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Does your practice really need written procedures?

If you want your employees to be consistent in their handling of customer interactions and office policies, then written procedures are necessary for your practice. Tasks that are complex, involve multiple steps, or deal with compliance should be carefully docu­mented.

If you want your employees to be consistent in their handling of customer interactions and office policies, then written procedures are necessary for your practice.

You don’t need a procedure for basic office protocol, but tasks that are complex, involve multiple steps, or deal with compliance should be carefully docu­mented. Make sure your employees are properly trained on these written procedures, too.

Getting started

If tasks or procedures are in writing, they can serve as a catalyst for perfor­mance-improvement conversations and, if necessary, disciplinary action. Some of the tasks you might consider for written procedures are compli­ance regulations, protected health information, claim filing, billing and collections, documentation, state and federal regulations and safety concerns (e.g., hazmat, fire and disaster response, and workplace injuries).

It might also be necessary to write a new procedure if you notice an unacceptable trend in the office, such as clients left unattended at the front desk while employees are chatting or taking personal phone calls. Well-written procedures can help your office run efficiently, keep your clients happy and give your staff confidence in their work.

Keep it simple

Effective written procedures clearly explain how to perform a task. They may be in the form of a step-by-step walkthrough, and include tables, diagrams, or pictures to enhance the explanations. You might need videos with visual aids to help demonstrate complex procedures.

Whatever method you choose for your documented procedures, keep them succinct and to the point. As not all people learn the same way, keeping procedures simple and including some visual supplements will help you reach your employees at their own level and encourage them to stay focused.

Organizing your ideas

Before you start, think through the process. A mind map can help you create a visual snapshot of the task before you start listing its compo­nents. A mind map serves as an outline, and it helps you organize your thoughts and lead them in the right direction. You can create your mind map on a piece of paper or place words and ideas on index cards or sticky notes. If you do make your mind map on sticky notes, it is easy to rearrange the steps and add in new ideas.

You can work with others in the office who are skilled at this task, and enlist their help with building the mind map. Once you are satisfied that your map is accurate, transfer the steps to your procedure docu­ment. If any of the steps would be easier to understand with a visual aid, consider adding a diagram, picture, or flowchart to boost the reader’s understanding.

English 101

As you write the procedure, follow the basic rules of writing:

  • Keep language simple and direct.
  • Use active verbs and terms.
  • Be consistent with verb tense.

If you use an acronym, or an in-house term, be sure to explain the term in the text. Before publishing your procedure, give it a dry-run with an employee who has never performed the task. After the employee has completed it, ask for their feedback. Look to identify missed steps, places that were unclear or lacked enough detail.

Once you are confident that the procedure is performing the way you intended, introduce it to the rest of your employees. Include a discussion about your expectations for adhering to the new procedure, and then make it a regular part of your training program.

 

Kathy Mills Chang is a Certified Medical Compliance Specialist (MCS-P). Certified Chiropractic Professional Coder (CCPC), and Certified Clinical Chiropractic Assistant (CCCA). Since 1983, she has been providing chiropractors with reimbursement and compliance training, advice, and tools to improve the financial performance of their practices. Kathy leads a team of 30 at KMC University, and is known as one of our profession’s foremost experts on Medicare, documentation and CA development. She or any of her team members can be reached at 855-832-6562 or info@KMCUniversity.com.

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