With the promise of improved clinical and administrative functions, medical offices everywhere have a lot to look forward to when ICD-10 is implemented in October 2015.

However, doctors and their staff will have to deal with an inevitable period of transition, a time which will likely involve elevated stress and tension. What, then, is the solution to properly addressing these issues? Communication. According to Hospitals & Health Networks, most doctors say communication is vital to their success with patients. It seems only logical that the same reasoning would apply to interactions with staff.

Learning how to effectively communicate could help medical professionals achieve a smoother ICD-10 implementation and contribute to a more prosperous future overall. 

Be open and approachable
Writing to the Clinical Advisory Board, one office staff member said she dreaded speaking with physicians in general. Perhaps the most obvious way around this is for physicians to makes themselves appear more open and welcoming, especially during stressful periods. On the one hand, that means carrying yourself in a certain way. In his book "Body Language," author James Borg recommended several ways to demonstrate an air of openness:

  • Continuous eye contact.
  • Hands out, with palms exposed.
  • Shoulders level with bottom of your chin.
  • Legs loose, with a slight bend in the knee.

However, inviting behavior might also might have a more literal translation. It's important that staff understand you are available to has out any issues whenever possible. That could mean having an open-door policy for several hours each day or scheduling time to discuss issues or concerns – transition-related or otherwise. These conversations might add to your busy schedule, but they also serve as a barometer for the entire practice.

Rely on your office manager
Office managers are often referred to as gatekeepers, SK&A Information Sevice noted. Physicians rely on office managers not only to engage with sales reps, but also to act as a buffer between the physician and the remaining staff. That doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, despite what some might believe.

In order to engage and communicate effectively with staff, having this so-called gatekeeper can help a physician stay organized and maintain a certain schedule. While office hours designated for communication can be helpful, the office manager can help "screen" complaints, discerning what the physician must handle. Additionally, the office manager is a resource for better understanding administrative assistants and front-office staffhe manager works more directly with them, and thus has a better idea of their overall strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to the ICD-10 transitional period, the gatekeeper can help adjust workloads accordingly.

Enforce cohesiveness
In recent years, the American Academy of Family Physicians has conducted research into the dynamics of primary care offices. The AAFP found that most offices operate as "dual organizations," or where there is a clear distinction between physicians and staff. This separation has a rather noticeable effect on general productivity.

"While elements of the dual organization may be useful," the AAFP wrote, "separation and isolation within the suborganizations inhibit communication and severely limit collaborative teamwork."

To overcome these issues, the AAFP suggested the following: 

  • Reduce physical space: This allows staff and physicians to communicate more effectively. While you may not be able to give the office a complete overhaul, you could encourage working in closer quarters. 
  • Encourage staff initiative: Whether it's suggesting new policies or helping with supply orders, letting people feel more included in an organization is a great motivational tool. This, in turn, will make them more willing to communicate and maintain their newly empowered roles. 
  • Make more personal connections: Memos are great, but they lack that personal touch. When discussing sensitive or private issues with individual staff members, try to schedule one-on-one meetings.

The AAFP stressed that while staff should be more united, physicians shouldn't be afraid to exert their roles as de facto leaders.