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Missing the small things can cause big problems

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

Medical office managers have an unusually wide range of demands, and it’s easy, even necessary to keep an eye on the big picture.

But sometimes elements that aren’t especially strategic can still have major ramifications. Here are a few areas that I’ve seen cause some big problems.

•  Lack of written directions and policies, or outdated policies, are a widespread oversight. Remember, a practice is not a policy. Just because something has been done “that way” for a long time does not mean it can be upheld as a documented policy. Good managers will possess, update, and communicate their office policies. Not having your policies in writing is simply asking for trouble.

Having an employee handbook isn’t enough, however. The policies in your handbook need to be updated and effectively communicated on a regular basis. What’s more, employees should sign an acknowledgment form stating that they have read and understand everything in the handbook. If not, you risk having a conversation that includes “yes, you did; no, I didn’t.”

•  Many office problems actually begin during the process of hiring a new employee. The hiring process is frequently the most overlooked area of management. Good managers who find themselves constantly putting out fires, and others who are interested in building a solid organization, should examine this area and how their organization deals with it.

Note that I refer to the “hiring process.” Some of the most important aspects of this process will occur one, two or even three months after the new hire’s first day at work.

•  This brings up effective onboarding, a lack of which can cause immediate problems and later issues, too. Employee training is the first step, but sharing those hard-won policies and getting feedback from fresh eyes, even over several months, can give you valuable insight into what your office looks like to someone new, and how that perspective differs from what you expect.

Good onboarding also sets a tone that pays dividends. When managers or supervisors invest in their staff, staff members are more likely to return the favor. Setting that tone early begins an employee’s tenure with a good impression.

•  With all of the medical and other professional concerns, managers might be excused for falling behind today’s many changing areas in general employee regulation and law. Recent court cases and regulatory changes mean some office policies and procedures probably need a major review. Gay, lesbian, and transgender rights are an obvious area, but these issues could fill several blogs. Establishing a consistent process of review and update is the place to start.

•  Managers should also remember to document performance issues. After someone has been terminated is not when you want to start writing things down. Any performance issues that aren’t documented, that aren’t written down and dated, basically have not happened. As far as state and federal regulators or most courts are concerned, it only “is” if it’s in writing.

That process is also part of a positive policy of addressing performance-related issues. A staff member with an issue is alerted to the problem, told of possible consequences, and given time to correct the problem. This not only covers the office legally, it will often lead to solving the problems by giving staff members an opportunity to correct them.

These and other “basics” are easy to overlook or view as a low priority. And, yes, they can take more time than they should. But making them part of a process can reduce their time demand, especially when the possibility of unnecessary lawsuits or fines is considered.

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 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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