What is the Hawthorne effect and how does it apply to your practice?


The Hawthorne effect is a psychological phenomenon that shows productivity improves when performance is measured. This term grew out of a study on worker productivity back in the 1920s at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works. The company was looking for ways to increase worker productivity.

There was a practice management company in the 1990s that serviced dentists and chiropractors.

At their seminars, the main speaker would often start off with this joke, “We have two groups of people here today, dentists and chiropractors, and you can easily tell them apart. The dentists are wearing plaid shirts and the chiropractors are wearing smiles.”

His experience was that dentists found less satisfaction in their work than chiropractors, because chiropractors were so excited about providing care.

It’s not uncommon to hear DCs talk about their passion for chiropractic. Many are drawn to this field because they personally had an incredible outcome with chiropractic care and they want to help others experience the same results.

Typically, that excitement for chiropractic remains strong, but there is some- thing that can dim that passion if not handled properly—the burden of running a business.

The experiment

The Hawthorne effect is a psychological phenomenon that shows productivity improves when performance is measured. This term grew out of a study on worker productivity back in the 1920s at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works. The company was looking for ways to increase worker productivity.

They focused on a specific group of workers, and they let them know they were being studied. The researchers changed the lighting levels and monitored results. Ultimately, it didn’t matter if they increased the lighting or decreased the lighting; as long as the workers were monitored, and knew they were being monitored, their performance improved.

Practices that struggle tend to miss this simple yet important business principle. If the business has a low number of new patients, patient visits, or collections, the temptation is to ignore the unpleasant facts. However, the Hawthorne effect shows that the act of monitoring numbers can help them improve.

Weekly staff meeting

A weekly staff meeting is an essential activity for practice success, and it’s the perfect time to assess key practice numbers. The Hawthorne effect also showed that collaborative efforts can enhance results by creating a sense of teamwork and common purpose.

There is a fine line to walk when reviewing and discussing numbers that need to improve. Creating a sense of “we are all in this together” and “we are here to serve patients” will keep the focus positive. While focusing on things that need to improve, focus on what is working.

Back to the basics

Too often, doctors are looking for clever and exciting ways to grow their practices. But the most direct route to practice success is through paying attention to basic metrics. Some of the essential numbers to monitor and then discuss during staff meeting include:

  • Number of new patients
  • Number of patient visits
  • Amount collected
  • Number of referrals
  • Notable service by staff
  • Patient success stories

These areas seem so simple that it might be tempting to not bother reviewing them. But observing these numbers doesn’t just happen weekly at the staff meeting. Rather, it happens on a daily basis as your staff records these results and data.

Per the Hawthorne effect, people who know they are accountable and being observed will behave and perform better than those who are unsupervised.

A great leader has a positive focus on the discussion of practice numbers. Greater productivity results when management helps staff feel valued and know that their concerns are taken seriously.

 

Nancy Singleton is a 1989 graduate of the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic Assistants. She has been consulting and helping doctors grow their practices for more than 25 years. She and her husband, Todd Singleton, DC, teach chiropractors how to implement multiple cash systems into their existing practices. They can be contacted at contact@singletonsystems.com or through singletonsystems.com.