Dr Suvir Venkataraman, General Manager of Harley Street Fertility Clinic, believes that actions speak far louder than words when it comes to healthcare software systems and the patient experience. Hailing from an engineering background, he brings a whole host of life lessons from which new and seasoned practice managers alike can learn. Here’s the first of our two-part interview.
How did you start your career in healthcare? What encouraged your transition from engineer to practice manager?
My situation is probably quite unique. I used to be a lead researcher in a research group, and that work progressed to doing clinical trials and I was looking for a change. Coincidentally, my family decided that they wanted to set up a new clinic. My mother is a gynaecologist, so she pitched this idea to me and we decided to give it a go.
You surely brought with you a range of ideas about how healthcare software systems and even the overall management of clinics should be handled since you came from engineering to work in medical practice management. How has your practice benefitted from this mixed background?
It’s all about pros and cons, really. I don’t have a formal business background, but I do have an engineering one. It means that I tend to be a lot more analytical and quantitative about the processes that we implement, but my approach might not be the most traditional kind like you might find elsewhere. It allowed us to start with a fresh slate, but we also lack some of that business experience.
You are responsible for the day-to-day running of your practice, so your influence on the overall work culture must be significant. How do you promote great company culture within your clinic?
It’s always about respect and professionalism, as well as enjoyment.
I think that if you like the work that you do, and you treat your colleagues with respect, you can go about your activities without too much trouble. That’s all that you really need in a company. The main factors are that you train people well and support them, thus encouraging them to grow within their role.
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__Patient satisfaction is important, but you have to get the right staff for your patients in the first place. In your practice, how do you find new team members and integrate them into the team? How do you then measure the performance of admin and medical personnel? __
If you ask anyone who runs a business, whether it’s healthcare or anything else, staff are the key to your success or failure. This is what occupies the majority of people’s time.
As I came from a research background, I didn’t have a lot of experience in this. After all, when you look for a scientist, you look for a certain skill set and experience, and that’s quite straightforward. In contrast, I have found that looking for staff in a medical practice is not necessarily just about skill sets and experience. There are some specific requirements for each role, for example, a medical degree if you’re applying for a registered clinical position, but the most important thing is going to be personality.
It’s a question of whether they fit with your workplace and your team, and that’s essentially what we interview for. Even if they’re lacking some experience or skills, we can provide them with training and experience. That’s not a problem.
What we are really looking for is whether they bring the right energy and drive. Does their personality fit well with us?
We do psychometrics as part of the interview process as it gives us some extra information on each candidate that you cannot necessarily pick up during an interview.
We have an induction period where we assign new employees with a mentor and a buddy: a formal mentor who supervises their training and an informal buddy who’s not their manager.
Having good support during the induction means that their training will hopefully go well. Their manager will meet them after two weeks, then four weeks and then eight weeks to see how their induction and their competency is coming along. Once they’ve been signed off by their mentor and manager, the management team will meet with them generally after two months to see how they’re finding the work so far. We can see where things lie and then review it as needs be.
__It’s clear that the best medical practices share common philosophies and approaches to their patients and staff alike. What makes a great clinic stand out from a merely good one? __
I think actions speak louder than words. If you put your patients first and centre, and show that in your work, that’s what makes a great practice.
It’s things like noticing when someone has a slightly unusual situation and they need extra help. Can you accommodate that request?
It’s about going the extra mile. For example, if someone’s running late because they got held up on the train, which always happens these days, you make sure that when they do arrive, you see them even if it’s just past your closing time and not make them feel bad for something out of their control.
It’s small things that make all the difference to people. At the end of the day, I think it’s just treating patients like people. If you don’t lose sight of that, then you can’t go wrong.
To read more about healthcare software systems and Suvir's experience of them, click here:
The Power of Having the Right Information: Part 2 of Our Interview with Dr. Suvir Venkataraman
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