1. An Hour a Month Could Save You Many Sleepless Nights
2. The Practice Manager as Change Agent
3. The Heartbeat of Your Practice
4. The Building Blocks for High Performance
5. The Big Picture
In our recent post, we discussed the need for medical practice managers and providers to meet regularly in what we refer to as a Practice Operations Council (POC) setting. During these meetings, council members address medical practice challenges and opportunities and make decisions about practice operations.
Identifying challenges and opportunities is only part of what is needed, however. For a practice to move from average to superior, someone must take responsibility to follow through on the decisions made in the POC meetings—to pinpoint and carry out the tactics needed to implement change and achieve results.
Most often, especially in a small practice, this person is the practice manager.
In years past, practice managers were often selected based on how long they’d been with the practice or how well they connected with the staff and physicians. But these selection standards are no longer sufficient. To create change and sustain the results in your medical practice, the practice manager must be a savvy, goal-oriented leader who knows how to take action and follow through on practice initiatives.
In other words, practice managers must have the ability to roll up their sleeves, engage others, and get the job done.
Practice Manager = Practice Champion
Have you ever heard the axiom that says if you aren’t moving forward, you’re falling behind? Such a truism exists for a reason, and it certainly rings true in the medical practice setting. Operational challenges usually don’t fix themselves. Staff and providers tend to stay focused on their routine tasks and seldom take advantage of real opportunities for the practice—unless practice leadership actively pursues those opportunities.
Of course, the role of the practice manager includes many day-to-day duties as well, with obligations that include overseeing office workflows and managing practice assets. Without question, these commitments require time and attention, but they are only part of the manager’s job.
The most successful practice managers know that one of their most vital responsibilities is to act as practice champion. In this role, they recognize the importance of partnering with both physicians and staff. They identify tactics to fix problems within the practice. They follow through on implementing strategies that bring about positive change and performance improvement.
Accountability and Operational Change
As we teach our management training clients, implementing change starts with accountability. Effective practice managers are quick to recognize the reality of a situation, own the problem, relentlessly look for ways to solve it, consistently follow through, and do what it takes to resolve the issue before the opportunity passes.
In addition to embracing accountability, successful practice managers have other characteristics in common. These managers:
- Possess unbounded and constant optimism to overcome barriers and negative inertia;
- Have a sound knowledge of people and understand what is required to motivate others;
- Consistently demand high standards of performance from themselves and their team members;
- Have confidence that others will ultimately catch the vision (or choose to move on);
- Know how to distinguish between the important and the trivial and to work toward vital goals;
- Initiate intelligent action, not just random activity;
- Are intolerant of excuses and accept reasons for failure only as building blocks to overcome barriers;
- Pose questions such as “If not, why not? If not now, when?”;
- Understand the critical importance of developing strong partnerships and fostering a culture of accountability within the practice.
The best practice managers also recognize that their degree of success in implementing operational change depends on their ability to effectively apply the five functions of management in a medical practice setting. For any given project, the practice manager must be able to:
- Develop a detailed action plan;
- Organize the project’s execution by appropriately dividing tasks;
- Delegate tasks to staff members, keeping in mind their other responsibilities as well as their current state of development/ability to perform the assigned tasks;
- Monitor delegated tasks for correct, timely completion; and
- Give thoughtful consideration to each tactic they develop, favoring those that lead to revenue enhancement or expense control.
To help them act with intention when implementing change initiatives, practice managers can use a tool called the site-specific action plan (SSAP). In our next post, we’ll take a look at the SSAP: what it is, how it works, and why we consider it an essential platform for change management and performance improvement.