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Is Top-Down Management Right for Your Medical Practice?

Is Top-Down Management Right for Your Medical Practice?

In order for your practice to run smoothly you need more than excellent medical skills. Because as much as your priority is to provide exceptional care for your patients, there are other vital components you must master to ensure the successful operation of the corporate elements of your practice. These include effectively managing your staff and efficiently monetizing your business. After all, if your business can't thrive, neither can your patients.

Most doctors don't have the training or the time to double as human resource and financial experts. That's why some medical practices can benefit from establishing a unique co-management structure rather than relying on a traditional top-down management style.

Unless you intend to earn an MBA, you may want to consider instituting one of these three simple geometric-themed alternatives for enhancing the functionality of your day-to-day business operations:

1. Round Management

Imagine a bicycle wheel. In this management model, which works well for a sizeable practice with a multidisciplinary team, your patients are at the center of the wheel, the hub. They are the reason you have a business at all. Every member of your team symbolizes one of the spokes, and each of them has a unique duty to perform that will add to the health of either your patients or your business. Because you are both the doctor and the business owner, your role is twofold. First, as the business owner, you act as the rim of the wheel; the person responsible for holding everything together by overseeing the professionalism of your staff and the economic success of your practice. Second, as the doctor, you are in the position of being the axle, which supports the hub (your patients), the spokes (your team), and the rim (your business). If you are out of alignment, your business will be out of alignment as well.

2. Triangle Management

Ideal for midsized practices, this three-pronged management approach includes a people manager, a financial manager, and a medical manager. In addition to handling conflicts and complaints, the people manager directs human resources — including hiring, firing, training, and scheduling. This person is also responsible for developing and maintaining patient relationships, and for the implementation and execution of office policies and principles. The financial manager is in charge of fiscal accountability, supplies, and payroll. The medical manager, who is usually the physician who owns the practice, is the in-house authority on medical practices, procedures, and records. The managing physician also has the final say on conflict resolutions, financial decisions, and corporate operations. The system usually works well because it provides clearly defined roles and responsibilities, multiple perspectives, and a variety of advisers who have specific areas of expertise.

3. Spiral Management

This is the most fluid and flexible mode of management because it offers minimal pecking order and maximal independence. Spiral management is perfectly suited for practices with one or two physicians and a small number of auxiliary staff. The success of this model relies heavily on mutual trust, teamwork, and open communication. Naturally, patients are the center point of the spiral, with physicians, support personnel, and administrative staff surrounding them in varying rings of care. No matter what their role is, people working in these practices generally have a vested interest in the success of the business because they enjoy the autonomy that the spiral management system provides. It is not uncommon for business owners who believe in this style of management to offer financial, educational, and scheduling assistance to their staff because they value the return they see on such investments.

Top-down management has certainly been proven to work well in many circumstances. But if you're looking for a more unconventional style, you may want to try a new angle.

Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO®, a veteran forensic medical investigator turned corporate civility consultant, professional speaker, and author. Jacques helps individuals, businesses, and medical practices create courteous cultures and prosper through professionalism. www.TheCivilityCEO.com.

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