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Economic slowdown, new opportunities for change

Posted Feb 02 2009 11:47pm

Introduction by Tannus Quatre PT, MBA
 
I am pleased to welcome Bridget Morehouse PT, MBA to The Healthcare Entrepreneur.  Bridget is a consultant with Steffes & Associates, a rehabilitation consulting firm based in Wisconsin. Bridget holds a Master’s degree in physical therapy and a Master’s in business administration from Marquette University, and is the reimbursement specialist for both the Wisconsin and Florida physical therapy association chapters.  Bridget understands, and has a passion for the relationship between the “business brain” and the “clinical brain” in healthcare, which makes her a true healthcare entrepreneur.
 
Please enjoy Bridget’s commentary on the economic slowdown we are experiencing, and the opportunities that exist for change.

 

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Economic slowdown, new opportunities for change
by Bridget Morehouse PT, MBA

During a recent trip to New York City, the signs of the economic “slowdown” were everywhere - the word “SALE” plastered the store fronts, empty construction sites posted expired building permits, and headlines of “economic stimulus” appeared in the media.

Despite the perpetual signs of economic doom and gloom though, the customer service I received throughout my trip was phenomenal. The airline employee at the baggage check-in came out from behind the counter to help check my bag, the taxi cab drivers were exceptionally polite, and the retail sales clerks were at my heels to assist me with my potential purchases and lead me to the dressing room. Employees seemed desperately grateful for my business, as it symbolized their employment for another day.

The New York Times printed an article in the Sunday paper titled “ Working Hard to Look Busy,” describing how because of the economic downturn, employees are seeking out any type of work - whether valuable or invaluable - to appear to be busy and justify their employment. This was evident on my trip with sales clerks constantly folding sweaters, wait staff checking at my table three or four times during my meal, and hotel staff constantly Swiffering the floor. I don’t believe these acts would normally be done with such enthusiasm, but under the cloud of our current economic conditions - who could appear to be idle? Given the economic conditions, appearing busy, whether valuable or not to the business is a survival instinct. Employees are enthusiastic about staying busy and taking on tasks that previously may have been undesirable.

As we are rewriting the myth that “healthcare is recession-proof,” our management strategies must beg for change. Last year’s management strategies will not produce the same outcome this year. Lean management, while foreign to many, will appear innovative and smart. We will need to look at our employees (and ourselves), and ask “are we working to add value to our practices or are we just working to appear busy?” For many practices, change is definitely needed, and it may be that optimizing clinic workflow and operations may be met with less resistance if we understand that the alternative may be no work at all. And training ourselves and our staff in patient satisfaction initiatives may have new meaning as keeping our patients satisfied helps assure that our clinics reduce every possible threat that may exist.

A changing economy requires just that: change. If we are willing to change our behavior, many of us will find that new opportunities exist, despite what is happening in the economy.

A portfolio manager, 30, who works for a private equity firm in New Jersey, scatters papers on his desk. When he skips out for long lunches, he colludes with friends in other offices to call him — and deliberately leaves behind his cellphone, with the ringer’s volume set to high. (Like many workers interviewed for this article he requested that neither his name nor his company be mentioned, worried that his position would be at risk.)

A lawyer at the New York office of an international firm wanted to give the impression he was working late at night — but he was stymied by office lighting that would dim when he left the room. So he brought in an oscillating fan, which tricked the motion detectors into keeping the lights on long after he’d departed.

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