There is a significant opportunity in the U.S. for business-minded professionals to have a rewarding career in healthcare as practice managers.
As in any profession, there are average managers who do an adequate job. And then there are the superstars—the managers who care deeply, work fervently, and deliver results time and time again.
So what sets these managers apart from others? What is the “secret sauce” to getting ahead as a practice manager? Let’s talk about five qualities superstar managers possess.
1. Superstar managers excel at the core responsibilities.
Before practice managers can stand out as exceptional, they must first master the core functions of a medical practice. This includes: expertly managing the revenue cycle, financials, human resources, clinic operations, risk management, and compliance. Many of these skills are learned in the field, and some can be enhanced with resources and educational opportunities from organizations like the Medical Group Management Association or specialty societies.
In the quest of mastering the fundamentals, the successful practice manager never says, “That’s not my job.” He or she must be willing to step into virtually any role when needed. Or, in the instance of being asked to handle a situation beyond the manager’s scope or expertise, he or she is resourceful, researching the issue and contacting trusted advisors or experts for guidance. The physicians rely on the manager to handle the problems, big or small.
2. Superstar managers embrace change.
The healthcare environment is evolving, and managers who fail to adapt will be left behind. Accept the reality, embrace the challenge, and boldly lead the way. Just as physicians must stay current on clinical advances, successful managers must keep abreast of changes such as new technologies, shifting payer reimbursement, changes in market demands, and the swinging pendulum of physician employment. They will proactively anticipate challenges that may arise from the change and quickly develop solutions.
3. Superstar managers retain a teachable spirit.
The body of knowledge in healthcare management is vast, and as just stated, ever-changing. The most successful managers understand that they will never know it all and remain open and willing to learning new ideas.
Jason Cornelius, MHA, MBA, chief operating officer at Fort Worth Brain and Spine in Fort Worth, Texas, advises: “Always stay humble and never stop learning. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, who can mentor you, and people who have ‘more gray hair’ than you.” Adopt the mindset of being a lifelong learner. And keep in mind that new teachings can come from various sources, including employees who report to you.
4. Superstar managers think like both a clinician and a businessperson.
Successful medical practice managers not only understand the fundamentals of the business, but also have foundational knowledge of the medical specialty and the clinicians who are providing the service. They seek to understand what drives and impassions the providers. They shadow clinicians, ask questions, and take a clinical interest in what they do. After all, the business of medicine is entirely dependent upon patients and the providers of care.
5. Superstar managers nurture relationships.
Truly successful managers develop the keen ability to perceive and assess others’ emotions and develop enhanced communication techniques, flexing their style to most effectively communicate their message. They nurture relationships with physicians, staff, vendors, hospitals, payer representatives, etc., even the most challenging ones.
“Never burn bridges,” says Cornelius, “because strong and healthy relationships are vital to success.” Learning to communicate, listen, and understand others will carry you extraordinarily far in your career.
Amy Boyer, MBA, is a consultant with KarenZupko & Associates, Inc. She has 15 years of experience working with physicians in private practice, hospital-based practice, and academic settings. Boyer specializes in practice operations, revenue cycle, and the use of technology to improve productivity. She frequently advises residents and young surgeons about employment agreements, compensation, and practice start-up issues.