Six Roles You Need Filled at Your Medical Practice for the Future

October 14, 2013
Michael Sappington

Now is the season for planning and creating a strategy for a practice that can survive the future. Here are six roles to fill at your office today.

When was the last time you looked real hard at a calendar and realized what time of the year it is? If you're in the northern parts of the country like I am, you don't need the changing leaves and colder mornings to let you know that we're in the final months of the year. This is autumn, a time of the year that is part reflection and part nature-provided chores. In my view, this season could also be described as one for planning and creating a strategy for a true, futuristic practice.

Let us first level set with the concept that changes within practices are truly inevitable. The current structure in which practices are operating is both unsustainable and ineffective for meeting the day-to-day business requirements in the long term.

With that being said, there are six clear roles that need to be created (and brought into practices) as part of this great wave of change:

Business development - Can you imagine freeing up enough time for a staff member to take one day a week and network with other practices or attend seminars? There is no doubt that taking one day a week is the first step in a road that ends up with a full-time "biz "dev" staff member. If other businesses have a sales-type role within, why shouldn't a medical practice?

Patient advocate and outreach manager - This role looks from the outside like a marketing-driven position, but it is internally perceived as more of a relationship manager that manages all patient interactions from appointment setting through follow up. The caretaker of this role should also demonstrate a willingness to see the patient as part of the practice's growth and look to create newfound connections whenever and wherever possible.

Risk and compliance specialist - What if your trip on the road toward ICD-11 included someone internally that focused on all deadlines and necessary training making each compliance situation as smooth as possible? Even more so, what if that same individual was like the human SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, frequently auditing activities to find potential risks and opportunities at all moments? Achieving continued business success through risk and compliance truly needs an internal individual who can take the chances presented within these different barriers and turn them into advantages.

Performance manager  - This fall brings us less than one year away from the ICD-10 deadline of Oct. 1, 2014. With close to 100,000 new (and specific) codes coming on the books, how does your practice take your solid patient-first operations and turn them into widely-accepted billing reporting and coding? This exciting role reviews all coded procedures as they "go out the door" for efficiencies and accuracies. No two physicians are alike in the way they code/report their consultations, and there should not be particular "blame" placed for any errors reported or found during an audit. The coding specialist could also be seen internally as a type of business efficiency manager.

Business and clinical information analyst  - Ask any physician on the spot, and they will tell you that their average patient interaction lasts (insert small number here) minutes. While in many cases this does not mean that the patient has turned into a statistic or a data point, the reality is that outcomes efficiencies are a provider's means to an end. This specific role combines together the practice's ability to get paid for services rendered, with the tried and true concept that patients are looking for a remedy based on their visit.

Referral manager  - We've heard the stories before of traditional referral networks going by the way of the unicorn, and the frequent solution is to "join the hospital." I don't believe that simply throwing in the towel is the best way to address the referral challenge. Instead, how are we leveraging existing channels as part of the new opportunity discovery? How are we proactively seeking new referral networks? Being a member of a referral network is much more than sharing a common friendship or membership. Participating as a true referral member means that knowledge, partnership and advocacy combine to create a smooth transitional experience (via trust) for the patient.

What do you think? Is the need for change being overstated, or is there an evolutionary element that is being missed altogether? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.