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There are no easy steps to better office management

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

I always enjoy it when people publish articles entitled something like, “Ten Easy Steps to Medical Office Management.”

I enjoy this, but I definitely don’t agree with it. The word “easy” is usually so far removed from office management that headlines like this are good for a laugh. But the information that follows may or may not help.

There is nothing easy, or simple, about managing an office, and managing a medical office today can be downright scary. But, you know that.

What you may not know is all of the tricks that can help you. I offer a few.

One of the best suggestions I’ve seen involves “leadership,” the art of inspiring, motivating, and directing other humans. In many cases, throw out ideas you get from movies and television. Instead, consider a leadership program in your area. Although the time demands can be significant for a good one, I’ve seen them make a significant difference for graduates in both their professional and personal lives.

Some lessons might surprise you. Frequent topics for these programs often involve things like “personal assessment” and “peer review.” Basically, you’re led on what can be an eye-opening evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. Then you delve into leadership. I won’t go into various philosophies and techniques, but I can offer some suggestions based on years of experience and observation.

One of the first things is to avoid trying to manage from the “bubble” of your office. It’s easy to fall into this; you certainly have enough paperwork to keep you seated all day, every day. But walking through your office, observing and interacting, may be one of the most important things you do. Keeping your office healthy, along with its patients, depends to a great degree on your interaction with staff, physicians, and—yes—patients.

Another issue may be one of the most important: managing communications. With so many electronic interruptions—phone messages, email, and more—it’s easy to fall into one of two extremes: allowing these to dictate your schedule or failing to respond adequately.

There very definitely are times when you should turn off the phone and email to focus on a project, especially projects that require a high level of concentration. I tend to believe that multitasking is overrated. Brain science says we never truly multitask; we simply jump back and forth with some loss during the transition. Some people are better at this than others, but trying to juggle too many issues simultaneously is likely to result in none being done really well and increased stress for you. My suggestion is to budget periods during the day for separate duties. Perhaps you can set aside 30-minute blocks to check email and phone messages. The exact quantity and mix of time will depend on you and your office, but I suggest you try this or a similar strategy.

I’ve seen advice proposing that office managers should know how to perform every job in their office, some with real proficiency. In today’s technical and specialized world, I certainly wouldn’t fault you for not achieving that. But knowing how most things in your office function and not being afraid to roll up your sleeves is good for several things. First, you may at some point need to fill in for an untimely absence by a staff member. You’ll also gain respect around the office. If you see an area that is apt to need your support, asking a staff member to provide you with some training is good, too.

Finally, I want to return to leadership courses. Many will include lessons on leading by example. This can be especially important in some of the HR related issues I frequently deal with. Gossip is a problem I’ve mentioned recently, and it is one of those areas where leading by example is effective. So, too, is emphasizing behavior like respect, professional attire, and hard work. Model what you expect others to give.

And yes, none of this is easy.

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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