The single biggest restriction on the performance of any private medical practice is:
Sound surprising? It shouldn’t be.
There are only 24 hours in a day. Even Stephen Hawking (one of my heroes) can’t alter that.
If there are only 24 hours a day, the hours have to used in the most efficient manner possible.
The interesting thing when I first look at ANY medical practice is therefore what is being done during those 24 hours. In reality, of course, most staff within a practice are only there between 7 1/2 and 8 hours daily.
Normally comments suggesting there are not enough hours in the day are common. This is usually followed by “lots of really, really urgent problems to sort”.
Have you ever stopped and considered what causes problems to become “urgent”?
Most of the time, they are deemed urgent because the cause was never considered or thought through originally.
Or maybe the original task was not fully completed?
Take the example of a hospital group I was working with last year. During a single month, 85% of its invoices failed electronic submission. This led directly to the requirement for a medical secretary to look at them “urgently” and get them sorted. 85% is a HUGE number.
MHM failure on electronic submission of invoices is 0.75%
When the failures were examined, there were instances where the policy number had been recorded as ‘To be advised” or a patient’s postcode marked as “to follow”
An attempt to invoice without both items is almost certain to lead to invoicing difficulties.
So why was the hospital group failing to fully complete tasks so often compared with MHM?
Quite simply because MHM continually stresses the importance to its clients of making sure absolutely all data required to raise an invoice is obtained right at the start.
Even when MHM receives the data, its checked before an attempt to raise an invoice is even made.
In other words, concentrating on what is IMPORTANT reduces the number of times an issue becomes URGENT.
This does not generate more hours in the day.
It does, however, mean the hours that are available are used as efficiently as possible. But how do you use the hours effectively?
Personally, I use the good old Pomodoro time management technique.
Laugh if you want but it works for me. Today, for example, I have an avalanche of work to do. In between I’ll have the normal influx of emails to respond to, calls to make, clients invoices to raise, remittances to receive plus client’s reports to send out. It WILL all get done. How?
I arrived in the office at 8 am. I looked at the list of tasks on my ICAL prepared the evening before and started Pomodoro.
Put very simply I have a timer on my IPAD that counts down from 45 minutes.
Then I start on my first task with total concentration. After 45 minutes I stop, check emails and go make a coffee. After 15 minutes I start again.
Another 45-minute slot. If I finish one task, I immediately start concentrating on the next. After 45 minutes, I stop once again and check my emails.
After the second 15 minutes, I start again. Never will you find me checking emails during a 45-minute slot because that would break my concentration.
It helps of course that I do not have the email alert switched on.
This continues until ALL the tasks are done.
At 5 pm I stop whatever it is I’m doing and check all the tasks completed during the day, think about anything that needs to be revisited on the next day and add them to my ICAL.
Pomodoro, therefore, breaks the day up, keeps me focused and forces me to work in highly concentrated 45-minute chunks.
It means I have to stop staring at an iMac screen for hours at a time and getting a headache too.
It also means the tasks that are IMPORTANT receive the level of attention they deserve.
As a result, I rarely find myself facing anything that is URGENT.
By the way, Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. The technique was devised by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s and based on a tomato-shaped timer. Hence the name!