Becoming a Highly Effective Office Manager
You have it all figured out. You are just waiting for your opportunity to tell everyone else. As the newly designated office manager, you are excited about the possibilities. You’ve been a long-term dedicated employee. You’ve worked hard, and you deserve this promotion. You are confident you can hit the ground running; after all you’ve worked as a member of the business team for three years now. What’s so different about becoming an office manager? A lot.
For some, moving from business employee to office manager is akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It sounded like such a good idea, a great opportunity until they realize they are completely unprepared for the responsibilities suddenly heaped upon their shoulders. Their confidence is strong until they realize there’s no one to give them guidance or training.
Oftentimes “good” employees are elevated to the position of “office manager” because they have been simply that - “good employees.” The doctor wants to reward them, and his/her intentions are genuine. The only problem is that no one really considered what it means to be the “office manager.” The doctor hopes that by appointing someone to the role, the individual will take the management reins and address those sticky and annoying and troubling management headaches that the doctor really does not want to deal with.
The doctor thinks the appointment will ensure that the scheduling issues are resolved, the marketing plan is implemented, the collections policy is consistently carried out, overdue patients are drawn back into the practice, overhead is monitored, job descriptions are updated, and on, and on, and on. As the doctor and the newly appointed office manager will soon come to realize, there is a very expensive divide between “thinking” an employee can effectively serve as office manager and knowing s/he can. It’s usually thousands of dollars in practice revenues.
Consider one of the most fundamental practice systems: patient retention. Commonly, the designated “office manager” is unaware of this very fundamental and critical system. The pace of the practice lulls them into a false sense of security, but if this key area isn’t monitored regularly the practice is likely to quietly lose patients for months before serious scheduling/revenue troubles emerge and the manager takes notice. The truth is, most office managers aren't paying attention to the multitude of inactive records that are chewing up space on the computer system or the holes in the schedule because the office is busy...or so it seems. They are not monitoring key production indicators to ensure that the hygienist’s salary is not exceeding 33% of what s/he produces, and the list goes on.
Case in point…I received an email from an office manager on the East Coast who wanted to know how she could determine if the practice was losing patients. I sent “Megan” the formula for calculating patient attrition. Soon after, Megan contacted me again because she wasn't sure how to interpret her findings. She had discovered that patient retention in the practice where she is the designated “office manager” is at 53%, a figure she thought sounded alarming. She is correct. The practice retains little more than half the patients who walk through its doors. This finding alone should set off alarm bells in every corner of the office. But sounding the alarm isn’t enough. As the office manager, Megan needs to know how to put out the fire that is burning through practice profits.
She’s a bright woman, a few minutes into our conversation and she quickly recognized that critical business systems were lacking. Accountability and follow-through were weak, as was clear leadership. It didn’t take long for Megan to realize that nearly all the elements are present for this office to become a highly functioning team. However, the one essential element missing is training.
Time and again office managers are asked to take on huge amounts of responsibility, often with very little guidance. Most office managers across the country are doing the best that they can, but without receiving professional management training they simply don’t know what they don’t know. And most doctors don’t know how much it’s costing them until serious problems arise.Next week, what does the office manager really need to know?
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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