The Benefits of an Operations Manual
By: Linda Martien, CPC, CPC-H, CPMA
Operations manuals set standards for all practice employees to follow. This negates many of the excuses employees may have for not performing their duties properly. Manuals also help cut the costs of employee absenteeism. It’s been shown that unscheduled absenteeism costs employers $3,600 per employee, per year. Having an operations manual allows employees to fill in for one another in the event of an absence. Additionally, manuals are handy in the training process. Instead of having to guide new employees personally through each operation, they have a guide to consult.
If you’re looking to improve your practice, creating an operations manual should be one of the steps in your plan (even if you think your practice is fine, without one). Creating an operations manual is a low-cost way to improve your practice from within. Here’s how to create a medical office operations manual:
1. Take note of day-to-day operations. You may want to jump right into creating your operations manual, but you will be better served by observing the daily operations of your practice for one to two weeks. This will give you a better idea of what your manual needs to cover.
2. Pay special attention to the table of contents. Make sure it is detailed. Use heading and subheadings to make specific tasks easier to find.
3. Create job descriptions. Although you may have kept your staff for years, turnover is inevitable. Having detailed job descriptions in the manual helps ease the transition for new employees and helps to resolve conflicts between employees butting heads over who does, what.
4. Use office experts to create certain sections. If any employee is especially adept at a particular task, have that person write an explanation and “how to” steps for the manual. Not only will said task be explained thoroughly, but your “expert” will champion the task, ensuring that everyone else performs it properly.
5. Be concise. An operations manual isn’t meant to be an exceptional piece of literature. It just needs to be useful and understandable. Keep it simple!
6. Operationalize common situations. Certain things aren’t part of your operations, but still occur, at times. For instance, include a section in your manual for dealing with frustrated or angry patients.
7. Keep it open to revision. A key to an operations manual is that it needs to change with the times. Technologies and procedures change; so, make sure to go back to the manual and update it at least once every six months.