Managing your practice in five steps

May 1, 2008

Successfully managing your practice comes down to clear definitions of responsibilities. The most common challenges managers face stem from unclear processes for running the practice smoothly-employee accountability and motivation, issues with attendance, the need for effective employee reviews, and employees not following the chain of command within the office.

New Orleans-Successfully managing your practice comes down to clear definitions of responsibilities, according to Derek Preece, senior consultant for BSM Consulting Group, a nationally recognized ophthalmology practice management company.

During his presentation, "Implementing the Five-Step System of Management in Your Practice" at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, Preece said the most common challenges managers face stem from unclear processes for running the practice smoothly-employee accountability and motivation, issues with attendance, the need for effective employee reviews, and employees not following the chain of command within the office.

All of those challenges, according to Preece, can be overcome through five simple steps.

It is common to have step-by-step procedures in place for tasks such as checking in patients or billing and collections. However, Preece feels that many practices are lacking a step-by-step procedure for managing the staff.

"Systems help us make sure we're doing everything we need to do, so that we're consistent," Preece said, "so that when there's a problem, we can review the system and figure out what the problem is."

Having a system of management is highly beneficial to the practice because it "provides better transparency in the manager-employee relationship," he said, "so that we, upfront, say 'Here's my responsibility as a manager, here's your responsibility as an employee.' So if things go wrong, you can go back and say, 'Did I do something, or forget to do something, as a manager, or did you neglect to do something as an employee?'"

A system will also define and limit the responsibilities of the manager, while defining and expanding the responsibilities of the employees, which helps practices avoid a common mistake many managers make-taking on too many responsibilities.

A system is also important for the quality of the staff, because it will help motivated employees grow in their careers and unmotivated employees to seek employment elsewhere.

Preece's five-step system of management:

Managers should be sure that their employees have enough space to work in, and that they have up-to-date and user-friendly equipment-including telephones and computers, a convenient set-up, and the proper supplies needed to complete their duties.

"For the most part, our employees won't provide their own training-we need to do that for them," Preece said. He added that proper training is done when managers reveal their expectations of employees. "In other words, tell them what you expect." When an employee is learning to do his or her job, knowing what is expected can help the employee to be more productive.

A certain training style is not required. Instead, a style can be chosen to fit the employees. Staff meetings, seminars, in-services, and face-to-face interviews all serve as successful means of training.

The key to succeeding in this step is to allow employees to create their own goals and, only if necessary, step in with additional goals you feel they should accomplish.

"Once you've had this system in place for a while, more often than not your employees will set higher goals for themselves than you would set for them," he added.

Setting goals brings a sense of direction to the staff and can help employees measure their progress.

It can also shift responsibility from managers to employees, and serve as a prerequisite to accountability, showing that you expect something out of each employee.