Portfolio

WRITING

I’ve spent most of my professional career honing the art of the clear, concise how-to or informative article for various professionals, mostly in the healthcare industry.

Most recently, I’ve been a regular contributor to FierceHealthcare’s daily news for healthcare executives. Here, I gather the top news stories hospital readers need to read that day, break them into bite-sized chunks, and provide a bit of context and analysis.

I also have extensive experience writing about physician practice management. Most of these articles originally appeared in The Doctor’s Office newsletter, a HealthLeaders Media publication targeted to medical office administrators, practice managers, staff members, and physicians. Excerpts from a handful of my favorites:*

Marketing to moms, wives, daughters, and friends

by Debra Beaulieu

Take a look into your waiting room. Chances are that most of the patients filling the seats were brought by, sent by, or urged by one of the women in their lives to see a doctor. And not just any doctor—you.

“With all the specialties I’ve ever worked with, it seems that the women are the ones making the decisions about their families—for children and spouses and even parents; the medical decision to go and see a doctor,” says Rebecca Anwar, PhD, principal of The Sage Group in Philadelphia.

Women, who represent 60% of all physician visits, are also more likely to discuss their good and bad experiences with friends and relatives. They are also more likely to read healthcare materials and decide instantaneously whether to save, share, or shred them, notes Felicia Bloom, women’s health solutions director and senior account manager at StayWell Custom Communications in Evanston, IL. For these reasons, women represent a center of influence that can make or break your marketing efforts.

Redesigning the workweek

by Debra Beaulieu

If written today, Dolly Parton’s hit song “9 to 5” might sound something more like “7:30 to 5:30 Monday through Thursday” or “telecommuting every other day.” The tune would be decidedly less catchy, but it would describe schedules that are growing in popularity in all kinds of work settings.

Just this past summer, Utah made headlines when it announced that all state employees would work four 10-hour days, or “four 10s,” allowing state offices to remain closed on Fridays. Although the state’s compressed workweek was instituted to conserve gas and energy, employees nationwide who work this type of schedule have been quoted in the media touting benefits such as more time to spend with family and run errands.

For medical practices, offering compressed or flexible workweeks can help you recruit and retain employees who crave more work-life balance, says Cynthia L. Dunn, RN, FACMPE, senior consultant for the Medical Group Man-agement Association Health Care Consulting Group.

“More and more folks are finding, because it’s difficult sometimes to find good candidates, that quality issues at work could mean the difference between getting the candidate you really want and losing him or her to a competitor,” Dunn says, adding that employees who enjoy the privilege of a flexible workweek tend to be more loyal and less stressed.

Charlene Burgett, MS-HCM, CMA (AAMA), CMM, CPC, CCP, CMSCS, CPM, administrator of North Scottsdale (AZ) Family Medicine (NSFM), who also works four 10s, agrees that having three full days off can make life a little easier. “At least here in family practice, it’s a high-tension type of work, and people really need the extra time in the middle of the week to recharge,” Burgett says. “Sometimes, it’s very difficult to go that stretch of five days and work, work, work and get beaten up, and you only get two days and you have all these errands to run and family obligations to take care of and you’re not really recharging.”

Create a winning practice with cross-training

by Debra Beaulieu

There are several reasons that some athletes swear by cross-training: to condition parts of the body that aren’t well targeted by their primary activity, to rest muscles and joints that would otherwise become overused, and to keep workouts interesting.

In a medical practice, a well-planned cross-training program achieves such benefits and more. Not only do employees who have the ability to work in various roles throughout the practice hone more skills than those who sit at the same desk every day, but they also help the practice function as a stronger team. “Cross-training doesn’t just make for better infrastructure and work flow, but it helps each department understand how important its part is,” says Carla Hannibal, CMM, CPM, CEO of Hannibal Professional Services, LLC, an Arizona-based consulting firm.

In particular, rounding out employees’ duties helps reduce the dreaded front-back office tension, Hannibal says. For example, when back-office personnel sit at the front desk, they can begin to understand the challenge of capturing complete and accurate demographic information from each patient in a timely fashion (especially when patients arrive late). In turn, receptionists who spend time in billing will understand the ramifications of not receiving all of the necessary information from the front desk.

Three steps to create your office dream team

by Debra Beaulieu

It’s a busy Wednesday afternoon at an already short-staffed Chicago-area psychiatric practice, and an employee walks off the job, presumably for good. Facing the stuff of nightmares for most offices, Perakis, Resis, Woods & Associates Behavioral, LLC (PRA), in Schaumburg, IL, relied on its dream team.

The notion of teamwork is infused throughout the group’s culture, says Paula M. Comm, MA, LCPC, CADC, administrator of the three-office practice.

Although the renegade employee was already facing termination and the practice had run an ad looking for a replacement, the position was nowhere near being filled. Almost immediately after the news reached the other two offices, many employees volunteered to disrupt their work flow and travel up to an hour to help out at the Schaumburg location. “To have staff say, ‘We’ll drop what we’re doing and come help’ was amazing,” Comm says.

Giving is receiving: Discover the rewards of servant leadership

by Debra Beaulieu

“Give all you can, rather than get all you can.” That’s the short definition of servant leadership, or professional stewardship. As physicians, this mantra is a solid fit with the care you provide to patients every day—but have you thought about how you can apply the philosophy to your role as a physician leader?

Consider the following definition: “Servant leaders are committed to making independent contributions to society. They view professional duties as a life mission. They work in environments that encourage individuals to learn and contribute,” Patricia L. Brewster, MHA, FACMPE, CEO of Southern Orthopaedic Specialists, LLC, in Atlanta and past chair of the American College of Medical Practice Executives, writes in her award-winning paper1 on the subject. “Altruistic? Yes,” Brewster tells PPS. “But it can be done and must be done.”

Susan R. Miller, RN, FACMPE, administrator of Family Practice Associates of Lexington (FPAL) in Kentucky, who has also researched the subject, says this is the very essence of being a professional. “It’s our responsibility to be a steward of the profession,” Miller says.

To do so, healthcare leaders must do their part to expand the body of knowledge from clinical and business standpoints and be available to their colleagues to help them learn from their experience, she says.

Perhaps as confirmation that karma exists, the benefits to individual servant leaders are tremendous.

“If you’re focusing on a mission of service, the patient truly benefits,” Brewster says. “And you’re doing it in high-performing teams, so you have efficiency and effectiveness and it will drive both financial rewards as well as better clinical outcomes.”

* Note: Most of the above are members-only articles. If you’d like to view the full text of any of these samples, just let me know.

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EDITING

My editing experience ranges from basic proofreading to developmental book editing. As I wrote in my very first cover letter for my very first job (which I got), I have a knack for making good writing better.

Books

I have edited several books generally written by and for healthcare professionals (including many first-time authors). Some of the recent projects I’ve worked on include:

Physician Entrepreneurs: Strength in Numbers

published by HealthLeaders Media, 2008

This book was co-written by several consultants from the same firm, with various individuals writing the chapters related to their expertise. Therefore, eliminating redundancy and ensuring consistency in tone and level of detail–while preserving each contributor’s voice–posed unique challenges for this book. The final product became a popular component of the publisher’s “Physician Entrepreneurs” series.

The Hospital Executive’s Guide to Physician Staffing

published by HealthLeaders Media, 2009

This book was written by a highly knowledgeable author who included a plethora of data to back up his insights. The final book struck an appealing balance between concise narrative illustrated by up-to-the minute facts and figures presented in user-friendly tables.

Orthopedics and Spine: Strategies for Superior Service Line Performance

published by HealthLeaders Media, 2009

This book covered a highly specialized topic with lots of moving parts. Challenges included keeping the content comprehensive yet concise and relating each business principle presented back to one or more compelling case studies included in the final chapter of the book.

Business letter before & after

This was already a well-written business letter when I received it, but the client was thrilled with the extra polish I was able to bring out of his mission-critical piece. (The names of people/companies have been changed to avoid publishing confidential information.)

Before

Dear Mr. Corporate Superstar:

I believe we share a compelling interest in the success of Acme Services. My name is Joe Brown. For the past 20 years I have operated an Acme Services franchise on the South Shore. I am writing to you in hopes that you will be able to facilitate contact between Bob Smith, president of Acme, and his counter-part at Impostor, Inc. …..a contract negotiating firm that appears to control massive volume of business.

Bob explains that despite several phone messages, he has been unable to have anyone at Impostor respond to his attempts to make direct contact.

The condensed history is as follows: Over the past seven years, my franchise had progressively increased our business with Moneybags Bank. Total annual sales to my franchise was $450,000 or about 23% of my total business. Over the summer, the 3 year contract came up for rebid. My franchise was assured by facility management for Moneybags that my franchise was in excellent standing to retain and even potentially to increase business with Moneybags, if current pricing was maintained.

However, the bid submitted by my franchise was returned by a new entity; Impostor, with the explanation that they had been commissioned by Clueless, the new owner of Moneybags, to take over negotiations of contracts; further, that as a franchisee of a national corporation, Impostor would only conduct negotiations with the corporate parent.

Accordingly, my franchise provided Acme Services National Sales with pricing quotations for locations being served. For reasons still not made clear, Impostor determined that Acme Services did not meet the needs of Moneybags Banks and disregarded our bid for renewal. Subsequently, Impostor entered into negotiations with a local company, New Kid, LLC, a relatively small local company, resulting in New Kid being awarded the contract for all Moneybags properties throughout the entire US. From sources of unknown reliability, we have heard that the bulk of the business awarded to New Kid will be subcontracted to third party providers since New Kid only has a physical presence in three states.

In the follow-up, I contacted Acme Services president, Bob Smith, and requested that he initiate a thorough investigation – a post-mortem if you want, into how the bidding process could result in Acme being disqualified. Impostor controls an enormous amount of service contracts. It is imperative that their determination that Acme is not qualified to fulfill their needs be reexamined. For Impostor to select New Kid over Acme has long term negative consequences for Acme Services, and for my franchise. As you will surmise from their website, New Kid is a much smaller company – certainly in no way comparable to Acme. http://www.somecompany.com

In an attempt to learn more about Impostor and to identify key personnel, I requested a D&B report. However, I was told there was none available. Their website does have some information – http://www.anothercompany.com

As stated initially, my hope is that within your organization, you have the resources to identify and facilitate a top level meeting between Bob Smith and his counterpart at Impostor.

Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

Sincerely,

Joe Brown

After

Dear Mr. Corporate Superstar:

My name is Joe Brown, and for the past 20 years I have operated an Acme Services franchise. It is because of our shared commitment to the success of Acme Services that I’m writing to you—in hopes that you can help facilitate contact between Bob Smith, president of Acme Services Corporate, and his counter-part at Impostor, a contract-negotiating firm that appears to control a massive volume of business.

Bob explains that despite several phone messages, he has been unable to have anyone at Impostor respond to his attempts to make direct contact. I’m turning to you for a voice that no executive can ignore.

A brief history: Over the past seven years, my franchise progressively increased business with Moneybags Bank, ultimately reaching total sales of $450,000, or about 23% of my total business. During the summer of 2009, the three-year contract came up for rebid. My franchise was assured by Moneybags management that my franchise was in excellent standing to retain and even potentially increase business with Moneybags, if current pricing was maintained.

However, the bid submitted by my franchise was returned by a new entity, Impostor, with the explanation that the firm had been commissioned by Clueless, the new owner of Moneybags Banks, to take over negotiations of cleaning contracts. Further, as a franchisee of a national corporation, Impostor would conduct negotiations solely with the corporate parent.

Accordingly, my franchise provided Acme Services National Sales with pricing quotations for locations being served. For reasons still not made clear, Impostor determined that Acme did not meet the needs of Moneybags Banks and disregarded our bid for renewal.

Subsequently, Impostor awarded the contract for all Moneybags properties throughout the United States to New Kid, LLC (http://www.somecompany.com), a small company headquartered in Anywhere, USA. We also have reason to suspect that the bulk of the business awarded to New Kid will be subcontracted to third-party providers, as New Kid has a physical presence in just three states.

Impostor controls an enormous number of service contracts, making it imperative that its decision to abandon Acme be reexamined. For Impostor to select New Kid over Acme has long-term negative consequences for my franchise and Acme Services as a whole.

In addition to appealing to Mr. Smith to thoroughly investigate the denial of our bid, I also requested a D&B report from Impostor to learn more about the company and identify key personnel. However, I could obtain only the limited information on the firm’s Web site (http://www.anothercompany.com).

As stated initially, my hope is that you have the resources within your organization to facilitate a top-level meeting between Bob Smith and Impostor leadership so that our business can obtain the many answers it deserves.

Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

Sincerely,

Joe Brown

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WEB

I’ve published the following articles on eHow.com:

About O Positive Blood

The Effect of Massage Therapy

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BLOG

I regularly share candid thoughts about the challenge of raising two closely spaced toddlers on my blog, Spawnocalypse.

Whether they have kids or not, readers come to laugh, cringe, and often relate.

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