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Want to Become More Innovative? Take a Look at Company Culture

Thursday, August 9, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Ortho NorthEast (ONE) had a problem. 


Front desk staff were making repeated errors during patient check-in and check-out. Providers couldn’t understand why.  closer look revealed a glaring workflow issue. 

Although front desk staff were being tasked with increasingly more responsibility during patient check-in and check-out, the information needed to complete those tasks was housed in multiple places –including everything from a scheduling module to a handwritten sticky note.  


This all too common problem for many organizations was causing frustration among front desk staff and providers alike at ONE 


“Fortunately for us, we have staff that were very engaged and eager to fix the problem,” explains Tom Pawlik, ATC/L, MS, CIE at Ortho NorthEast, speaking to the culture of innovation fostered at ONE. 


The underlying culture of innovation supported a thorough response to their workflow issue, leading to the creation of their Express Check-in and Check-out system. As a company, ONE was recognized as the 2018 Innovation Award recipient, part of the annual AAOE Awards of Excellence program.  


When reflecting on the 2018 Innovation Award, Pawlik gives credit to ONE’s company culture. “We were very honored to receive the Innovation Award. But the culture around here is one of the main reasons why we have the ability to innovate.” 


Now they are sharing their lessons learned - not only for developing a solution to their check-in and check-out challenges, but also for creating the type of culture that made this type of innovation possible. 


A Streamlined Solution 


The first step was finding the root of the problem. What mistakes were staff making and what information was needed to avoid those errors? The challenge quickly became clear: staff were searching various sources for the information needed during check-in and check-out. They needed a single place to find all the required information. 


“The idea is that there’s one landing page, and it’s all in one place,” Pawlik explains. 


This single landing page idea led to the development of ONE’s Express Check-in and Check-out. ONE’s IT Department created a completely customized solution that streamlined the process. Very simply, when checking in patients, staff click the button labelled  “Check In.” That connects them to a webpage with all the information and steps needed for check-in.  


When patients are checked outstaff click the button labelled “Check Out,” connecting to a webpage with everything for check-out. For instance, if a patient owes a bill, the system helps them create simple payment plan. Or if a physician has requested a follow-up appointment with a patient, that will also appear. 


The new Express Check-In and Check-Out has been a major hit with staff, physicians, and patients.  


“Staff enjoy using the forms and physicians are seeing fewer mistakes,” Pawlik says. “There has been a reduction in the time a patient is standing at check-in or check-out because our staff is able to get through the information faster than they were before.” 


The process has become so efficient that it has resulted in a reduction of FTEs. 


Another measure of success? A change in attitude.  


“The overall attitude at the front desk is so much better because they take more pride in their work,” Pawlik shares 


And patients take notice. “Patients see staff’s competency in what they’re doing.” 


Creating a Culture of Innovation


As the story of ONE’s Check-in and Check-out demonstrates, practices that foster an innovative culture can respond much more nimbly when challenges arise. But it isn’t just talking about innovation when your practice is facing an issue. It requires a constant commitment from all levels of the practice, not just management. 


Pawlik explains that this attitude is key if you want to avoid resistance to change from staff and doctors. 


An example is ONE’s idea program. Staff are invited to submit suggestions for improvements to current workflows or processes throughout the year. If their idea is implemented, their picture and a writeup of their idea will be posted on the practice’s internal homepage for all staff to see. 


Pawlik stresses that all ideas are given careful consideration – even those that can’t be used immediately. “A previous director would always say to us, ‘No means not yet.’ Just because you’re given the answer ‘no’ right now doesn’t mean it’s completely off the table. We just have to figure out a different way to do it.” 


This invites staff of all experience levels and roles to take a critical look at the processes they’re using and spot areas for improvement – meaning problems can be identified more quickly and resolved more efficiently. And it gives staff more ownership over their work. 


Ideation from all staff levels is so central to ONE that it’s a critical component of annual evaluations. Staff are evaluated on “three pillars of success: work ethic, technical ability, and citizenship.” Citizenship, weighted at 50% of the total evaluation, is the most important. ONE defines citizenship as a person’s ability to work with coworkers in a civil, sharing, teamwork manner.” 


Citizenship is a vital component of ONE’s culture of innovation. The culture of citizenship allows us to innovate and think outside the box and solve problems because everyone is willing to contribute, Pawlik explains. 


It’s important to note that innovation doesn’t have an end date, even when a solution has been implemented. You should constantly be on the lookout for enhancements and improvements. 


In fact, Pawlik shares that staff are already working on a 2.0 version of Express Check-in and Check-out to continue improving the processes. 

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