A shift in communication

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Jul 01, 2007


Dr. Phil Farber
Q: How can we overcome communication problems when shifts change? Our team members in the front and in the back of the hospital seem to have trouble keeping up with each other when the morning shift changes to the afternoon shift.

"It sounds like you need a defined system in place and more commitment to conscientious communication among team members," says Dr. Phil Farber, an executive coach with Fortune Practice Management in Glenwood, Calif. Dr. Farber says that loose, inaccurate communication can put the client experience at risk and, worse, jeopardize the health and welfare of pets. Here are four steps you can take to help ensure smooth communication in your practice:

1. Create a chart that illustrates the communication challenges your practice faces. For an example of this chart, visit vetecon.com and click on Web Exclusives.

2. Make sure team members want to communicate effectively and that their motivation comes from a strong, positive culture in your practice—not an easy task.

3. Commit to walking through the system with the team. Hold a workshop with team leaders and use the flow chart to make sure everyone understands what good communication looks like.

4. Designate someone on your team to be accountable when things don't go as planned. This person will regularly check the system and fix it when needed.

Once you've been through this process with your team, Dr. Farber says, you'll start to experience strong, effective communication from front to back and shift to shift.

Dr. Farber also suggests adding a communications and records specialist to your team. This person is stationed away from the front desk and triages all incoming communication and scheduling. His or her primary responsibility is to ensure that high-quality communication occurs with each client call. This strategy builds accountability, without which client communication can break down. (For more on hiring a client communication expert, read this article .)