Do You Need An Office Manager?

Author(s): 
Lynn Homisak, PRT

Having an office manager can bring increased efficiency and sanity to your podiatric practice, freeing you to focus more on the care of patients. This author details how an office manager can streamline operational systems, boost productivity and promote increased teamwork.

   The bills are piling up. Staff is out of control. Policies get ignored. Patient flow becomes compromised. Efficiency is lacking. The front desk goes unsupervised. Stress is becoming the symptom du jour.

   Do you resent being put in a position of having to deal with some of the same problems in your office over and over when, in reality, you should be concentrating more on caring for your patients? Perhaps it is time to consider hiring an office manager.

   My years of consulting work have taken me into a lot of podiatry practices, some of which employ an administrator or manager, and some that do not. Within minutes of experiencing the environment and overall operations, I can tell whether a practice is under proper management.

   When there is poor management (or no management), it bubbles over into almost every aspect of the practice. The signs may range from disorganization and inefficient patient flow to financial negligence, from insubordination to failed policies.

   While mismanagement definitely raises some red flags, not all red flags are due to mismanagement. True, mismanagement may be a contributing factor but not necessarily the sole cause of a practice’s problems. There are other dynamics at play that you need to consider. For example, if you hire the wrong employee or he or she does not have the proper tools to succeed, it is unrealistic to expect management to step in and turn things around instantly.

   In preparation for this article, I asked two people this question: “When do you know it is time to hire an office manager?”

   The first response was from a colleague who holds a management position. “When you have more than one employee,” he said and he could not have been more sincere.

   The second response was from a friend who works for a manager. She scowled and said, “I am not sure but I can easily tell you when you need a new manager.” We both chuckled in spite of her angst.

   On the other side of the spectrum, those practices that insist on healthy leadership qualities tell quite a different story. Those practices that hire good office managers can potentially reap the benefits of:

• enforced policies;
• improved staff morale;
• optimal staff productivity;
• teamwork and professionalism;
• focus on practice goals;
• structured systems and operations; and
• fewer mistakes and more attention
to detail.

Pertinent Insights On Enforcing Office Policies

I have seen far too many problems caused by lack of policies or un-enforced policies in the workplace. There are a number of reasons why this happens.

   First, the practice may have an office manual with rules that should help address certain situations. The existence of this manual may be news to the staff and is sometimes even news to the doctors. Without knowing what they can and cannot do, staff members make up their own rules. If no one corrects the staff, they assume they are right.

   Second, doctors are afraid to enforce the rules for fear of losing their staff. When I point out to the doctors that policies are being broken, they say to me, “Well, what can I do?” My usual response: “If I were you, I would tell their boss.” It is a reality check.

   If you consider the policy or employee manual the “law enforcement rule book” in the office but no one is in the driver’s seat of those rules, they get abused, redefined or completely avoided. What is worse is the perception that the behavior is acceptable.

Comments

Where can I find a medical office manager? Is there a website dedicated to finding an office manager?

Thank you.

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