Managing Fear When Your Practice is Being Purchased
By Austin Stone April 01, 2021
Is the practice you are working at being purchased? Have you been through an acquisition or purchase before? If not, it can be very intimidating and cause enormous stress for you and your staff. A lot of practices are merging or selling due to the constant changes in Medicare rules and the reimbursement from payers. This is a trying time in healthcare. These changes may be scary, but a lot of times they are necessary.
Pre-COVID, I would suggest the two departments merging organize a social event to get to know each other. Don't let social distancing stop you from meeting your new coworkers. Get the teams together for a virtual trivia night with a 30 min social happy half-hour ahead of time. This keeps everyone safe while meeting new teammates. Do this early on to ease fears down the road. When tensions are high, mid-transition, you’ll have already gotten to know your new teammates.
A lot of changes come with the purchase of a practice. You will want to be sure to set up open lines of communication. Obtain a point of contact with the purchasing company and set up space for your staff to ask you questions. You may not have all the answers, but they will want to know what is going on as it is happening. This will set up for a good transition and hopefully reduce staff turn-over, but expect some turn-over with change. Some companies anticipate the loss of 10% of current staff during these times. When your staff leaves, acknowledge that replacing their level of training and knowledge will take time to replicate in new hires. Do your best to retain your team by setting clear expectations and again, opening lines of communication! I cannot stress this enough. In my years of going through numerous mergers and acquisitions, lack of communication is the biggest reason people leave. People fear the unknown, so clear guided expectations may lessen their stress and anxiety.
Set up weekly meetings with agenda outlines of what will be covered and key milestones that should be met with due dates. You will want to have one meeting with your “acquirer” point of contact and one meeting with your staff or key staff members that will make this transition a success. You can expect new systems, policies, and workflows. Use these meetings to set up timelines on when to review these changes. Ask questions like, "I see here, you do x,y, and z for check-in but we found that a,b, and c have been successful. Is there a time we can review this together and integrate our current workflow?" It doesn't hurt to ask, and you may come to the conclusion that it’s best for both parties. Engaging in this type of dialogue will give you a sense of control, and ensure that your voice and concerns are being heard. They may not take the suggestion, but I promise they will take into account your area of expertise.
Ask for training guidelines and what resources are available to you and your staff. The great thing about joining a larger practice is the accessibility to more information and improved technologies. Setting up a training schedule will help you identify where the biggest changes will be coming from (again, clear communication about the changes is imperative). You need to be the Super User and have one other team member with you take the role of Super User. As you "go-live", your team will need the support of a Super User to ensure a smooth transition.
Ask about employee benefits. You and your staff will want to know what benefit changes are coming, if any. Who will be managing them? How do you sign up? Is there a deadline? If you have been the manager of benefits thus far, you will want to be sure you know where it goes from here. This is a pain point for staff. They have families at home and their concerns are valid. Having this information up-front and available will allow your staff to relieve their worries and provide some assurance they’ll be able to support their families.
Staff layoffs are every manager's worst nightmare! Not every acquisition or merge leads to a lay-off situation, but you know your staff will ask. You must reassure them, but don't lie. Let them know that each company is doing its best to retain every employee and they are valued members of the team. If you are asked to reduce staff, explore other job opportunities within the company. If there are no other options, evaluate your staff by performance and attendance. Being clear about how they were selected will minimize hurt feelings with facts. Offer them a letter of recommendation. This can be a hard transition and knowing they have your support can make a big difference.
Keeping organized and detailed notes of conversations and changes will get you through this process. It can be intimidating, but being prepared for what is to come and organized in how to execute the changes will get you through the next few months with less stress.
Finally, know that fear of change can come from both sides of the acquisition. Be open and don't let preconceived notions get in your way of making this a successful transition for your team.