How to Solve Your Medical Practice's Toughest Challenges

Kathy I. Moghadas, RN, CLRM, CHBC


October 11, 2017

In This Article

The Office Manager's Role Is Key

As the number of employees has grown, the role of the office manager has also grown. That person needs to devote more attention to managing personnel and coordinating patient care delivery services. Because the trend remains that just about one half (51%) of physicians still do not formally meet and discuss the business of running their medical practices, reliable, competent administrative management is still highly needed.

The survey report also shows that less than one half (45%) of the respondents fail to develop a strong strategic plan, and less than one half of self-employed (44%) respondents used a healthcare consultant to assist them in developing their strategic plans. So much of their attention emphasizes daily management only, rather than growth or targeting a particular direction. Still, over three quarters of physician respondents (76% of employed and 70% of self-employed physicians) reported that they are successful in meeting their practice goals.

Staff meetings are still occurring, with over one third (40%) of employed respondents reporting daily or weekly huddles and another one half (50%) of self-employed physicians reporting monthly or quarterly meetings at a consistent frequency. As with any small, service-driven business, employee issues and the consequences of training a new labor force, turnover, and replacement still continue to be practice business concerns that the hiring of competent management helps.

Treating staff with respect, management delegation with authority, being proactive rather than reactive with problems, providing good compensation and both soft and hard benefits, maintaining a positive attitude, and leading by example all communicate a courteous and caring attitude that attracts patients and retains employees.

The office manager continues to be the predominant go-to person for addressing patient complaints. Most of you continue to hear about complaints when communicating directly with your patients; however, the majority of practitioners will have their administrative manager resolve those patient concerns.

What to Consider Before Hiring New Clinicians

When considering hiring a new physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, we recommend certain considerations. These are important so that you don't expand your staff beyond what is needed and get yourself into an unprofitable situation.

One possible barometer that more clinicians are needed is that three quarters of the appointment slots are consistently booked out for appointments, and that new patients have to wait more than 3 weeks for an appointment.

Also, before hiring a new associate, consider the type of patient base anticipated, delays that may ensue as insurance payers are credentialing the new associate, and the need to test-run the new associate. If you review your insurance plan participation annually or biannually, you may be able to modify your practices' schedules by allowing fewer appointments for patients using lower-paying insurance plans.

Most of the survey respondents still work long hours. Over 50% of physicians see more than 21 patients a day, and over one third (36%) report that they see 21-30 patients daily. Interestingly enough, regardless of type of practice, our respondents tended to still work long hours of 45 hours a week or more. Almost two thirds of respondents worked more than 45 hours a week, and the same proportion were employees instead of sole owners.

According to the survey, more of you are satisfied with your income and the time devoted to your business of medicine than are not satisfied with these aspects of your practice. Those figures do not vary by employed versus self-employed clinicians or primary care providers versus specialists. However, the respondents appeared to be almost evenly split when questioned about their satisfaction with overhead costs.

Conclusion: Many physicians are facing the same time crunches and practice management problems in their medical practices. However, there are solutions to help resolve or at least improve many of those situations. The key in most instances is to analyze and study the specific reason and source of what's creating those problems, and then develop solutions that target those issues. In some cases, the solutions will involve technology; in others, they may entail different staff deployment; and still others will revolve around a new understanding of the situation and a change in attitude or philosophy.


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