From Office Manager to Practice Manager

Medical practices have undergone a tsunami of changes in the last few decades. It was just a few years ago when an employee could start her or his career in a medical office and in five to ten years be promoted to the office manager. The duties could include billing and coding, hiring and releasing of nonphysician employees, managing staff calendars, scheduling patients, and inventory management.
Today, managing a practice requires more responsibility and skill. Physicians are focusing more on patient care and have less time for administrative work. In addition to the traditional expectations of an office manager, a practice manager is likely to also need experience with basic accounting, social media, website management, meeting coordination, business development, patient satisfaction and retention, medical equipment service contracts, HIPAA and OSHA compliance, and online reputation management.
With this grand expansion of responsibilities and duties, it can be difficult to know what areas to focus on when hiring or developing a practice manager. Here are three I recommend.

Communication skills

A practice manager will communicate with patients, medical professionals, vendors and more. This person needs to understand privacy and have appropriate discretion. They should be able to filter information to know when to escalate an issue, and it is helpful when the manager has a working knowledge of the medical terminology frequently used in your office.

Technical aptitude

There’s an app for that! Medical practices nowadays use electronic health record systems, accounting software, patient communication portals, telemedicine apps and more. With the thousands of options available, it’s not necessary for a candidate to have experience in the specific programs your office uses, but they need to have a high comfort level with technology.

Growth mindset

With all the changes I’ve seen in this role in a short period of time, I can only imagine what’s to come in the next decade. A practice manager should be eager to not just learn the position as-is but also be prepared to grow and adapt the role to the evolving needs of the office and patients.
Bottom line: Practice manager can be one of the most important roles in a practice. Practice managers have a hand in nearly all the components of your business outside of your medical skills. Define what your office needs with this role and remember that skills can be taught if you find the right person.

Check out more Wiz wisdom in the archive
Neil H. Baum, MD, is on-staff medical advisor to Vanguard Communications and author of 16 books, including "Marketing Your Clinical Practice – Ethically, Effectively, and Economically," now in its 4th edition, and "The Complete Business Guide to a Successful Medical Practice." Dr. Baum has been dubbed "Dr. Wiz" for his love of magic and his urology specialty practice. 
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