There are many elements that go into successful medical practice management. Though some require a lot of time, energy, and financial expenditure, over the long run, they can offer benefits that make the investment well worthwhile. The role of your office manager and what they offer your practice, along with other measures you can implement across the office, will contribute highly to the satisfaction of your staff and patients and, ultimately, the overall success of your practice.
Your Office Manager: the Hub of Good Medical Practice Management
Your office manager is key to the success of your medical practice management. Without an office manager, you’ll need to do this job on your own, which can quickly get overwhelming. We highly recommend hiring an office manager and making sure they’re trained, or have a clear strategy, for everything outlined below.
First, make sure your office manager possess the right attributes, skills, and experience to ensure smooth operations. It’s important to understand what these things are exactly, and whether your manager has them already or needs development in some areas. You should also be fully aware of their duties and if any gaps exist in how they serve your practice.
Among many things, your manager is responsible for coordinating the efforts of all staff. As well, they need to know the latest developments in healthcare, including relevant technologies, laws, and regulations. Some of their daily tasks include:
Training and supervising staff
Reviewing and updating processes for quality and efficiency
Accounting tasks such as budgeting and billing
Ensuring compliance with current laws and regulations
Key attributes for success in this role include knowledge of all job functions in the office, a highly organized nature, strong interpersonal skills, the ability to lead and motivate, technical, financial, and analytical abilities, and sharp problem solving skills. These things are explored further, below.
Stay Organized and Knowledgeable about all Job Functions
Every job function in the office contributes to the success of your medical practice management. Knowing these roles is essential for your medical practice manager to train, motivate, and manage staff. Planning, time-management, and maintaining accurate records are key, as is the ability to multitask and delegate when needed.
Communicate, Motivate, and Lead Effectively
Communicating effectively goes beyond talking and listening. It also involves mutual respect and understanding between staff and management. Your medical office manager can set the tone by:
Establishing Clear Expectations and Standards for Each Employee
This includes specific training and explicit instructions on what to do and how to do it.
Providing Feedback, Mentorship, and Support
Your team needs feedback regularly so they know what they’re doing well. This should happen when they’re doing a great job or when constructive criticism is needed. Praise efforts when appropriate, provide instruction and context when unusual situations come up, and correct errors to avoid the same ones in future. And remember, it can take a while for staff to internalize what doing well means for a particular office, even with good training.
When people know their work is being monitored and they’ll be held accountable for productivity, they’ll more likely be motivated to succeed. Regular monitoring and feedback, without micromanaging, sends your staff the message that someone is aware of what they are doing. They’ll be more effective in their jobs when they feel trusted to make decisions and are given the chance to be responsible for the quality of their work. When this happens, it’s important to reward good performance and offer incentives.
Building Relationships and Earning Trust
All managers must make difficult decisions when no one else wants to. When this happens, an established relationship with, and trust from, your staff is key for success. They need to trust you just as you trust them, and have faith in your judgement and that of your medical office manager in all matters.
Your team has first-hand knowledge of office processes and policies and can offer great ideas to make operations run more efficiently. Listen to them and use their ideas.
Putting Technical, Financial, and Analytical Skills to Work
Knowledge of word processing, spreadsheet, and accounting programs are key to successful medical practice management, as is your medical office manager’s ability to update electronic records and explain medical technologies. They should also know how to utilize digital marketing strategies to attract new patients. This includes keeping the practice’s website updated with important information and using social media platforms to engage with the public.
Your medical office manager is typically responsible for inventory control, payroll, taxes, sales figures, and budgets, all of which benefit from knowledge of accounting.
In addition, medical office managers work daily with medical codes, industry regulations, complicated terminology, and complex procedures. To navigate through and make sense of these things, keen analytical skills are needed. Plus, this constant flow of information needs to be explained to others and incorporated into office procedures and systems.
Solve Problems with Tools and Systems
It’s important to provide tools, such as an operations manual, checklists, and forms, to help standardize routine activities and help the team stay on track. To best utilize your staff’s time and attention, you can employ something called medical practice management by systems. The systems have three primary purposes: to avoid, detect, and warn of problems.
Avoidance systems can be very simple. For instance, the staff member who takes the bank deposit purposely leaves their keys in a spot where it’s impossible to leave the office without being reminded of this task, such as on top of the deposit paperwork.
Detection systems require a form to be completed along with the initials of the person performing the task. This way, if information is omitted, it’s clear who is responsible. Plus, staff will naturally be more careful when having to sign their work.
Warning systems report symptoms to be investigated as potential problems. You can use this to track and measure things like staff absences, office supply and equipment repair costs, patient scheduling, and productivity measures. The necessary information becomes quite obvious and supports corrective action.
Most things done to enhance one area enhances others. For instance, an operations manual supports training, consistency, and medical practice management by system. You can empower your office manager to develop and implement these systems and tools. Remember, when hiring for this position, make sure your medical office manager has previous experience running an office or something similar. This will help save you both time and energy as you won’t need to train them as much and instead trust their process and only monitor it here and there.
Medical Practice Management Beyond the Manager
In addition to the sharp skills and invaluable experience your office manager should possess, it’s important to remember and use other appropriate methods to sustain and improve your medical practice management. Here are some examples of doing just that.
Implement Job Sharing
Many medical practices commonly face high turnover in front desk staff as well as backup for when that person is sick or on vacation. Too many people stepping in, albeit with the best intentions, can result in major errors and inefficiencies and overall dissatisfaction. This can eventually negatively impact the service your patients receive.
A way to alleviate this is by having two staff members work part-time by alternating the days or weeks they come in. This arrangement can prevent burnout and decrease turnover, eliminating the need for training and backfilling.
It may not seem obvious immediately, but over time when your staff are happy, proud of what they contribute, and refreshed by taking time off, your office will feel brighter and happier overall, and your patients will notice.
Focus on Patient Service
When it comes to medical practice management, the way your staff treat patients directly affects your success and that of any partner physicians. Brainstorm strategies to put patients at ease when they visit. Every aspect, from booking appointments to billing, should be seamless. This also includes fostering a welcoming and inviting environment. Your medical office manager should constantly monitor service levels to achieve this in all areas.
A common missed opportunity is the waiting room. It’s common to see waiting rooms with small chairs tightly placed, dim lighting, torn and dirty carpet, and old and ripped magazines. Making your medical practice just as functional in the waiting room as it is in every other space can go a long way in showing your patients you care about their needs and comfort. Plus, if something happens to go wrong, patients who are in a good frame of mind after waiting are less likely to get upset than those who are irritated by having just waited for 45 minutes in a cramped, dim room.
Get to the Root of Problems and Ask Why
A huge part of medical practice management is the ability to maximize efficiency. If you’re challenged by things such as being short-staffed, unable to accommodate patients in a timely manner, lost phone calls, long wait times, complaints from patients and staff, low staff morale, or many other pain points, you need to consider ways to operate more efficiently.
One way to do this is by surveying all staff to identify their top three problems in practice operations. Then, group similar complaints together to narrow down the list. Address each item, focusing on why the issue occurs. You may very well find that one issue is the result of another, which is the result of another, and so forth.
For example, if appointments are ending late this could result from physicians being behind schedule, due to patients getting to the exam room late. They’re arriving late because charts are distributed late, since clerical staff are constantly interrupted by phone calls during patient check-in. You might find a common reason that call volumes are so high if you dig deeper. Then, address that reason and, hopefully, you will begin to see a reverse domino effect (this example illustrates a quality improvement technique known as the “Five Whys” developed by Toyota).
Choosing those directly involved in the process to tackle and helping others understand the domino effect of their actions, is key to this strategy. You need to persistently ask why in each step of the process. Look for objective ways to measure your improvements, so you can present staff with the data that shows what’s happening.
Remember why you came to work today
Each day, as you go through numerous medical practice tasks, you might feel bogged down and forget about the overall big picture – the reason why your work is so important and why you wanted your own medical practice. To help prevent this, you can implement a fun office gathering where your team shares stories about what makes them go to work each day, what brings them the most joy. This can serve as a reminder of the meaning and mission of your work. You may see that staff have more compassion, willingness to go above and beyond for a patient, and pride in their work.
Along with ensuring your office manager possesses the qualities and skills you need, these are only a few ideas that can improve the success of your medical practice management. It’s a good idea to discuss them and others with your team. Listen to everyone and be open to new ideas. Remember, despite the amount of effort and expense some initiatives demand, the benefits often outweigh it. Smooth medical practice management is critical as it directly impacts your staff’s and patients’ satisfaction and, ultimately, the overall success of your practice.