Welcome to 2016! As we kick off another year of informative blog content, the Chinese zodiac calendar also resets—and 2016 is the Year of the Monkey. Those born in monkey years—including yours truly—are said to possess such character traits as cleverness and curiosity. We monkeys are playful, and we thrive on challenge. The monkey is just one of 12 Chinese zodiac signs, though, and each sign has its own characteristics. (You want to research your sign now, don’t ya?)

Regardless of whether you believe in zodiacs, there’s something to be said about me being both a monkey and a right-on-the-cusp Capricorn—beyond my horoscope. My personality influences the decisions I make and the actions I take. Furthermore, my personality means there’s a right way—and not-so-right-way—to work with me, and the same concept holds true for everyone around me, too. By knowing who I am—and conversely, by knowing the personalities of my peers and staff—I can adjust my professional approach to create a better, more collaborative, and feedback-rich work environment for everyone.

Now, I’m not saying we should manage our staff based on astrology. But, I do think there’s a benefit to tailoring your managerial style to the unique personalities of your employees. Some folks are relationship people; others are task-oriented. Thus, some individuals might want you to ask about their life and well-being before doling out to-dos, while others want you to cut to the chase.

Management style aside, there’s one thing all employees crave, and that’s feedback. While there’s a slew of ways to give feedback, there’s one tool you absolutely must incorporate when providing it: data. After all, feedback rooted in fact—rather than subjective information—is more powerful, and that leads to a better end result.

Unfortunately, many business leaders—physical therapy practice owners and directors included—don’t measure or monitor performance metrics, which means employee reviews are often anecdotal and subjective (two words that shouldn’t be associated with rating a patient’s progress—let alone an employee’s). Few things breed employee disgruntlement like poor reviews that seem inconsistent, unfounded, and thus, unfair. Unhappy employees aren’t just a drain on morale; they also sap your bottom line. In fact, a Gallup study found that lost productivity resulting from employee disengagement costs the US more than $300 billion a year, and another Gallup study found that employees’ feelings about an organization can actually predict future business sales and profits.

So, how do you measure your team’s performance? What data should you be collecting? HR software Namely recommends that employers measure quality, efficiency, continuing education progress, and completion of individual goals. While that advice is pretty broad, we can make it applicable to private practice PT.

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Reviewing Performance in PT

Quality

For PTs, quality of work is directly linked to patient outcomes. Are patients getting better, faster? The only way you’ll know for sure is if you’re collecting and tracking outcomes data. (That’s why I’m so excited about WebPT’s Outcomes product, which launches this year.) In addition to measuring patient outcomes, you also can rate quality by measuring patient satisfaction. That means tracking things like:

Efficiency

PT is all about efficiency. The more patients you can see in a day—while maintaining the same level of care quality—the better. Consider measuring the following productivity metrics:

  • Total number of new patients per therapist
  • Average visits per patient case, per therapist
  • Average new patients per therapist, per week or month
  • Net revenue per visit versus cost per visit

Oh, and be sure to use WebPT’s productivity report to view the number of patients each therapist has seen as well as the types of documents those therapists have completed.

Continuing Education

Every state practice act requires the completion of continuing education units to maintain licensure. Obviously, because therapists must do this in order to legally continue treating patients, your therapists ultimately should take ownership of staying on top of their educational efforts. Still, I’m a firm believer in investing in your staff by subsidizing some of the costs associated with obtaining CEUs. Plus, if you can steer your staff toward units that benefit your clinic, then it’s a win-win. For example, let’s say that, in reviewing your performance outcomes data, you see that one of your therapists is falling behind in utilization for patients with shoulder diagnoses. This therapist also has an interest in shoulder care. Thus, in his or her case, completing a shoulder continuing education course benefits your business and the therapist.

Continuous, consistent monitoring of certain CEU-related objective outcomes indicators allows you to not only measure ROI, but also build confidence among your clinicians. For starters, make sure you’re holding staff therapists accountable by tracking the number of hours completed. Furthermore, ensure the knowledge gained over the course of those hours benefits all of your clinical staff members. A great way to do that is to require an inservice upon a therapist’s return from each CEU course. Then, take it a step further by making note of those therapists who go beyond the minimum requirements and actually apply what they’ve learned—by coming to the table with suggestions for alternative referral or revenue sources, for example.

As for non-clinical staff, set continuing education goals for them, too; then, watch your objective metrics and hold those staff members accountable just as you would any other employee.

Individual Goals

Every employee needs goals. Maybe you have a therapist who wants to obtain a specialist certification or a front office employee who wants to create a handbook. That’s great! Make sure you document these goals, schedule regular status meetings, and factor the completion of/progress toward the goals into employee performance reviews.

Taking Action

Once you have an idea of what to measure, it’s time to actually do it. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Determine which metrics you’ll measure. Remember, you need to identify the specific metrics you want to track for each role within your practice, from biller and front office rep to therapy assistant and provider.
  2. Establish a mechanism for measuring and tracking the data. It’s crucial that this mechanism allows for consistent data collection—in terms of both the people you’re measuring and the frequency at which you measure.
  3. Examine the data you collect and pinpoint trends and changes. Then, discuss this information with employees to make sure everyone understands the reasons behind patterns and changes. If necessary, use the results of those conversations to develop improvement plans.
  4. Create performance reviews and rating systems that account for what you measure, and include collected data in the review documentation.

With the new year upon us, everyone from financial analysts to pop culture pundits are making their 2016 predictions. Last month, I shared my own predictions for PT. At the top of my list: the rising importance of data collection. Objective data is crucial to proving the value of PT, and the same is true for PT private practice employees. Chances are, your employees are eager to show you what they’re worth, so make sure you arm them with the tools and processes necessary to do just that. Measure and monitor performance, and use that data—not subjective anecdotes—to influence the reviews you provide. Because regardless of astrological sign, animal, house, element, or any other celestial fortune-telling method, we can all agree that performance reviews should be vastly more reliable, accurate, and trustworthy than the daily horoscope. Let’s stop monkeying around on performance reviews, and make 2016 the year of metrics.

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