editor, Medical Economics magazine, 5 Paragon Drive, Montvale, NJ 07645-1742, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (please include your regular postal address). Sorry, but we're not able to answer readers individually.
Kristie Perry. Practice Management Q&As. Medical Economics Sep. 19, 2003;80:91.