Friday, August 9, 2013

For New Physicians: The Do’s and Don’ts of Working in a Practice (Part 1 of a 4 Part Series)

In many medical practices, newly-hired physicians delve into the specifics of their jobs without getting the lay of the land.  They do not always know what kind of attitude, conduct, perspective or administrative skills they will need in their new jobs.  This 4-part article provides some hints for the new physician joining a practice. 

Above all, observe all that goes on in the practice -- the workflow and the personalities of the practice employees.  Identify the physician-champions and the influential members of the administrative staff. By careful observation you will learn about the culture of the practice and your role and fit within the practice. 

Make a Good Impression

Be mindful of the first impressions you will be making.  As a new member of the practice, you represent the practice and the medical profession to the public.  This is true both inside and outside the practice.

You should always dress in a professional manner.  There is no room for carelessness in your appearance, conduct, manner, speech or workstation.  For both men and women, clean and pressed clothes and polished shoes are essential.  You won’t lose points for being overdressed, but being underdressed can be disastrous.  

Be professional at all times, both with your physician colleagues, as well as the non-clinical staff. Don’t interrupt people; establish eye contact with whom you are talking. Take time to listen.  Again, observe all that goes on within the practice.  

Your Productivity

Remember that the medical practice is a business.  Many physicians choose to pursue the practice of medicine because of the interest in helping others, the challenges that the profession offers and NOT to be in business.  But the medical practice is a business and it needs to meet the customer (patient) needs, make a profit, and continue to run like a healthy business.    

Physicians who have the longest work weeks usually have the highest productivity and compensation. Managers with longer work weeks have superior administrative performances. The impact of a longer work week is logical, since physicians who work more hours can care for more patients and have increased billings.  While the evidence is there that hard work pays off, there is another maxim that physicians and administrators should heed:  “Work smarter, not harder.”

Physician time can be eroded because doctors take on activities they shouldn’t and the staff should. Physicians should not be consumed with tasks that could, with a little effort and planning, be delegated to staff.  Even new physicians in a practice need to ask themselves, “What am I doing that eats away at my time and doesn’t require my skills of judgment?”

A highly productive day in a practice doesn’t happen by accident or luck.  It depends upon careful planning and tight control of the appointment schedule.  Stay focused and on schedule and you will fit in with what the non-clinical team is expecting of you.

Recognize the Contribution of the Office Manager or Practice Administrator

A good office manager or practice administrator is an essential part of a practice’s success.  Respect and value the contributions of this important employee.  The medical office manager role has evolved into a true profession and as a new physician in a practice you should learn from the office manager.  Today’s medical administrator or office manager handles the following responsibilities either directly or via supervision of the staff:  Human resources, patient relations, appointment scheduling, billing, coding and insurance processing, information systems and security, financial analysis and management, marketing, medical records, compliance and privacy issues, managed care contracting, quality assurance, strategic planning.

This staff member manages the complexities of the practice in an effort to allow the physician and clinical staff to focus on what they do best: Patient Care.

Learn from your office manager in order to gauge the activity and workflow in the practice.  Always be mindful that training and dollars spent keeping your office manager abreast of developments will provide a return on the practice investment, many times over.

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

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