Hands-on or Hands-off Practice Management?

As a physician or provider, you’re likely an A-Type personality: You’ve made it through medical school and have your own practice and you’ve conquered many challenges along the way. But with success also comes a dilemma; do you try to maintain control over your practice and all its operating components or do you delegate those responsibilities to a practice manager?

Always remember that patients are paying for your medical expertise, not your ability to manage an office. Trying to be Superman and treating patients as well as handling front and back office duties might work in the short-term — especially when you’re just starting out and building a patient base — but maintaining that workload long-term is not only impractical but it could damage your reputation if you can’t effectively balance the two.

There are several factors to consider when making the decision to bring on a practice manager. If you as the provider/physician can effectively still balance these components on your own, you can probably hold off hiring one for the time being. Once you reach the tipping point-which might display itself in double booking patients, turning patients away forgetting to train staff, it’s time to bring on a practice manager. Here are just some of the areas of responsibility you or your manager will have to own.

1. Laws: Practices must comply with OSHA and HIPAA requirements, state and federal labor laws, Medicare and Medicaid practices and MCOs. Not only that, your staff must be trained in these areas as part of that compliance.

2. Interpersonal relationships: These exist not only between staff members but between staff and vendors and staff and patients. The practice manager is the peacemaker and problem-solver so that situations don’t escalate to red-zone levels where law enforcement or legal professionals must intervene.

3. Current reforms and legislation: These include private payer reform and medical liability reform. Processing paperwork and dealing with legislative updates and changes are also part of this component.

4. Current procedural terminology (CPT): CPT was created for the medical profession and its extenders to present and communicate uniform administrative, financial and analytical information about medical services and procedures. Staff will need to be trained and training maintained when updates are issued each October.

5. Claims processing: Even with electronic medical records (EMR), claims must be processed accurately and in a timely manner because it’s frighteningly easy to get behind and even more impossible to catch up.

6. Financial records: You may luck out and never have to face an audit, but if you do, accurate financial records are key to avoiding problems—and potential fines—down the road.

7. Patient records: Confidentiality and accuracy are crucial with patient records. Not all staff members should have access to patient records. Sensitive information, if leaked, could result in a practice-killing lawsuit.

8. Social media: Along with maintaining your brand and practice philosophy, offerings and contact information, it’s key that medical advice not be given and that answers are provided for posts and questions quickly. Monitoring all your social media accounts regularly will help you catch any negative reviews so that they can be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible.

It’s also a possibility that your practice manager will probably need support staff as your practice grows. Take the time to thoroughly vet any professional coming in to your practice so that sensitive information and your brand—as well as your reputation—maintains a sterling position in your community.

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