25. Is a remote workforce the answer to your staffing woes?
With Christine Sison
Finding, recruiting, and retaining talented staff is one of the hottest topics in the healthcare industry right now (and seemingly everywhere else for that matter).
With labor posing one of the biggest challenges most practice owners face today, we're exploring an unconventional new solution that’s gaining popularity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic: remote staffing for dental practices.
Meet our guest
Our guest, Christine Sison, is CEO at Swiss Monkey, an operations and staffing organization that provides virtual front desk and recruitment services for dental practices. Prior to that, she spent more than 10 years building and managing a dental practice, and she is the former executive director of a public-private healthcare collaborative, where she led the development of telemedicine efforts.
In this episode
- How practice owners can use remote staffing services to fill key needs, make on-site staff happier and more productive, and improve margins
- Which positions are ideally suited for remote staffing and which are best left on-site
- Why remote staffing has become so popular among both practice owners and employees
- What practice owners can expect to pay for remote staff
- What key lessons she has learned in her career that help her serve her clients' needs
Before launching Swiss Monkey, Christine spent more than 10 years building and managing a dental practice. Prior to her work in dentistry, she conducted brain tumor research at the University of California, San Francisco, assisted in the integration of health information technology into clinics and hospitals, and also served as the executive director at a public-private healthcare collaborative where she led the development of community-wide systems including telemedicine efforts. Christine, welcome to our show. We're so happy to have you today.
And so I think a lot of our managers, our doctors are struggling to figure out, "Hey, how do we now deal with a new generation that have very different expectations with work, how much they want to work, where they want to work? And so, I think at Swiss Monkey we've been able to marry saying, "Hey, you can have both", but we do need to adjust how we think about staffing, and that book of goods that you were sold in terms of how to run a practice 10 years ago, it's different. And it's not bad. It's just that you can't bury your head in the sand and say, "Hey, we're going to run it the way it was", because it's just different. People want it different, they want some more flexibility, they want some more autonomy. And if you can embrace that and be open to it, you can really tap into an entire market of people that are ready to come back to work.
So the majority of our doctors tend to use us for front desk services that are more two to six hours worth of work. So not necessarily full-time. Obviously we want full-time, but the reality is like you might not need a full-time team member to answer the phones the entire time. You might just need it for your heavy days, or maybe you need someone to do hygiene care just for five hours a day, three days a month. So we are really, I think kind of helping our doctors like-size their staffing, and then that way you're not overpaying. I call it the Goldilocks approach. Just right now, if you only need 20 hours a week, use that. You can use a fractional offsite team member. It's hard to do that with an onsite full-time team member. And now you have kind of excess fat if you will, staffing wise, and you've got to figure out how to utilize that. So we're trying to kind of marry like, "Hey, what do you actually need done? And can we actually use a fractional team member remotely to actually execute that task?"
And so, one of the things that we've been doing over the last five years is collecting the best practices. How do we create transparency? How do you create real time communication? We huddle with our offsite team members just like you huddle with your on-site team members. So we really try to take some of the things that we've learned to do this well, and we give our doctors that same kind of blueprint and their managers because there is a way that you need to do this, otherwise it's going to feel transactional. That's not bad. But most of my managers feel like they want something that feels like, "Hey, when you talk to my patient, I want them to know you're here for a long time, that Joe is a patient and his daughter just graduated." So we try to make sure that there's some training involved there. There's a handoff and we're trying to memorialize a lot of that information of the practice offsite so that there's some redundancy.
So, we do provide them best practices, we help them set up their workstation, how to work remotely, how to set up a schedule, and how to create, I think, the communication with their onsite team because it can feel very lonely being in your living room or your little office by yourself. So maintaining and building a culture over a distributed team is hard. So it does need to be done deliberately, but it's super important. So that's something that we work with both the doctors and the onsite team members so that they can make sure they don't lose that, and they can maintain that even though they're not in the same space.
And that's where conversations with us is going to be helpful. Because a lot of my docs, "It sounds really good, but what I actually, what can I do? What should I do?" And every office is very different. But I would say we need to have an idea of what we want to do, what kind of skill set we need. And I would say start small. Some of my doctors are very excited, "I don't trust my team. Let's get rid of all of them." It's not a good idea, because it is very disruptive.
But I would say this, if you can commit yourself to the model, you create some redundancy. And what's really nice is if worst case scenario, someone doesn't show up, we can remote it and we can run that office. That is a big deal for a private practice doctor and office manager, because we see a lot of my doctors, sometimes their pencil's down too early, they sell out and they're basically transitioning out. They retire too early, the managers leave, they just feel like they're tired. This is like a game of attrition. It's okay to have staffing issues the first five years of your practice, 10 or 15 years into this-
Thank you for joining us for this episode of The Path to Owning It. If you're ready to take your practice ownership dreams into your own hands, be sure to visit getprovide.com to pre-qualify and browse our practice marketplace, or check out our news page for more helpful resources. The Path to Owning It is brought to you by the team of Provide with production assistance from Sarah Parky and Slide Nine Agency. And it's produced by Podcamp Media, branded podcast production for businesses. Podcamp media.com. Producer Dusty Weis, Editor Will Henry. For Provide, I'm Corey Brown, thanks for being on the journey with us.
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