Our job as leaders is to provide a foundation upon which our employees can be successful. Sitting down with Nathan Shields for this interview, Dee Bills, PT shares how we can create that foundation, as well as the benefits of doing it. It takes some time, but clinics can see a significant increase in profits by taking the extra time our teams need to train them to be successful. Now, who doesn’t want to learn how to put a spike on their numbers and help their team members at the same time? In this episode, you will also learn how to make your front office the strongest part of your team. Join in and get some of the best employee training tips from the Front Office Guru herself!
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The One Thing Employees Need In Order To Succeed With Dee Bills, PT
I’ve got a returning guest, Dee Bills of Front Office Guru out of Virginia, who is joining me. Dee, Thanks for coming on.
Nathan, thanks so much for having me.
It’s great to have you back. It might have been a couple of years ago since I had you last time. I know that you’ve done a lot of great things with Front Office Guru. You work with some of my coaching clients. They love your programs and what you’re doing for their front office personnel. I wanted to bring you back to bring us up to speed on some of the things you’ve learned, as you’ve been working with a lot of PT clients across the country, but also to focus specifically on training and the importance of training.
Where I came from, and this is where you came from and started with the idea of Front Office Guru, you simply hire somebody that comes at the best rate, the cheapest rate, especially for the front office, maybe tech personnel, PTAs, and whatnot. You let them shadow somebody for a couple of hours and send them on their way. Maybe they have something to follow or whatever. We share that experience and you can share a little bit about what made you decide to do Front Office Guru, but what made you decide to focus on and why did you decide to focus on training on your team?
That’s what led me to do Front Office Guru. Mike and I were sitting in a financial course, this is a huge story for me. I had started working with him in the practice. I’m sitting this financial course and the gentleman’s talking about finding all the areas where you’re bleeding money. I was like, “Front office.” I kept going, and I was like, “Clinical and billing.” What I noticed was that our staff weren’t trained to be cohesive. You have team members like front office staff that we hired from other places that had the experience. You had clinical staff members that had anywhere from 6, 12, 13 years of experience so it’s like, “I hired you. You should know what to do.”
The problem was everybody had their own know of what to do and no one had consistency. I look back and I choke. I had Eeyore working at my front desk all those years ago. She didn’t know how to handle patients, convert them, handle their cancellations, or collect money from them. Part of it was our fault. We hadn’t trained her up. She didn’t know how to handle some of those crazy experiences we all go through.
We take it for granted. The ideal candidate back in the day would be someone who’d had some front of the experience, even if it wasn’t physical therapy related because we think that they can come in and they know what to do. Someone else had the experience. Maybe someone trained them in the past and they have the vocabulary down. They know the difference between a copay and deductible so we can lean on their experience to be sure to do things the right way and forfeit our responsibilities to train them on the way we want them to do things. That’s when we also recognize that we need to shore up our training processes to do the things we want them to do. It’s not fair to them for us to expect them to do the things we want them to do without doing some training. That’s not fair.
It’s interesting that you say that. It was a realization I had. We had this team and we grew fast. Back in 2012, when we were expanding, we got some training ourselves and we exploded in size. We brought all these bodies into the clinic and I’m sure that’s your experience in the past. You bring all these bodies in, and everybody has their own message, idea and own way. They were almost getting in each other’s way. There were no processes. Nobody was following along. You had one person doing it one way and another person doing it another way. You have mixed messages with patients and that created more upsets, problems, and confusion as a whole in our practice.
We recognize the same thing, the importance of training. That’s why I’m excited to talk to you and talk a little bit about the nuts and bolts. Everyone’s going to train a little bit differently. I shared even a couple of years ago how Blaine Stimac in Montana trains. He’s got it dialed in. They do training out to six months. Even a year later, they’re following up on stuff and their daily, initially and weekly, and monthly and quarterly. He’s got it dialed down and that speaks to his growth. He started off with those clinics and now is at twenty plus clinics. For you guys, it was you, Mike, and probably a couple of other therapists and now you’re up to what twenty-something providers.
We started out, and we were talking about that. It was Mike and a PTA, a PRN PT for when we went out of town, which was rare, and an exercise specialist. She was an aid/front desk/billing/some marketing. We laughed and now Mike’s not in the clinic much at all anymore. We pretty much handed over the reins. Staff wise, we’re probably in the twenties now, overall staff between Michael and the front. We’re over five times our original visits, patients and staff.Training your employees is the key to their success. Otherwise they'd be left to do guesswork and end up doing things their way, not yours. (tweaked this from client’s original entry to fit word count) Click To Tweet
Congratulations. I should say your husband is Mike Bills, who’s been a guest a couple of times on the podcast as well. He’s the President of Measurable Solutions. When we refer to Mike, you can also listen to his episodes and some of the successful things that he’s doing in the clinic on marketing, and also pulling himself out of treating full time. Those were insightful and resourceful podcasts and I recommend people go back and listen to those as well with Mike Bills. Dee, as we’re talking about training, we talked about the Why. Who do you focus on with your training?
First of all, everybody in our clinic is trained. Nobody enters our clinic or enters any patient interaction without some form of training. Even providers get trained in sales and we make sure that they’re fully trained and have it in our entire clinic. Lots of equipment, people interchanging and staff working together. It’s not only about the front office. We made sure that there’s training from front to back on every position. We train them on what everybody else does so the clinicians have a good idea of what the front office does. The front office has a good idea of what a PT, PTA, or athletic trainer does. Everybody has to know what billing goes through and everybody has a role in marketing so they all have to work well with Tara and be able to market. We train new hires and team members repeatedly.
We would take our new hires no matter what they were doing or what position they had, we had a full 1 or 2 days of training. We would focus on our purpose, our values, and general employee procedures before they even hit the floor. The providers wouldn’t necessarily learn how to run the front desk, but they would know some of the important aspects in regards to it and how that interacted with their position. What are some of the things that you guys do with your training whether that’s daily, weekly, annually? What are some of the things you do?
First of all, new hires spend several days off the floor working with our management and understanding values but also the basics. How do we run our clinic? What do we expect of them? We teach them stats so they understand their metrics in the clinic, and they understand their role to the main product. It’s getting everybody to have a general understanding so there’s an appreciation. I want my PTs and PTAs to have an appreciation for how hard my front desk works to keep that schedule running and rolling. We don’t call them front desk or representatives. We call them patient care coordinators because, in the front office, their job is to coordinate the care so the PT or PTA can provide the care.
There’s a lot of understanding of the background of how the clinic runs and how everything rolls out. It’s a lot like Blaine. Our training doesn’t end after a couple of days. Most front office team members take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to fully train up. Most clinicians are on the floor within a week. When we are ramping up their schedule, we’re working with them on time management, schedule management, and patient management.
For some, it’s working cohesively with team members. That’s real to you and I. As PTs, there were times in our careers that we worked solo and there were times that we had to manage our time and our patients between a PTA, an athletic trainer, or some other team members. It is comprehensive. I don’t need to tell a PT how to treat, but I want to make sure a PT is giving the same message as, say, another PT so we don’t confuse our patients or end up with two different ideals that don’t mesh with the clinic.
How do you track all that stuff? You’ve got these new hires coming in, the providers, and some of the people who are through their first few days of training. How do you keep track of everything?
Part of management’s job is to make sure that everybody runs through a checklist. When I work with front office team members, I work with a couple of your clients, one of the big things is about having a checklist and following the path that a patient takes. We don’t have somebody stand over somebody else and watch. We make sure we drill down things like a risk visit policy or how you handle that initial phone call so the same message is clear whether you’re one day in or ten years in. It’s making sure that we follow a path for our employees. There are checklists that they have. They don’t only get, “I reviewed it with him. I drilled it with them.” They understand the concepts and the Why behind it before we sign off and say, “You can now move forward to the next level.”
Our training in the front office has roughly four levels. We don’t put you in on everything. Initially, you come in, you come on board, and you are trained with the new patient. You don’t do anything other than new patients for the first so many weeks. Once you move up, now you can move to level two. You can handle schedules and scheduling out plan of cares, managing more visits, and cancellations. We move you up to benefits, billing and etc. We’re making sure they have experience versus assuming that they have experience.
I love that you have a graded approach to it because most clinics, and me included, would focus on trying to teach you as much as possible on that first day so you can be off and running on the second day. I love that you focus on drilling down. It’s also cool that you’re using a checklist to make sure someone’s doing competently. I have plenty of owners that I know, clients, and whatnot that have trained their team members on, “This is how we say things. This is how we do it.” Two or three months down the line, if they did a secret shopper exercise, they might call in. The wording and everything that was trained on and passed off on isn’t coming across like it was when they were initially trained and how it’s supposed to be done. It’s important on that checklist to make sure not only that they’re getting trained on it, but they’re replicating exactly what needs to be said in the tone that it should be in.
That’s a big thing in practices. Even ones that I’ve worked with, owners will come back to me months later, and they’ll be like, “I’m having this problem and I can’t figure out why.” I can take my course, I can run back through it and I start asking questions, pulling strings, finding the Why and I’m sitting there and I’m like, “What do you say when it’s this?” They’ll go off on some tangent and I’m like, “What do you say?” They give me something and the owner goes, “That’s not what you taught them.” We laugh about it, all of us together and they go, “It’s like a diet or an exercise program. You get started. You’ve got this great plan. You’re working with the trainer and you’re doing all this stuff.” Something falls out. One little thing, maybe you stopped running five miles and now you’re running down two because you’re busy. Three months later, you’re like, “I’m not where I thought it was going to be. I’m not losing any weight or in shape.” It’s about something falling out and finding that something.
My team is trained exactly on the same process as I do with private practices and part of the whole goal of this is that not only the owners and managers learn with their team, but they learn, “This is what I’m looking for.” Everything comes back to your metrics or your stats. If I’m tracking stats, the stats tell me what’s out. I can tell you that if the arrival rate is low, your missed visit policy and how we explain it and the policy itself is not in place. If we’re not converting as many leads as we’re supposed to, they’re not following the processes. It’s easy if you track the metrics to take somebody back and go, “That’s where that problem is,” versus trying to guess and assume that it’s because we’re not doing this or this is not happening.
I love that you brought that up and you brought it in coordination with statistics because I had that exact conversation with a client. He’d spent 1 or 2 weeks with his front desk, telling them, “What processes are we simply tolerating that aren’t optimal that we’re doing because that’s how we’ve always done them? How can we change them?” He started the conversation with his front desk there. They spent the week going through their procedures, protocols, and how we say things.
He said that he had several years of backlog of overhearing conversations while he’s treating patients and how the front desk didn’t handle them correctly from years ago and now, he’s finally gotten the time to address them. They’re having all these conversations, but we talked a little bit about his numbers, because they were going down. The realization came to us as we were talking, but he was the only one that knew the statistics, number one, and felt responsible for them that the rest of the team didn’t know them, as well as he did.
That’s where the statistics come into play and bring everything full circle. If the statistics are going down, that tells us, “Let’s go back to policy. Did we follow it or is something out?” If we did follow policy and we got those poor numbers, that means our policies are inefficient and poor. We need to change something. Either the numbers are going up and we strengthen our policies and keep doing those or if the numbers are going down, do we revisit the policies to see what’s falling out or what needs to be changed. It’s rather simple. That’s how the policies and the statistics are so well married and it brings everything full circle because it gets simple at that point. If you want to break it down, you look at the numbers, and that tells you exactly where to look if we did follow policy or not.
That brings a good point to it. You asked earlier, what do we train our staff on. If your staff isn’t trained on their own metrics or their own statistics, and they don’t know what ties into what, as an owner or manager, you spent all of your time being the problem solver and you shouldn’t be. That was one of our most successful actions, and Mike would totally back me up on that, in our clinic, every single team member has statistics or metrics that they track and they are responsible for.
Part of their training is not like, “Here’s your metric or your statistic,” but it’s, “Here’s what affects that.” If you look at physical therapists, the big one that physical therapists think that they’re supposed to track is their number of visits per week. That’s great but as a PT, I also should know my visits kept per week or my percent prescribed because that tells me that I’m doing a good job of selling those patients on why they need to be here three times a week versus showing up one time.
The other one is reactivations. If I’m not looking at reactivations or even successful completions, as a PT, am I hitting the mark of why I’m supposed to be there? It’s the same with the front desk. If they don’t know their own metrics, statistics and know what affects them, then you’re constantly having to stop what you’re doing and go in and go, “Nathan, this needs to be improved. You need to fix this.” That’s a waste of time as a manager or owner. Your staff needs to own it. That’s a big thing for me as a part of everything.
Are they tracking their metrics? Do they fix it? If my arrival rate in our clinic drops below 95%, our front office staff starts freaking out. They’re drilling, looking at policy, listening to each other, and correcting each other versus where I started back in 2012. Eeyore would be like, “I’m so sorry that you can’t make it today. I hope you have a great day.” I’d be standing behind her going, “No. Get that patient rescheduled. Get them rescheduled today.”
I like my team to text me and go, “We’ve set that target. We hit it.” I’m like, “Great,” or they say to me, “I’m struggling now with this stat.” I’d say, “What can you do about it?” I don’t have to say, “Go do this.” I say, “Nathan, what can you do about it?” You’re like, “I can do this.” I go, “Great. What else can you do about it?” You’re like, “I can do this.” I go, “Great. Anything else?” You’re like, “And this.” I’m like, “What are you going to do?” You’re like, “I’m going to go do this, this and this.” I go, “Tell me how it goes.”Training is not about giving somebody something to do. It is about giving them the success that makes them happy. Click To Tweet
An hour later, I come back and they’re like, “I scheduled five patients. I talked to three evals that had canceled a month ago, and got them in.” Training is not about giving somebody something to do. Training is about making my staff abler and giving them that success because that’s what makes people happy. Success isn’t for me, success is for them. That’s where I get into the training and I love it so much. They come back and they go, “I did this today.”
It’s one thing to give them the statistic that we’re going to measure them by and here’s some policies and procedures and whatnot. How powerful is that to say, “When the numbers start going down, here are some things you can do to improve it?” As owners, if we can’t look at our statistics and say, “Inherently, a lot of us know what to do, but it stays within us as what needs to be done.”
When we see our numbers drop precipitously off a cliff, we immediately start saying, “Where’s my active patient log? Who dropped off that shouldn’t have dropped off? What were my new patient numbers?” We start running down all the possibilities and all the things that we need to look into. How powerful would that be if the team members followed their own statistics and once they saw those numbers go down, they had a little framework that you already figured out? It’s all part of the policy procedures and that could be a policy unto itself.
When the crap hits the fan, this is what we do. We pull that policy out and you start following it item by item and they don’t have to come back to you when the numbers are falling. If you say, “If the numbers tanked.” They can say, “This is what I’m doing about it.” You say, “Good. Let me know how it goes.” There’s so much power in that so we take it for granted that training is simply like, “Here, follow this policy from this book that’s dusty and old. When you’re done, we’ll put that dusty old book back up on the shelf and not live it.” We’re losing the opportunity to help them live the policy and procedures based on the ongoing statistical measurements.
What you said is exactly right. For me, and this is for all of us as PTs, if I put my PT hat on, I didn’t get into PT to make millions of dollars. I got into PT because, at the time of my life, I wanted to help people. I didn’t get into ownership to only help patients. I get into ownership with Mike to help people. Being able to flow power to another person or helping somebody to be successful and be powerful in their own position, regardless of what position it is. That is what we should be all about. Training isn’t about dusting off a book. Training is about helping that person however long they’re in your practice to be successful so they feel it. I love to see somebody else’s success. That’s my success. It’s not all the other stuff.
When you do your training, maybe you spend those first few days with them on some general employee stuff and some things specific to their job to get them on the floor and producing. Are you then following up with them 1 or 2 weeks later or monthly? What’s your general framework of timing?
All staff have 90 days to be up to speed. One of the policies that we put in several years ago was, I don’t move you forward if you’re not successful with what I taught you. Let’s say it’s how to answer the phone. I train you, you watch my training, read some stuff, you drill with Marie, I put you on the floor and I have you answering the phone. If Marie’s behind you and she’s listening to you, and you are not using the scripting or you’re not skilled at doing what she spent all this time teaching you, we don’t move you forward to answering the phone and scheduling an appointment. Everything you do with your staff builds on one or the other.
A big part of what we’ve learned, especially after I stepped out of the practice a few years ago and handed the reins over to others, if you move somebody on without ensuring that they’re successful, all you’re doing is breeding more lack of success or unsuccess if you want to call it that. First of all, in order for them to win and want to stay, they have to have successive agreements or wins on their posts. Also, if you rush them too far too fast, which all of us have been guilty of doing stuff, you never see that they are capable of something before you move them forward. You could be creating more problems for yourself and your patients.
In regards to timelines, probably the first four weeks, if you aren’t progressing, you’re not going to make it past four weeks. You work with Ben Larsen, you’ve known him for years. He’s such a great guy. I love him and I love it when he talks at conferences and things. One of the things he always says, and this as well, “You hire slowly and you fire fast.” I believe that there’s a missing component in that. You hire slowly, you train crazy. If they don’t learn, you fire fast.
There is a component in there of it’s easy to fire somebody if they don’t know what they’re doing. I feel it’s that same thing they talk about with Millennials. Lots of speakers talk about Millennials and how they weren’t given that capability because of the helicopter parents and the teachers that were like, “Let’s reward you just to reward you.” It’s the same with your staff. If you want them to be successful, you have to train them and you have to have processes in place so they can follow them easily and you’re not nagging, harassing or beating them up.
You alluded to Ben Larsen. He let go of somebody within the first month at the front desk because they weren’t coming on fast enough. I was proud of him. He’s made some gains in that regard, because he would have kept them on and second-guessing himself, “Maybe they’ll do well,” and out of fear that they might leave. He’s now like, “This person isn’t not cutting it. We’ve got to let them go.” I was like, “Good job, Ben, finally.” Training takes time. It’s not altogether productive time and you don’t get dollars in exchange for training. How do you make time for that? How do you set aside an appropriate amount of time? How do you judge that?
My husband, Mike was always talking about this and we were laughing about it. He says, “Let’s say you have two PTs and you pay them roughly $50 an hour each to be in your clinic,” I like using numbers. If I took two PTs off the floor and trained them for say an hour, and I drilled home a sales process with them for an hour selling that plan of care. In theory, in my mind, I’m focused on losing $100. It’s like, “I lost that $100.” Maybe I lost more than that because that visit per PT is $100.
I’ve lost what I paid them plus what I could have been producing. I’m doing the math and I’m like, “I might be at $300,” but the reality is, if you think of the average plan of care, you train your PTs on sales, and you can sell a 14 or 12-visit plan of care at $100 per visit, I might have lost $300 for that hour, but times two PTs, I gained $2,500 when I take out the $300 I might have had to pay in losses at that one time. You have to look at the cost-benefit analysis in this. For every hour you spend training, both the front office and clinical staff, you are reaping the gains because if your front office staff can convert one new patient. There are $1,200 for whatever you pay them per hour that you pulled them off the floor. Your PTs are the same way.
For me, it’s about the long term value. Play the long game in your practice. Our staff trains every week in staff meetings and they do a daily drill and huddle. Let’s say we had more than our accepted cancellations. They will drill certain scripts so now that doesn’t happen or they’ll talk about a certain process. It’s like, “I noticed walking into today that there were seven empty spots on the schedule. What should we be doing to fill those?”
The training isn’t what you should do. The training is asking you what you should do so it’s a peer to peer or it’s one person in the front office or one clinical person. Them being able to think it through is the training. Once you’ve trained them, it’s asking questions that give them the ability to be successful without you having to tell them what to do because telling somebody what to do, doesn’t get results the same way.
You do something daily in that regard, as far as a little bit of training. Mike blew my mind back when I did the podcasts because they do weekly training on how to get referrals from patients and whatnot. Your numbers bear it out. Your physician referral rate is somewhere around 12% of all your new patients or something crazy that I’ve never heard of before. You guys do a ton of great work, but it all comes back to the role-playing and the training that you do on a regular basis. I harp on that statistic all the time. The percentage of the average outpatient clinic has 15% of their patients go through their full plan of care, leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue.
If you could train your 1, 2, 3 PTs on how to capture those patients and sell them the benefits of staying through their full plan of care, you might have lost a few hundred dollars, maybe even a few thousand dollars, but to capture hundreds of thousands of dollars on the back end, through the course of the entire year would be worth it. That’s the benefit gained, not to mention the cascade effects of patients completing their full plans of care, which is patients get better results, you get better promotion in the community, they refer family and friends. They also refer you and your clinic to their physicians that they see. There are benefits that can be multiplied on top of that.
The time spent in training pays off in the long run on the provider side and the front desk side in terms of capturing the full arrival rates. I love that you guys do it together in your daily huddles because it shows that it’s not the front desk’s responsibility for a good arrival rate. The entire team should be focused on arrival rates coming through their full plans of care, getting patients and new patients to buy into the full plan of care.
It’s not a provider or a front desk responsibility. Everyone should be using some of the same words and have some consistency in the message so that gets brought through to the patient that they can buy into where they say, “The front desk said that, but you said that too. The technicians are telling me the same thing too. You guys believe that, don’t you?” That helps with that consistency in the message and it shows up in the numbers.
It’s interesting that you say that. That’s a big part of all of my programs with the front office. It’s the consistency of the message. The biggest problem that we suffer from patients is the problems that we create ourselves. I’m working with a patient and you’re working with a patient. I handle a cancellation one way and you handle a cancellation another way. Who’s going to hold that against both of us? That patient. If we both handled that patient and all patients the same way, regardless of whether it’s scheduling, missed visits, new patients, or whatever, what happens is we create a message.Hire slowly. Train crazy. If they don't learn, fire fast. Click To Tweet
We’re known for keeping our word and how well we educate people. It makes the experience for our patients much better across the board. If our clinicians back up our front desk when they handle them a certain way like, “Today’s the day I got to charge you a fee because this second time you’ve canceled and this is where we’re at.” The patient goes to the back and they’re grumbling. One of two things can happen. Your PT can go, “I’ll go up front and see if they’ll waive that fee for you,” which does happen in clinics. I’ve heard that or the PT goes, “Here’s the thing, it’s important to me that I have patients to treat. If you’re not going to make it, I want you to give up that spot 1 or 2 days in advance whatever the clinic’s policy is so I have enough time. They have enough time to get me somebody else that I can work with because that’s why I’m here.” It’s one or the other. One message drives home how much we care and the other message drives some confusion and now we suffer.
It’s huge that you have that consistency of the message and that’s something that’s vital in the training. I know you provide that with Front Office Guru and those are some scripts and exercises that help along with the training. It helps when you can codify everything and get it out of the owners’ head and onto the sheet and roleplay it, use it and try it. A lot of these conversations we take for granted that people will be able to handle them because they’re adults, which is wrong and it usually gets handled wrongly. It’s important to say, “This is how we do things and now, let’s roleplay it and see it.” Make sure it feels comfortable for you to get the words down and get it right. I used to hate role-playing, but now I love it because it makes me make mistakes until I get comfortable with, “This is how I say that.” I love it when I do that.
It’s funny that you said that you hate role-playing. I have quite a few clients, their staff, when they start working with me and they work with me one-on-one, they hate drilling with me. I always say, “If you can drill with me and you can do it well and go through the flubs, muffs, mess-ups and all of that.” When you deal with a patient, first of all, the patient has no idea what you’re supposed to say. If you mess up, fix it and keep going. Number two, if you can do it with me, think about the wins that you’re going to have. That’s a big part of it.
It’s funny because my program has evolved. I now have an online program that owners can purchase and it’s all video-based. One of the things I’ve learned with training, especially at your front desk is it’s not about training, “Here’s a script.” You and I talked about that the last time we talked. I can hand you a script. I can hand Sally, Bill, and Jen a script. Jen might be like, “I love a script. Give me a script.” She eats it up and she goes with it. The other three employees need to know the why. A big part of what I do is not only about providing a script, it’s helping them to understand the why with what they’re doing because most front office team members fell into this job.
They didn’t go, “I want to go be a patient care coordinator.” Unless you’ve sold it well on Facebook, the internet, and showing people how you can train them up. Most of them fell into that job and without good training, they don’t have the same chance to be successful or they don’t appreciate what they’re doing. They think I’m a medical receptionist or I’m here to answer the phones. The reality is, that’s not what PT practice or any medical practicing is so we need a patient care coordinator.
I work with some veterinary practices here and there and they call them care coordinators. It’s the same thing with client care coordinators. If you don’t have somebody who’s job is to coordinate care, you’ve got somebody answering the phone, somebody’s treating, and you lose all this stuff in the middle, it’s a missing piece. I won’t hire somebody to answer my phone. I hire them to be a patient care coordinator and I train them to do that. Part of my training is the why. You have to understand why you’re using that script. It’s not because I said so. It’s because this is the benefit to you and how it helps the patient. Everybody’s on the same page.
Is there anything else in regards to training that maybe we didn’t hit on that you want to add to before we start wrapping things up?
One more thing, it’s important to set aside the time to train. We showed you the financial side of it. There’s so much value and it can’t be like “We train every quarter.” I always use this with my team members. Think of an athlete. How many times a week does a professional athlete practice their craft? Daily, seven times a week, at least if not twice daily. If we are not drilling a script when we see a stat slightly drop or we’re not working with our team members and staff meetings every week or setting aside 30 minutes to an hour every week, we’re not going to have that consistency.
Our staff is no different than a professional athlete. We want them to be hitting that net, the ball every time, or making that shot. If we don’t provide that for them and we’re like, “We’ll get to it,” or study on your own, we’re not going to be successful the way we want to. I always say if somebody wants to see my stats over several years, I will happily show them 95% to 96% arrivals went up when I left the clinic even higher. They’re so proud of telling that and I laughed when you were talking about successful completions. I have to say this because Marie and Sarah, we’re so proud to tell me that 96% of our discharges were successful completions. It was the highest ever for them.
Everything you do every single day or week reflects in your stats. If you want to be a high stat clinic, remember that the better your stats, the better the profits. That correlation is one to one perfect. Remember training is key. Training for everybody over and over. My front office team does my training, at least twice a year. They start it and they go all the way through and they start again. They don’t ever stop because good, keeps it in the forefront of their mind.
That’s the toughest part. Maybe a large part of my audience is like, “Where do I find the time? I’m treating full-time. I’ve got to run the business at night or on the weekends or something like that.” That’s where I have to go back to maybe listen to a podcast with Mike where we talked about controlling your schedule. Set aside the time. Set parameters for yourself. Don’t be subject to your schedule. Be in control and take control of your schedule and say, “No. For these two hours, me and my front desk, or me and my providers are going to improve our capabilities as physical therapists.” I don’t want to say salesman, but you have to sell a plan of care.
You have to get alignment and agreement because they’re purchasing your services. How do we, for the next week, talk about what our current arrival rate for the past few weeks is and how can we improve it? What should we be saying? Let’s roleplay that. Set aside 1 or 2 hours that’s necessary initially and from there, you can start expanding out. People say, “What should I train on?” You say, “What are some of the basic things people need to know about being an employer in your company? What do they need to know specific to their position, the stats behind it, and their purpose related to it?” For people who aren’t doing it, they recognize that you don’t start with a full-blown training program as Dee has unless you buy it from Dee and she has things. You and Blaine didn’t start with these training programs. You started with an hour here and an hour there and your schedule and you discussed hard topics that needed to be addressed, I’m assuming.
When I first started in the clinic, and I was taking over the admin side of things, I would purposefully work behind my front desk doing something useless, but doing something, and I would listen. If they flubbed a script or struggled with a patient, I never stepped in while they were with that patient, but as soon as they were done, I was right there. I would give myself maybe 30 minutes to an hour a day at different times a day and I would go sit. I always tell owners to do this. Go sit and listen. Listen to what they’re saying. Listen to how they’re saying it.
Take a second and go, “Nathan, let’s talk that through. How did that go?” You’re like, “That was the worst conversation ever.” I laugh with you. We joke about it and I say, “Good. What did you see that happened?” They give you some data and now they’re more open to you correcting them than if I come up front and I go, “Nathan, that didn’t go so well.” You’ve got to ask questions and let the employee say, “This didn’t go so well.” I’m like, “Let’s talk about that. What didn’t go well?” You guide them back again.
The other thing is, and this is important for everybody. I joke and say I’m in Chapter 10. This is our year of pushing hard and expanding. We’re to a point where we can step away for a month and I’m not in the clinic at all anymore. I only work with my team once a year because Mike wants me too, but he’s a month away and we have a team. A couple of years ago, we didn’t have a team. We had us. First of all, find fifteen minutes where you can invest in it and do one little thing because it doesn’t have to be an hour of drilling.
Do you know what’s funny, Nathan? You said, “I didn’t like to drill it first,” and I was like, “I totally understand that.” Nobody does, unless they were an actress on stage drilling scripts for a play or something, most people aren’t naturally inclined to go, “Bring it. Let’s act this out.” You have to lean your stuff into that too, so fifteen minutes here or ten minutes there, it doesn’t have to be an hour straight of drilling. We don’t even spend a full hour with one employee drilling. I’ve done that in clinics before. I sat in front of somebody for two hours and we drilled away. By the time we were done, we’re both exhausted, and it was successful. Most people don’t want to do that, fifteen minutes. It’s more fun, and you can walk away and apply it and you go forward.
I love the examples that you’ve given us and a ton of stuff about training. If people wanted more information or ask questions either about this episode or about Front Office Guru and what you provide for front desk personnel, how do they get in touch with you?
It’s easier if they go to the website and go to www.FrontOfficeGuru.com. There’s plenty of information about my one-on-ne coaching and about my new online program that rolls out in November 2020. Also, you can set up a time to talk. I have plenty of owners. There’s a link at the top and again at the bottom, where you can set up a time to have a discovery call. We can talk about where you are at? What are you finding? I have great training that helps so you don’t have to recreate the wheel but at the same time, some owners need somebody to help them pull it some strings and they’re like, “I can go back and look at that.” Years later or a year later, they come back and they go, “I need training.” I say, “Great now we’re ready.” It depends on what they need. There’s plenty of ways to reach me and check out what I do and go from there.
I’ve had clients that have used your stuff in the past, and they’ve been happy with it. They feel much more confident about what they can provide their front desk that they couldn’t provide prior to using your programs. Thanks for sharing it with them, but thanks also for being on. I appreciate it.
Thank you. I appreciated it, Nathan. I’m excited. I’m glad we did this again.
We’ll keep in touch. Have a great day.
Thanks, you too.
- Dee Bills – Previous Episode
- Front Office Guru
- Blaine Stimac
- Measurable Solutions
About Dee Bills
I started my career as a physical therapist and spent over 20 years working in patient care. In 2004, my husband Mike achieved his career-long dream of owning an outpatient PT practice. In 2011, we recognized that with the impending changes in healthcare, we wouldn’t survive without making changes and improving our practice efficiency and expanding our reach. We began working with a business consultant and I took over the front end of our practice.
While at a financial course, the speaker talked about building a well-run machine and to look for any inefficiencies that were holding us back. I immediately realized that our front office was bleeding visits, and this was affecting expansion and revenue.
So, I took over management of the front office. Over the next year, I worked at our front desk as a Patient Care Coordinator and learned what it took to properly manage patients. I developed reproducible front office training and systems to increase efficiency, organization, and patient control. During that time, our patient arrivals rose to an average of 95%!
In 2016 I realized I missed helping others, so I founded Front Office GURU to help other practices have similar success to ours and recognized my true purpose. I now offer front office training programs to practices across the US and Canada.
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