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How to best support your staff during the busy holiday season

Automated key patient interactions such as appointment reminders can save your staff hours of time.

Doctor and support staff

The holidays can be a stressful time at a healthcare practice. An abundance of sick patients — as well as those looking to have a few aesthetic procedures before they head home to see relatives — combined with coworkers taking vacation days can take a toll on practice staff.

Often the first people your patients see when they visit your practice, your staff has a direct impact on patient satisfaction and retention. Plus, the holidays mark the perfect time to show your staff appreciation for their hard work. Read on for a few tips to ensure your staff is well supported during the hectic holiday season.

5 ways to support your staff during the holidays

1. Communicate with patients well in advance before the holidays

During the holidays, a lot of things are in flux. People have more days off over the holidays or are working different schedules, and businesses operate at different hours.

If there will be changes to your practice because of the holidays, communicate those with patients well before the holiday season. This can help minimize any confusion with appointment bookings and minimize the number of phone calls your staff has to answer during the holidays. According to PatientPop, almost one-third of practices (32.6 percent) spend more than 10 hours a week returning patient phone calls and emails, so this can be a significant time-saver.

Consider the following during the holidays:

  • Will you have special holiday hours?
  • Are you offering any promotions over the holidays?
  • Will there be changes in process due to changes in staffing because of the holidays?

Online directories including Google My Business offer the ability to input special hours for major holidays, so making sure those are updated can save your staff from answering questions about availability over and over again. Also, make sure you update your website with any changes in schedule and services for the holidays. Cover your bases by communicating any changes during the holidays with current and new patients via email and your social media accounts as well.

2. Equip your office with online scheduling

Between spending more time with their families, buying holiday gifts, and traveling, patients may be busier than usual during the holiday season. Offering online scheduling can provide patients with full transparency into your schedule during the holidays alongside the convenience of being able to book outside of business hours.

This can also mean fewer phone calls and emails for your staff during business hours, which can be a significant help, especially if you’re shorter on staff than usual over the holidays. PatientPop research revealed that 33.8 percent of practices report spending more than 10 hours a week scheduling and confirming patient appointments. Online scheduling can reduce some of your staff’s workload and free their time so they can place a greater focus on the patient experience.

The Practice Growth Podcast: What patients want, online scheduling edition

3. Automate frequent patient interactions

Interactions like appointment confirmations, appointment reminders, and requests for patient feedback are important functions in any healthcare practice, especially during the holidays. Patients often forget their appointments and may be more prone to doing so during the holidays. According to a report by Accenture, 70 percent of patients are more likely to choose providers who send reminders via text or email when it’s time for follow-up or preventive care. Considering patients generally prefer to receive reminders digitally, it’s not the best use of your staff’s time.

Similarly, automating patient satisfaction surveys following a patient visit can provide your practice with valuable insight without adding to your staff’s manual tasks.

Read more: 5 office automation tools that will boost healthcare staff productivity

4. Encourage buy-in from your staff

In addition to communicating with your patients, communicate clearly with your staff. Prepare for any changes in process or schedule to reduce the risk of staff stress, family stress, and burnout. Even if you’re not making any major changes for the holidays, prepare for some frequently asked questions from patients or a rush of appointments from those making the most of their time off.

Preparing with your staff ahead of time allows them to provide feedback and inspires buy-in and teamwork.

Read more: How to boost patient satisfaction by empowering your staff

5. Keep morale in the office high

Despite the potential for additional stress, the holidays are an exciting time. Inspire office cheer by hosting a potluck, adding some winter decor to your waiting room, or participating in an office gift exchange. 

Acknowledge your staff for their daily contributions to the success of your practice. For example, Dr. Phil Boucher, a pediatrician and private practice consultant, suggests giving staff time off for their holiday shopping. “Many physicians have never considered giving their staff a paid half-day for Christmas shopping, but this can have a huge impact,” Dr. Boucher says. “Imagine shopping on a weekday and getting paid for it!”

Looking for innovative ways to engage patients during the holidays? Listen to “Holiday patient marketing ideas for doctors,” an episode of The Practice Growth Podcast.

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