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INSIGHT

Big issues faced by medical office managers

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

Although medical office managers face many unique issues, some of the most challenging are those shared with managers of other types of organizations.

Take the difficulties of hiring and retaining good staff. Although the professional demands of a medical office are certainly unique, workforce strategies such as developing talent from within and working hard to retain your best workers are not unique to any profession. And like managers everywhere, those in the medical field sometimes overlook steps that can make their lives easier.

Steady strategies usually best

Being proactive and following a plan are key steps, but finding the time and money is never easy.

For instance, justifying the costs in maintaining quality staff can be difficult, but remember how costly turnover can be in terms of efficiency and even patient satisfaction. You may need to examine or re-examine things like benefits and training programs, but also invest in time spent meeting and communicating with your team, regularly. If you’re hit with critical vacancies, you’ll have to do it anyway and under more pressure.

Maintaining a good, even great, staff is also a process, not an event. You will need strategies such as a solid recruiting plan that is more than occasional, and an onboarding process that involves three or more months per hire. On a given day you may only spend minutes on these areas, but you or a subordinate will be working steadily to keep these areas moving forward.

Entire books are written on benefits and salaries, but remember that this area of investment is important because your patients are not paying for commodities; they’re paying for quality services that involve their health or the health of a loved one. Although your office will be asked to balance investments in new and necessary equipment, software systems and more, investing in your people might be the most consistent priority. Your staff is the one element that interacts with all of the other systems.

Some investments need a second look. Products such as automated phone systems or mobile computers are often relatively small investments that can leverage your staff’s time and allow them to focus more on important duties. Clearly, all of this is part of the juggling act that medical office managers face every day. But looking for these “value added” expenditures is a strategy that can pay dividends.

Become a publisher

Part of any successful management is maintaining and communicating office policies. I’ve noted before that this is another one of those jobs that is best served by steady effort—budgeting time blocks on a regular basis to tackle a needed update or meeting with staff to communicate those updates.

What can help this process is a technique for getting these policies into the hands of staff and patients. Although full policy publications and meetings are unavoidable, a good tip is the creation of brochures or short manuals that explain policies and procedures. By definition, these will usually be brief summaries that are easy to read and comprehend. Focusing these publications on a single issue or related group of issues will help make the pamphlet easier for you to produce and easier for staff or patients to digest. Production wise, it’s a good idea to create a simple template that you use for multiple topics so you don’t start from scratch with every effort.

Finally, don’t forget your doctors. They are among the most important aspects of any medical office, and while they are rarely underrepresented, it can be easy for some important factors to be undervalued. For example, it can be hard to restrain some physicians from becoming involved in duties outside his or her immediate area. But keep in mind, and help them keep in mind, that areas such as time with patients and patient communications are often deal breakers for those patients. There are a number of training programs and other aids, but making sure physicians are focused on patients and have the time for patients is a priority.

These are only a few of the big issues that medical office managers face, but these basic strategies can help with many, even most.


Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.

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