Economic blues?

Like most organizations in today's economic climate, health care practices are wrestling with more issues than ever before. To address the challenges of our economy, many practices must change and remain nimble.

Change management

Changes can range from employee lay-offs to a restructure of workflow. In times of change, communication is critical. Here are some key points from practice managers:

• Be honest and consistent in your communication. Deliver the same message at the same time to all employees. Travel to each location for meetings so face-to-face conversations can take place. If travel is not possible, hold web conferences.

• Be sensitive to employee concerns. Explain the motive for change. Consider having an impartial facilitator lead your meetings. Acknowledge the pros and cons of change and allow for Q&A time.

• Be inclusive about problem solving. Get employees involved in the decision-making about how to improve efficiency. Involve resisters to turn them into believers. Conduct anonymous employee surveys to get honest feedback.

Employee rewards & recognition

Salaries and bonuses suffer in an economy like this. Consider ways to keep employees productive and morale high without breaking the bank:

• Be a good manager. Get to know the names of the people who work for you and address them by name. Practice "management by walking around" and spend 25 percent of your time on it.

Roll up your sleeves and help out when it is busy. Trade places with an employee for a time. Remember that a simple "thank you" by the owners or senior management goes a long way.

• Have a little fun and help employees feel a sense of teamwork. Allow a denim jeans day. Have potlucks. Hold raffles for gift cards. Bring in a coffee cart once a month and offer free coffee drinks. Start a newsletter and profile employees.

• Encourage outlets for stress. Allow your employees time to volunteer for their favorite charity. Bring in a masseuse to provide chair massages for any interested employee. Start a worksite exercise class such as yoga or aerobics.

Financial oversight

Many health care organizations haven't yet felt the effects of the economic crisis, but they will. Now is the time to prepare for a downturn so you can manage through it. Examine your practice's work flow, and streamline where necessary.

Closely manage your accounts receivable. Be diligent about collecting insurance information and copays up front.

Ensure your accounts receivable collection team is strong. Start alerting the doctors that their distributions could be affected so they can manage their expectations accordingly. And talk to your banker early if you begin to see some financial erosion.


Glenda Michael is vice president and relationship manager for First Independent, leading the bank's health care services group. She is a member of the Health Care Financial Managers Association and can be reached at or 360-619-4477.