Reflections of a new practice at 30 days

Michael Weizman, MDToday marks the 30th day that Our Family Doctor opened its doors as a new practice.  It’s truly remarkable to reflect on how far we’ve come as a practice in this first month.  For those who missed those early days, here is a brief recap.

The physicians and staff at OFD spent the first week and a half “in training” so that we could be ready for opening day on September 7th.  During those early days in addition to cleaning up the building, we got to know each other really well, we learned all about Meaningful Use (MU), Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), and what it would mean to be a part of the Our Family Doctor family.  We learned how to use our new Electronic Health Record (EHR) computer system, and were still acquiring new computer hardware on what seemed to be a daily basis.

Opening day came on September 7th.  Despite having “light” patient schedules those first three days, our collective excitement was quickly transformed into a form of controlled chaos.  Literally having to work through new work flows on the fly (due to moving from a paper based practice to a fully computerized one), created a few “hiccups” – to say the least.  What was most remarkable to the physicians and staff at OFD however, was just how resilient we all were during those first few tough days.  We improvised, we worked together, and above all we kept smiling.  The OFD mantra became: “hang in there, it’s gonna get a lot easier as we move along”.  And guess what?  It has.

Now a few weeks into the practice, we can sit back and reflect on a few lessons that we have learned during this transition.  We will now share our top seven lessons with you on our website blog – in no particular order.

  1. When starting a new medical practice, you simply must assemble the right team of physicians who not only share a vision for how to practice medicine, but who really like each other and want to support each other through tough transitions.
  2. The idea of staff teamwork and maintaining a positive attitude cannot be overemphasized with this type of endeavor. We are so grateful for the level of professionalism and “can do” attitude that our OFD staff has put forward.
  3. It really helps to have incredible patients who understand what we are trying to do with this new practice.  We now know why you are called “patients” as you have certainly demonstrated a saintly level of “patience” with our team as we muddled through those early days and weeks.  Thank you for that.
  4. When starting a new practice like OFD, changes must be made in real time in order to “fix” problems as they arise.  We are not ashamed to admit that our phone system while technologically advanced did not perform well at first.  It became very clear during those first few days that our phone system (and our staff for that matter), were simply over-whelmed by the volume of phone calls coming in.  Because the phone system had a few intrinsic programming flaws, it did not perform well.  Calls were lost, messages were not left, callers got lost in the phone queue, and patients became very frustrated.  We are now on the fourth version of our phone message and are happy to say that we are finally getting the phones to work in the way that we had envisioned.  The feedback from patients on this subject has been instrumental in guiding our tweaks.  Again, thank you for your patience and help with this.
  5. We have learned that the promise of reduced staff numbers when using an EHR system is a myth.  There is so much “new work” with regards to scanning and back loading of records when converting from paper-based records to electronic, that we were simply under-staffed those first couple of weeks.  Our well managed team was able to quickly adapt and add two new staff members who have helped us to catch up.  We will continue to monitor the workflow closely, adding members to our team as needed so that we can ensure that the practice is always adequately staffed.
  6. Humility is paramount!  Each OFD staff member and physician continues to share ideas and new ‘tricks’ with each other as we attempt to master our new EHR system as quickly as possible.  We are all teachers and learners at this point, though six months from now, we hope to all be masters (or darned near close to it anyway).
  7. When things seem really stressful during the work day, there are three techniques that have helped our team get through the day.  We have taken lots of deep breaths, have kept on smiling, and have indulged in a little piece of chocolate every couple of hours.

Thanks so much for joining us on this great adventure.  As we look to the future, we at Our Family Doctor remain grateful to our patients for their trust, and we look forward to providing our patients with the best possible primary care available – always delivered with a smile.

Michael Weizman, MD