Mapping Your Bariatric Lead Management Process for Profit

Are you convinced that business process mapping your lead intake process can help increase revenue for your bariatric practice, but don’t know where to start? This article takes a practical, step-by-step approach to process mapping and shows how to avoid common mistakes.

Summary

  • Business process mapping can quickly stall if made too complex.
  • Follow a step-by-step process to ensure your process mapping retains momentum.
  • Use a reproducible system for documenting.
  • Avoid changing maps while documenting.
  • Validate with multiple sources to find the actual, not the ideal, process.

Documenting your lead management process makes financial sense, but it is easy to become bogged down in overly complex business process mapping and miss all the benefits. To avoid this, let’s take a step-by-step approach to mapping a simple lead management process and discuss how to avoid the most likely cause of problems at each stage.

Remember that the point of this exercise is to create a measurable increase in revenue. Done well, this exercise could generate tens of thousands in additional revenue annually, so taking a structured approach will definitely pay off over time.

Step 1: Be Clear on What You Are Trying to Achieve

A process map is a visual representation of an existing workflow. It provides a shared understanding of the participant’s roles and activities as well as inputs required for various stages and outputs or deliverables expected. The most likely reason for your process mapping exercise to fail is forgetting that this is an exercise in mapping reality, not an idealized version of it. You cannot sit in your office and create a process map; you would be mapping what you think or expect to be happening, and this may not be what is really going on.

Example: We are going to build a linear process that visualizes our lead intake process, allowing us to make measurable improvements and increase practice revenue.

Step 2: Identify the Start and Stop Points

It may sound silly, but before you begin, you have to be clear about what your starting point is and where you intend to finish. Does your lead management process start when a contact is received or when the contact has been qualified? There are no rights or wrongs in defining these two points. What you have to be clear about is that there will be inputs from other processes such as marketing and outputs to processes such as insurance verification at several points. Attempting to map all of the involved processes instead of just the one between the start and stop points is a common problem that quickly spirals out of control.

Example: Our starting point is receipt of a contact from any source, and our ending point is the first physician appointment.

Step 3: Identify the Tools You Will Use to Map

If you are a hospital undertaking a JCAHO project and mapping your internal processes, you need a robust process mapping solution. But if you are a bariatric practice mapping your lead management process, all you need is a whiteboard, a variety of colored Post-It notes, dry erase markers, and a cell phone camera.

Step 4: Identify the Interviewer and Interviewee

The most critical decision you will make—the one that defines the success or failure of your mapping project—is determining who will talk about the process and who will listen. If you are a manager or administrator, you are the right person to create and analyze the final map, but you are the wrong person to create the map of the current situation. Here is why. It is only natural that your staff will want you to see them as efficient and productive. There is almost no chance that they will tell you about what shortcuts they have taken or which tasks they omit when they are busy. If you do the interview, you will end up with the ideal map, not the real one you need.

If the job you are mapping is performed by several people, interviewing each one separately will reveal any possible discrepancies in the process. Simply standardizing how the process is completed can create improvements.

Step 5: Conduct the Interview

Here is a simple method you can use to get an accurate map of a current lead management process without the risk of idealized input. Use an existing staff member or new hire to cross-train with the interviewee for a few hours. Provide instructions that you want the cross-trainee to write down everything as they learn it to create their own step-by-step list of instructions for how to manage a new lead. You will create the baseline process from this list.

When several people perform the task, having your cross-trainee create a new set of instructions for each person will help you find some of the areas that can be addressed when you move to the improvement phase.

Step 6: Create Your Process Map

Take a pad of the same color Post-It notes, and write a step on each note. Make sure your step contains a verb. Stick them sequentially on the whiteboard. In process mapping, shapes have meaning. You only need to know four shape conventions to make a meaningful map.

Process start and stop symbol Circle or rounded rectangle – start/stop
Process task symbol Rectangle – activity or process step
Process decision symbol Diamond – decision point
Process connector symbol Arrows – connect shapes in direction of activity or data flow

Start your map with a Post-It note with an oval drawn on it. Place each activity in the sequence in a rectangular note; for a decision point, turn the Post-It 45 degrees. Connect the Post-Its with arrows drawn on the whiteboard with a dry erase marker.
The point where the science and the art of process maps collide is in the decision over what to map. An overly complex a map is as difficult to work with as one that is overly simplified. The key things you are trying to show are:

  • The primary input and outputs for the process. In a lead management process, the input is generally a contact, and the outputs are either a patient or a lost lead.
  • The input and output for each action or step that has to be performed to get to the endpoint. This can be tricky, but do your best. For example, if the step is to telephone a lead, the input is the phone number, and the output is conversing with the lead.
  • The critical decision points. These are the places in the process where a question is asked and answered. For example, the decision point is “Is the lead qualified for this program?” and the decision responses are “yes” or “no.”
  • The point where the process temporarily halts and waits for another process to complete. An example is sending a verification package to insurance and waiting for its approval. The important thing to note is that the insurance approval process is outside of the current process, so you do not care how it is conducted at this point. Your interest is only in the time delay it has on your current process.
  • The points where individual staff members differ in their process. Use a different color Post-It to identify an alternative path.

Step 7: Validate Your Map

With your newly constructed process map on the whiteboard, it is time to meet with all of the participants for a map review. The purpose of this stage is to, once again, determine what is real and what is ideal, so any “corrections” to the map should be recorded in a different color.

These corrections may clear up a misunderstanding with your trainee or serve as an indication of the ideal state the trainer would prefer you to hear about. Ask questions to obtain as much detail about the process as you can. Anywhere there is a potential misunderstanding, look more closely to find the pain point. What is it about the step that makes it difficult or undesirable to complete? How do other team members overcome this issue?

It is natural to want to fix any issues that you find, especially if they appear to be simple. Resist that temptation. As with any change, unless it is controlled and the effect measured, you run the risk of making the process less efficient, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

At the end of the meeting, you should have an accurate map that clarifies the process as it is understood by your team, what is actually occurring, and where there are pain or choke points that may need to be corrected.

Next Steps

Now that you have an accurate business process map, it is time to analyze it and develop your improvement plan. We will look at that next.