Operational assessments: Improving every aspect

October 15, 2008

An office manager should be interested in implementing change and improvements within a practice, but that should not be done without an operational assessment.

Key Points

Alpharetta, GA-An office manager should be interested in implementing change and improvements within a practice, but, according to Christine Ingram, senior consultant for The Coker Group, Alpharetta, GA, that should not be done without an operational assessment.

An operational assessment is a process in which the practice manager analyzes each aspect of the practice. It is not only a necessity, though, as it has many benefits for a practice.

"It gives you a realistic view of your practice," Ingram said.

Operational assessments, although important, can be a daunting task and should not be left only to the manager to conduct.

"When we go into practices and do these, I'll usually go on site for 2 or 3 days, interview everyone involved in the practice and put together a pretty large, comprehensive report," Ingram said. "You as a practice manager wouldn't be able to do this by yourself. You would need a team of folks within your practice-the physician, billing personnel, front office personnel, clinical personnel or head nurse, anyone working with records, and a chief financial officer or accountant, if you have one."

After a team is established, there are several pieces of information that must be gathered for an assessment, including the following:

Organizational chart

This piece of information is not a necessity within a practice and may need to be created by the manager, who would determine how each staff member is utilized and organized within the practice.

"At lot of times when you do an organizational chart, you find out how everyone fits into the practice. You may be heavily staffed in one area and not in another, but didn't realize that," Ingram said.

Summary of practice services

This allows managers to examine all of the details of the practice. According to Ingram, managers can gather this information by asking themselves questions such as "What do we do here? What are the diseases we treat? What do we do well? What other compatible services could we offer in our practice? Do we have extended hours?"

Scheduling templates

These documents can help determine how effective the practice's scheduling and planning are. Ingram suggests considering, "How long is the patient in the exam room? What is the patient turnaround?"

Mid-level providers

If the practice employs mid-level providers, such as nurse practitioners or physician's assistants, it is important to evaluate their productivity and utilization.

Personnel summaries

Much of the success of the practice can rely on the efficiency of the personnel, which is why it is important to evaluate the staff. Ingram explained that managers should consider who is working in the front office and who is working in the clinical side of the office, as well as how many full-time employees there are. Payroll should be evaluated as well.

Documentation

For this information, managers should first determine whether or not written policies and procedures are in place. They then should take the opportunity to create them or evaluate them to discover how they may be improved to better serve the needs of the practice.

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