Physician Practice Manager: Pushed and Pulled in Too Many Directions?

By Leanne Walls, CPC, CHC

What is the role of the Physician Practice Manager in your office? Where do your loyalties lie when conflicts or issues arise? These are issues that the manager has to deal with on a daily basis, and the answers can vary depending on the type of office where you work. Do you work for a small office with only one physician or is it a large system with many physicians? Either way, this job is tough! Practice managers are expected to keep the office functioning and running smoothly, while they are being pushed and pulled in so many different directions.

So who is pulling the practice manager?
• Physicians
• Administration (CEO, CFO, Revenue Manager)
• IT
• Compliance Officer
• Staff
• Patients

Physicians are now faced with cuts in revenue and are forced to find alternative ways to make up the difference. Does the physician need to see more patients? Work more hours? Add a new line of business? Who decides what needs to be done? Be wary of the ideas proposed from the sales representative that has just brought lunch and promised the physicians the deal of a lifetime, which seems too good to be true. It probably is. These ideas sound great to the physicians, but what about your Compliance Officer? Are those ideas legitimate? Are they compliant? Whose job is it to research it to verify its validity? That is one more task that the practice manager must do, or delegate.

Does your physician(s) love your practice’s EHR? Does it do all that it needs to do to meet the needs of the patient? What about that grand prize of those meaningful use dollars? Implementing a new EHR can be one of the toughest tasks that a practice manager will face. There are some days, probably many days, that no one is happy with the system. Where do they come to complain or to seek help? You got it — your office! Do you know enough about the system, or do you have to call the EHR support line?

The message from your Revenue Manager or CEO may be to push your physicians harder to make more money, see more patients, bill more services, or bill higher levels of service. Who is going to educate the physicians on the documentation requirements for the new services? Who is going to make sure that the physicians realize that certain things must be documented and all must be medically necessary to bill in the proposed way? That could fall into the Practice Manager’s lap if you don’t have a dedicated staff member to audit and educate your physicians and other staff.

The real fun begins when Administration and Compliance disagree. What do you do when conflicts arise? Do you have a policy to cover the situation? Communication is the key. Try to keep everyone “in the loop.” Make sure everyone is on the “same page.” I sometimes joke that there are days that I don’t feel like we are even in the “same book,” much less the same page. Processes designed to address conflicts need to be created and followed.

Never-ending staff issues are extremely time consuming. Are employees calling in because they are sick? Who will cover their shifts? Who is mad today because “’so-and-so’ isn’t working as hard as me?” Who is having a personality clash today? Who did the physician yell at and make cry today? So many of these issues happen daily, and the Practice Manager has to manage them all. Do you have clear policies for these situations?

Last but not least, there is the patient — the main reason that we come to work. How do we take the best possible care of each of our patients? Are we providing the best customer service? Are we providing the best quality of care? If not, this must be the main priority of the Practice Manager. If we aren’t taking good care of our patients, who have trusted us with their lives, then we have failed.

Some tips to help the Practice Manger get through the day:
• Review your job description
• Discuss any questions that you have regarding job description before you accept the position
• Make sure that you understand the expectations of you and your role
• Create and implement policies and stick to them
• Communicate, communicate, communicate
• MANAGE your practice!

 

Leanne Walls, CPC, CHC works for a large multi-specialty group practice with over 100 physicians. She is a Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and is also Certified in Healthcare Compliance (CHC). She has over twenty years of experience in coding, compliance and practice management.

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Leanne Walls

Leanne Walls

Leanne Walls, CPC,works for a large multi-specialty group practice with over 100 physicians.She is a Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and is also Certified in Healthcare Compliance (CHC).She has over twenty years of experience in coding, compliance and practice management.
Leanne Walls

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Leanne Walls, CPC, works for a large multi-specialty group practice with over 100 physicians. She is a Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and is also Certified in Healthcare Compliance (CHC). She has over twenty years of experience in coding, compliance and practice management.

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