July 09, 2013
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BLOG: Merging a new associate into your practice: Part 2

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Read more blog posts from Corinne Z. Wohl, MHSA, COE

The best on-site orientation starts with an empty patient appointment schedule. This is not only smart but also humane for the new doctor wanting to make excellent first impressions with each patient and the practice staff.

Assign a doctor as a primary mentor for the first 6 months. As the new associate initially follows a couple of doctors during clinic hours, expectations about patient flow, customer service, staff support and billing practices will be developed.

Another great way to start the process is to have each department manager spend an hour explaining what is accomplished in each department and by whom. This is an excellent opportunity for managers to review the primary ways they can be supportive. It’s also a good time to explain what they will reasonably expect from the new associate.

Additionally, the associate should review the practice operations manual, which every practice large enough to take on a second or subsequent associate should have on the shelf.

Most important is a pocket-size organizational chart of sorts with names and contact information for the new doctor to keep on hand. This facilitates a quick answer to the expected multitude of questions and reduces some new associate stress. It also takes a burden off your clinic manager and administrator, who will otherwise end up with all the questions, distracting them in potentially time-consuming ways.

New associates also need knowledge about:

1. EHR, e-prescribing, PQRS and meaningful use protocols in your specific practice.

2. Billing, coding and collection practice culture.

3. Patient and testing services flow.

4. Important referral sources and suggestions on how to develop their own in your environment.

Finally, a proper social welcome is important.

Including the whole family is another great way to make sure your new associate feels wanted. That’s the main reason s/he joined your group and not your competitor’s. S/he probably had several good offers and chose yours because you made him/her feel most appreciated and had the best promise of a bright future.

In the office setting, assure that the new doctor has a couple of strong go-to colleagues or managers that s/he can contact. Feeling welcome, especially in the physician community, will ease the natural stress of a new position and quicken his/her integration into the practice.

Be aware not to fall into that old trap of “I learned the hard way on my own and so can the new associate.” In today’s fast-paced environment, patient expectations are higher, documentation requirements are very demanding, and younger-generation staff (and patients) are less forgiving.

And there is a lot of recruitment competition for well-trained doctors, so it’s easier for them to find another opportunity if this one doesn’t work out.

Taking the time to properly orient and support your new associate will be time well spent, for both the short and long term.