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Knowledge Expansion

Insider: Ken Hertz on building a successful medical practice culture


Business Strategy

Professional Development

Culture & Engagement

Cleaning up a toxic culture

Ken Hertz, FACMPE, a consultant with MGMA Consulting, recently walked us through the importance of culture within a medical practice and ways we impact it. He believes that culture is the underlying foundation for a practice, and without a unified understanding of the mission and vision for the group, it can lead to detrimental outcomes. Associates can become frustrated, providers can be dissatisfied, or administration gets overwhelmed; any of which can have an impact on the care delivered to patients which won’t be positive. Having tools to build your culture and foster a constructive environment will attribute to the overall success of the business.

Why it matters

Culture can be boiled down to the belief and comprehension of an entity’s mission and vision. If everyone understood and supported these strategies, operations could move in a similar fashion. When there is disconnect or misinterpretation, it can lead to an array of consequences. When you look at a medical group providing care for its patients you start to see how customer service centric the practice really is.

When we look at other service industries, the Ritz Carlton for example, they dedicate significant amounts of time and resources on their associates. This results in a better experience for customers and a cohesive work environment for the staff. Without their dedication to training they may experience large amounts of staff turnover. This is one example we often see in the medical industry and can become quite costly and inefficient. The inconsistency in the clinic will impact the bottom line in several ways but could be prevented by measures such as training, education, or even communication.

How to navigate through challenging times

The first and most important thing to remember when trying to impact culture is that it can take time. Depending on the starting point and size of the group it could take anywhere from six months to multiple years before the desired change is seen. The second most important piece to enabling change is determining who the leadership is and making sure they are on board. Whether this is providers or administration, it is vital that they understand what is trying to be accomplished and exemplify the desired outcome through their everyday actions. Lastly it is necessary to evaluate the staff. If it is one bad apple or a larger disconnect between the entire team, one must identify the root cause and be willing to address the issue.
Some tactics to consider or keep in mind as you begin to tackle a culture shift are awareness and communication. If you are having difficult or private conversations with someone, be sure that you are aware of your surroundings and in the appropriate environment to do so. Reprimanding or having sensitive discussions in the middle of the office not only makes for an uncomfortable situation, but also leaves the precedent that this is acceptable. By taking a more constructive and considerate approach you will instill trust and confidence amongst the team. Another key is communication. Associates must be able to express their concerns, thoughts, or beliefs with the rest of the group before they can feel understood and valuable. At the same time, instructing them on goals or expectations will allow them to ask questions and feel more comfortable striving towards excellence.

From toxic to terrific

Hertz said that one of his proudest moments throughout his career is hearing back from someone he had formerly coached. An office manager from a clinic he worked with reached out and asked a simple question. He wanted Hertz’s advice on constructing a survey to evaluate the atmosphere of the office and ensure everyone was feeling good. It was rewarding to know that this manager learned from the experience and was taking action to maintain a positive environment. We must remember that how people feel and are addressed plays a critical role in the success of the business and furthermore how we are able to care for our communities. With the right perspective, plan, and attitude you can create a positive culture for your medical practice.

Additional resources

If you're interested in learning more about culture and engagement for your practice, join us at MGMA19 | The Annual Conference Oct. 13-16 in New Orleans. Registration is now open.