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Cover Stories | May 2019

Help Your Culture Permeate Your Practice

Smooth staff-physician interactions have an effect on patients’ perception of the practice.

Some practice leaders may think a positive culture means pizza on Friday afternoons and cupcakes on birthdays. Yes, these gestures contribute to creating a positive office culture, but they do not translate into specific values in the examination room or at the check-in desk.

When constructed correctly, a positive company culture can permeate the whole practice—including the bottom line. It starts with taking a proactive approach to maintaining employee morale. Employee retention, or lack thereof, can make or break a business, especially when unemployment rates are low.


Our patients spend 90% of their time with staff members during their office visits, not with the doctor. Employees must like their jobs, and they must be likeable to patients. A practice with an untrained, uncaring staff can send patients scurrying.

Employee retention must be an active process. Satisfied employees are loyal, and they offer constructive problem-solving solutions. Good employees want to be included in aspects of the business. The cost of replacing staff members creates a financial burden, and the process of replacing key employees takes a toll on morale. Some of the initiatives we incorporate in our practice that promote and maintain a positive work culture are outlined in Initiatives That Encourage Employee Retention.


  • Once a month, the physicians and management team meet over a cafeteria-style dinner to discuss the practice’s state of affairs. These meetings provide all with a clear picture of the practice’s health and help keep everyone on the same page for a unified goal.
  • The technical and front desk staffs meet weekly with a formal PowerPoint agenda that includes bulleted topics contributed by physicians, head technicians, the billing department, and the front desk supervisor. Topics discussed can include new technologies or procedures and new insurance information or billing processes. These meetings are interactive, and staff members are encouraged to voice their thoughts and contribute to problem-solving.
  • At these meetings, staff members are lauded for exemplary work. If someone was singled out in a patient’s online survey review, he or she receives a small token of appreciation for going above and beyond expectations. Recently, one staff member got a standing ovation for her help with an incontinent patient who had an accident. Our staff member, on her own initiative, went to a local store to buy sweatpants and adult diapers for the patient.
  • We also have regular team-building events and holiday celebrations. And yes, we spend money on staff education, sending staff members to courses and encouraging them to become certified in their respective departments.
  • When we hire staff members, we try to root out individuals who aren’t self-motivated and who lack initiative before making an offer. We ask candidates to take an online test customized for the position for which they are applying. These tests take approximately 30 minutes, and they are to be done at home within a specified time. This pretest process has helped us hire smarter, which has translated to increased staff retention and better cultural fit among new hires.
  • Once new employees are hired, they shadow staff members in their department. Each one is assigned a mentor who takes responsibility for the new hire. The mentors not only train these new staff members but also attempt to make them feel connected to the team from the minute they start.


When it comes to our patients, we want all of our efforts at building a positive practice culture to lead to providing five-star service. This is done by, among other things, making eye contact with patients, walking at their pace as we guide them to testing or exam rooms, and speaking in language that is nonthreatening and easy for them to understand.

We survey every patient after every encounter. Comments posted to any type of social media platform are reviewed and responded to by our management team within 1 to 2 business days. All negative reviews get immediate priority with a phone call to the patient to address any concerns; all positive reviews get a personalized thank-you note online.

Our physicians and managers play a crucial role in this culture-building. Physicians have to lead by example; we arrive promptly, and we are accessible to staff. The physicians are also encouraged to participate in our organization-wide team-building events (Figure). We place continued emphasis on training and empowerment of staff. Their striving for excellence creates pride and fulfillment in these individuals and the whole team.

Figure. Dr. Matossian (top row, third from right) with physicians, staff, and the management team at a recent Matossian Eye Associates team-building event.

The positive energy and smooth staff-physician interactions that are evident in our office have an effect on every patient’s perception of his or her visit to our office. In accordance with our practice’s mission statement, we strive to provide patients with the best possible eye care and to make visiting our practice the most pleasant experience at every encounter.

Cynthia Matossian, MD, FACS
  • Owner, Founder, and Chief Medical Officer, Matossian Eye Associates, Pennington and Hamilton, New Jersey, and Doylestown, Pennsylvania
  • Member, CRST Executive Advisory Board
  • cmatossian@matossianeye.com
  • Financial disclosure: None
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