Dear Hanna Mae
BY HANNA MAE GUMMENT (AKA SUE CONNELLY, FCLSA, AND URSULA LOTZKAT)
Well, well, I had no idea you readers were brimming with so many fascinating practice management questions! After my last column, you deluged us with cards and letters.
So, let's linger no longer and get to two of your hot questions.
Dear Hanna Mae, we recently changed the policy in our office and now patients must pay for their contact lenses when ordered. This isn't a problem with new patients, but some of our long-term patients are upset. I tell them that it's just the way it is and I can't do anything about it. But some have threatened to take their business elsewhere. What can I do? --All Shook Up
Dear Shook, it doesn't take a television talk show psychiatrist to know that most of these patients aren't reacting to the policy change as much as they are reacting to the policy change. Have patience with these patients! Every one reacts to change differently, and some will need time to process the information.
Explain to patients that a change in policy was necessary to provide them with the best service and care (it should seem obvious that you wouldn't make a change that would provide poorer service or care, but make this point anyway). Apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and assure patients that you understand. But if they aren't convinced, allow them to vent any frustration they may have (which is most likely not directed at you even though it's pointed in your direction), listen attentively and calmly help them through this transition.
But I'm concerned about your response, "That's just the way it is," so let me ask you a few questions. Your response to patients that you "can't do anything about it" makes me suspect that you aren't comfortable with the change yourself. Perhaps no one asked for your input regarding the new policy, and yet you must bear the brunt of patients' frustration. Remember, you're a member of a team and your positive support of this change is absolutely vital so you can be supportive of your patients. If you don't like the change, you'll send that subtle message to patients as well and they'll react accordingly.
When a big policy change happens in the office, you need to be comfortable with it so you can present it positively to patients. If you aren't sure why, how or when the decision was made or what went into it, get the answers before you get into a huff over it. The individual(s) who made the change may not even be aware that you're struggling with these issues. If you're positive, then a patient's reaction will more likely be positive. Once you're on board and fully support the change, your job will automatically become much easier.
Dear Hanna Mae, I work in a beautifully remodeled office with nice people, and we usually get along quite well. Recently I've started battling with a co-worker over where to put the plants in the reception area. I want them to get plenty of sun, but she keeps moving them because she insists that the chairs should go in that spot. Now everyone in the office is taking different sides, and it's creating a lot of tension. What should I do? --Help!
Dear Help! Buy silk plants. They require less sun and even I can manage to keep them green and perky. Don't lose sight of the forest for the foliage, and keep an eye on the bigger picture -- developing a great working relationship with your co-worker. Be grateful that this is all you and your office team disagree about, and eliminate the need to bicker over even this. The price of silk plants...$100. The price of a good working relationship... priceless.
*Please submit your human management questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being a positive thinker, Ms. Hanna Mae Gumment founded the Glasses Half Full Optimist Society in her hometown. While membership has been struggling, she remains optimistic and expects it will double to eight by some time next year. She shares office space with a group of retired eyecare professionals, the Half Glasses Optometrist Society.