Does Your Practice Management Toolbox Have This Essential Tool?

One day a staffer asked if me I could buy envelopes that have windows on them to send our, we seemed to have missed your payment letter. You know the kind that display the address from inside the envelop.

“What’s wrong with the ones we have?” I asked. “Nothing. It’s just that there are a lot of them and handwriting the addresses on the envelopes we have is time-consuming.”

“Why do we have so many delinquent letters going out?” I digged. “We have more people who haven’t paid their balances,” she replied. I followed up, “Why is that?” “I guess we haven’t been collecting all the copayment and past due balance when patients check in.”

“OK,” I said, “but why haven’t we been collecting…” “It has been hard to keep up… we’ve been really busy and we are short-staffed in the front desk” she answered.

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As it turned out, the envelopes with the windows wasn’t a great solution – merely a band-aid at best – because it wasn’t addressing the underlying problem.

The Power of Why

It wasn’t until the employee mentioned the staffing issue that I realized what had happened. I was a reminder of how powerful asking why was.

Had I said yes to buying the envelopes they wanted without first understanding the issue behind the problem, I would have not un-covered the source of the problem; which was a staffing issue.

I was also reminded that success in resolving an issue doesn’t always depend on the solution itself, but instead lies with our ability to frame the problem correctly.

And for me, asking a why line of questioning ( I’ve heard people say that asking why 7-times is the sweet spot), is a practical  and efficient way to frame problems correctly.

Give it a try

Next time you encounter a problem in your office, whether it is as simple as my envelope story or something potentially more complex, such as a drop in the number of newborns for example, begin by asking why before offering solutions.

Then, ask why again, and again, and again to each response.

With each why, you’ll take a step closer to find the core problem. And once you have a clear understanding of the problem, you will be on the right path to find the best solution and not merely a band-aid.


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