A medical practice needs more than just doctors to function at a high level — it’s more than just a patient treatment facility…it’s a small business and a community, with all the associated complexities. It needs strategic vision, a business plan, a guiding hand, a day to day leader and a right hand to the physican. Without a good practice manager, a medical office risks reduced patient care quality, reduced revenue, reduced office culture, or even practice closure.
Whether you are the practice manager or you are hiring one, here are the most important steps and skills for good practice managers to know:
1. Learn the job…like all of them…
Practice managers typically handle many different jobs: staffing, scheduling, revenue cycle management, human resources, compliance, risk management, and general operations.
Learn their intricacies by doing research and asking questions. If you don’t know it…figure it out. Businesses don’t come with out of the box instructional guides…neither do medical practices. There are many resources on the web that will teach you the basics (e.g. How to Improve Accounts Receivables). There are also consulting companies that will help you manage your practice or train your staff. Nothing will overcome your managerial drive to run operations though. The right person in the right seat that will find the answers is the most important part.
2. Delegate tasks
Determine which jobs fall under practice manager and which belong to other staff members. Offices are most efficient when staff members know their duties.
If trivial tasks disrupt important ones, delegate tasks to other staff members. While some jobs are specific to the practice manager, others can be managed by a receptionist or other staff member. If you’re stuck unclogging sinks and unloading the dishwasher, create a cleaning schedule for the office employees. Don’t get caught being a fireman/woman! You have things to do outside of issue resolution.
If you have the resources, hire an assistant. One extra person can dramatically increase productivity, allowing you to get more done.
3. Create a plan
A good practice manager creates a clear strategic vision and implements their plan accordingly.
If your goal is to increase patient volume by 10%, write down the steps you’ll take to achieve this goal – marketing campaigns, patient flow modifications, etc.
Set up a measurement system and use monthly reports to track progress. By frequently evaluating progress, you can track efficiency hang-ups and perfect your process.
Define your goals, define the measurable outcomes to meet your goals and track those KPIs!
4. Adapt to changes
Business and industry are far from stagnant. The medical industry is no different…constantly shifting with frequent, sudden changes. Recurring adaptation is a must. Embrace the change as a challenge to learn something new, enact and execute.
As we said, practice managers wear many hats. They often need to learn new jobs, software, and procedures with little notice. Again, take it as an opportunity to learn.
To stay on top of changes in your field, be sure to read up to date medical and billing news.
5. Communicate with employees
Whether you are altering office flow or changing cell phone procedures, office staff communication is essential. Changes and updates flow smoothly when employees know what to expect (and what you expect of them). Set expectations. Communicate desired outcomes. Enact accountability measures. Build culture. Leadership starts from the top down and the physicians already have a full time job. A successful manager with embody and drive the culture of the company in the absence of the physician(s).
Develop strong relationships with office staff members. Build rapport with employees to ensure the office will respect your authority and receive new policies on a better footing.
6. Manage conflict
Use the rapport you’ve built to successfully manage HR disputes and other office conflicts. All offices have conflict at one time or another. The way you handle the situation influences the outcome. Medical offices are high paced, high pressure environments with high expectations from their customers. Stress and conflict are inevitable. Focus conflictive energy towards opportunities for process improvement or relationship strengthening.
If you have a good relationship with the employees involved, you are more likely to reach a positive outcome.
7. Monitor progress
Use powerful reporting tools to generate reports. With a good system, you can track everything from office flow to A/R management and learn where the practice needs improvement.
A good reporting system provides tangible results and evidence to demonstrate to partners or board members that a change or policy was beneficial.
DO NOT FORGET TO TRACK. It is incredibly easy to let the busy day-to-day pull a manager from working on the business to working in the business. Tracking payables and receivables is the easy stuff. Do you know your cost of customer acquisition? Your customer retention? Recurring purchases? Conversion rate? Lead sources? Quality patient care is always number one, but don’t forget the business end of your practice.
8. Contact other practice managers
Reach out to other practice managers in your area. Share ideas, discuss common problems, and support each other. Facebook/LinkedIn/MGMA…there are a number of social resources for commiserating over the difficulties and sharing in the joys of practice management. No one has all the answers, but together we might have most.
And if your practice needs support, hire a practice management company to handle everything from staffing and training to patient flow optimization.