By Beverly Jue-Smith, OD, MBA
Jan. 13, 2016
As a practice grows, adding an administrative manager can free up the OD to generate revenues. Compute your readiness to make a hiring decision.
RECOGNIZE THE TIPPING POINT: In your practice growth plan, build in the addition of a dedicated manager and training period and ROI.
CHOOSE DETAIL-ORIENTED EMPLOYEE. The administrative manager should be strong in bookkeeping skills, and should enjoy working with minute details.
DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITIES. Assign specific tasks, such as overseeing financial bookkeeping for the practice, along with staff training and vendor relations.
Our practice was founded in 1988, and since then, we’ve grown to five ODs, and a staff of 20. In 1995, we added the position of administrative manager. By establishing this position, we have one person who will oversee all the front office duties, front office staff scheduling, performance evaluations, and be the go-to mediator between me and the front office staff. She is also responsible for overseeing whatever goes on in the reception and waiting area. It is much more efficient to relay information to one person at the front desk when we have more than one person at the front desk. She will also ensure that the information is relayed to her team and follow-up on any requests.
Administrative Manager: Job Responsibilities
Front desk assistant/Receptionist
Manning the telephones
Greeting and checking out patients
Verifying insurance coverage
Handling accounts receivables
Preparing reports and financial data
Manages five other administrative assistants
Schedules employee work weeks, their performance reviews, trains and disciplines them and makes recommendations for salary increases on their behalf. She also creates their performance criteria and goals, and coaches them to make their bonus goals.
Delegate Responsibilities to Departmental Managers
In fact, our administrative manager is one of three managers, the others being our clinic manager and our optical manager. This form of delegation and empowerment (albeit with supervision) is key to growing any eyecare practice to its full potential.
The five ODs of our practice are usually busy with patient care, so it is necessary to have someone in charge of administrative duties such as manning the telephones, triaging patients, making appointments, greeting and checking out patients, verifying insurance coverage, recalling patients, handling accounts receivables, and preparing reports and financial data. We find that having one staff member oversee and organize all of these duties keeps our practice, with a support staff of 18, and around 7,500 comprehensive exams delivered annually, on track.
Our administrative manager oversees her staff in fulfilling all of these duties, in addition to organizing the doctor’s schedules, her staff schedules, doing all the billing, the daily closeout and balance sheets, and monthly production reports. She is also responsible for her staff performance reviews and training.
Finding the right person to be the administrative manager can be difficult, so take your time. This should be a person able to keep the practice philosophy in the forefront of their actions at all times, be flexible, supportive, extremely organized and efficient. Billing can be tricky with so many insurance plans out there, so they should be detail-oriented and tenacious.
Recognize Tipping Point: When You Need Departmental Managers
According to the Management and Business Academy’s Key Metrics, at$1.1 million in revenues, about two-thirds of practices have an office manager. At $500,000 in revenue, four in 10 do. The average compensation of an office manager is $22/hour or $43,000 a year.
The base salary of our administrative manager is between $22-24/hour. The entire team is eligible for production bonuses based on appointments filled, collections and number of new patients booked. I agree with the MBA Key metrics that it is essential for large practices to have a manager. It has been more successful for us to have a manager for each department, rather than one general manager. The three managers support each other, discuss and formulate solutions to problems and back each other up should one be absent or ill. It was too difficult for us to have one person oversee our practice, but smaller practices can do very well with one general manager. I think it is far easier to manage a smaller number of people, like 5-8, rather than 20 people.
San Ramon Family Optometry, Inc., hasthree departmental managers, including an administrative manager, who are empowered to manage staff and make everyday decisions.
Choose Employee With Strong Bookkeeping Background
The employee we chose for the role of administrative manager has a strong background in corporate bookkeeping and finance. She has also worked in retail. She was hired as a front desk assistant/receptionist and proved to have a high aptitude for organizational skills and financial data. She did not have a management background, but she was willing to go to management classes taught by local corporate businesses.
Delegate Specific Duties to Administrative Manager
My partner and I still make the final decisions about staff salaries, benefits and office policy, but we include all three of our managers (optical, clinical and administrative managers) in discussions about everything that impacts office organization and protocols. Our administrative manager is at the forefront of every patient encounter from the beginning to the end of a patient’s visit and she knows and hears the needs of the practice from the patients’ and staff members’ perspective.
Patients and staff are often more comfortable sharing their ideas, thoughts and recommendations with the front desk staff than with the doctors. I know that the front office staff is more in touch with what is going on around the office than me since I am in the exam room most of the time, and I rely on the staff to give me feedback on how we are doing.
Sometimes our administrative manager will present her recommendations regarding office policies to us either verbally or written. We encourage our managers to make their recommendations by first explaining the issue at hand, then to give the reason why there needs to be a change, and what they recommend. If it has to do with managing her staff issues, it is her responsibility to handle them herself, just with oversight/recommendations from my partner and me. She is also in charge of staffing schedules, and training her staff.
In addition to these other duties, the administrative manager meets with some of our vendors, gathers information, and then we meet to discuss the pros and cons. It is a big time saver for me if she can gather preliminary information about potential vendors. The optical manager meets with frame vendors. The administrative manager meets with any others, and “screens” them before making an appointment for them to meet with the doctors or other staff members. This includes contractors, pharmaceutical reps and contact lens reps.
Assign Management Responsibilities to Administrative Manager
The administrative manager currently manages five other administrative assistants. She schedules their work weeks, their performance reviews, trains and disciplines them and makes recommendations for salary increases on their behalf. She also creates their performance criteria and goals, and coaches them to make their bonus goals. She knows that I am always supportive of her decisions and am there to help advise her if she needs back up or help in training, disciplining or managing her staff.
By giving her as much autonomy as possible, she is more confident and effective as a manager and her staff is more respectful and receptive of her authority.
We have considered making her the office manager, which would make her the manager over the clinic and optical manager, but she prefers to have the camaraderie and partnership with the other managers. I think that the development path for anyone is self-defined, based on what motivates them, whether it be an increase in salary, more paid time off, paid education or higher bonuses.
If our practice continues to grow, she may decide to elect an assistant to help her so she can focus more on her managerial duties and billing, which is getting more and more cumbersome over time with managed care and more insurance plans.
Have Administrative Manager Oversee Staff Training
Both the administrative manager, and I, find classes online or locally for her staff, and she makes the decision of which employees she would like to attend the classes. We require all staff who attend classes to make a short presentation about their class during the next staff meeting, so the administrative manager makes sure they are prepared to do this.
Provide Support from Top of the Practice
I think the most important thing I can do for our administrative manager is to support her and her decisions. I commend her often on good decisions and give her more resources and/or advice to help her make decisions if she needs help. I also make it a point to let her staff know that she is their manager and that she represents our practice goals and priorities in whatever decisions she makes.
Beverly Jue-Smith, OD, MBA, is the owner of San Ramon Family Optometry, Inc., in San Ramon, Calif. Dr. Jue-Smith also is owner of Optometric Consultants, a private practice consulting firm. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org