5 Ways to Improve Efficiency in Your Weight Loss Practice
— By Karol Clark, MSN, RN
Ever feel like you are working really hard but not seeing the progress you desire? Do you worry that you are not making the best use of time or resources in your weight loss practice? It doesn’t have to be that way.
In a 2019 review of health care waste, the estimated cost in the U.S. health care system ranged from $760 billion to $935 billion, accounting for approximately 25 percent of total health care spending.1 Granted, this is across the entire U.S. health care system, but nearly every weight loss practice is likely experiencing a percentage of this waste.
You really can’t put a price tag on efficiency. Running an efficient weight loss practice benefits everyone involved and feels fantastic! On the other hand, inefficiency feel cumbersome, frustrating and negatively impacts your ability to provide quality services to the many patients that want and need your services the most.
So, what can you do? The following five actions will help your team and entire weight loss practice function much more efficiently. As a result, your days will be less chaotic (so you can focus on what is most important) and your desired business and patient outcomes predictably better.
1. Identify Bottlenecks & Course Correct
If your business is not progressing, there are assuredly one or more bottlenecks in your business that is slowing everything down. These bottlenecks are usually individual(s) or lack of effective system(s).
Commonly, if it is an individual, it is someone in a leadership role. In fact, while it may be difficult to acknowledge, it is often the business owner who established the practice or the administrator/manager. Both may feel they need to be in control and an integral part of every department throughout the organization. Yet, there are only so many hours in the day. Common characteristics are over-commitments, difficulty delegating, short-term thinking, ineffective boundaries/organizational habits and a need to be a part of every decision. For all team members, bottleneck inefficiencies commonly result from poor organizational skills, lack of job clarity, overwhelm and insufficient training.
All of these issues lead to a lack of predictable systems and outcomes in key areas such as team management, marketing, sales, finances, billing/collections, tracking/reporting and various aspects of care coordination. Identifying your bottlenecks requires honest evaluation and then a strong commitment to course correct.
Effective course correction tactics include:
- Validate the desired long-term vision for your weight loss practice and create an organizational chart to make it happen. Then compare it to your current organizational chart. This creates clarity for future positions/hires as appropriate and better role delineation for your current team that may be responsible for multiple positions (i.e. check-in, check-out, billing/collections).
- Clarify roles and responsibilities and discuss them with each team member. Have them document specific tasks for each role and how they should be performed. These become your standard operating procedures for continuity and training as well as a way to evaluate team member performance. This clarification can be such a relief for team members even if there is still overlap.
- Determine what systems listed above are working well, what systems are lacking and prioritize which one need to be addressed first. Determine the desired outcome for the system, person(s) responsible, resources needed, plan/timeline for implementation and measurement(s) for success. Delegate the outcome, monitor progress and once the effective system is in place, move to the next system that needs created/addressed.
Systems allow you to involve your team for a greater degree of system ownership and outcome measurement, leverage resources and scale your business faster than you may imagine.
2. Train, Trust and Challenge Your Team
As you know, your team is your greatest asset (and one of your highest expenses). So, it is critical that you are able to attract top talent, evaluate their skills, hire effectively, onboard properly, provide necessary training, uncover other talents they may have, share your vision and expectations, discover what motivates them and have open/effective communication throughout the process. Setting clear expectations and outcomes while allowing team members to participate in the systemization process helps build trust.
Great team members usually enjoy a challenge since it keeps them from being intellectually bored and helps them feel valued. They tend to come up with great ideas/solutions since they are closest to the situation at hand. Don’t be afraid to share an outcome you desire and allow them to create a system (with guidance and resources as needed) to accomplish the outcome. You will be amazed at how this method makes delegation easier for you and creates a positive experience for your team.
When it comes to organization, trust them to organize prioritized tasks their own way (i.e. checklists, sticky notes, online). Intervene only when their organizational system is not effectively getting the job done.
3. Simplify & Automate
Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy when you try to integrate too many new solutions (software or services) all at once or over time. This will drive you and your team crazy.
It helps to take a step back to determine if there is technology (or manual processes) that is preventing you from moving forward or is confusing to your patients. Perhaps the technology or manual processes are outdated, cumbersome or duplicating efforts. A great way to evaluate this is to seek feedback from your patients as well as your team. Also, experience what you offer firsthand. From your online presence to initial contact, EMR registration, patient reminders, new patient evaluation, patient education, bill pay, product purchases, prescription refills and use of your services and products. You may be amazed at the inefficiencies and frustrating processes you have in place that could be simplified and automated.
Patients appreciate efficiency since this shows you recognize that their time is as important and valuable to you as it is to them. Integrating technology doesn’t take away your personal touch. On the contrary, it simplifies quick communication with your team, provides automated education in various formats (written/video/audio) and ease of sales which are common expectation of patients. When such automation is in place, it frees you up to focus on patient care and personalized special touches such as hand written notes and engaging events.
4. Proactively Control Your Schedule
There is definitely an art to scheduling. While this will vary by practitioner and type of service, proactively controlling your schedule will help streamline your day and hinder inefficient practices. Some suggestions include:
- Know the typical length of various appointments and schedule according to this when possible.
- Create clear scheduling guidelines for your team to follow as they schedule appointments.
- Have someone responsible for proactively looking at your schedule a week prior so they can anticipate areas of concern and modify as necessary.
- Allow online scheduling as desired and send automated appointment reminders.
- Create an active waiting list so you can fill in open slots quickly and easily.
- Set clear expectations for patients and complete as much documentation as you can online/prior to their visit.
- Have a cancellation policy in place.
- Determine days practitioners will not be available in advance so you can block the schedule to prevent the need for excessive re-scheduling.
Take time away from your business so you can recharge your personal energy as well as your creativity. Recharging is a critical part of your self-care which helps to clear your mind and improve your effectiveness. Allow your team to do the same. Each of you need to take care of yourself so you can take better care of those you care about most at home as well as the patients you serve in your weight loss practice.
Efficiency is possible and following these steps will help make it a reality for you, your team and every aspect of your practice.