What will tomorrow's practice
administrator job descriptions include?
By Kenneth T. Hertz, CMPE
Principal, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group
Today's medical practices – and the administrators who run them – have certainly evolved throughout the past 30 years. Many practices have been acquired or integrated, and generational differences continue to shift work styles and creating new issues (Facebook, anyone?).
What are the skills you'll need as a medical practice administrator to prepare yourself and your practice for the next 30 years?
A good starting point is the Body of Knowledge for Medical Practice Management (BOK). The BOK contains eight key areas – or domains – of knowledge, along with essential tasks for the professional practice administrator. Woven throughout these domains are four general competencies: professionalism, leadership, communication skills and critical thinking. To advance your career, you must be knowledgeable and skilled in these areas – but you'll need other tools as well.
Here are five additional knowledge domains to consider in getting your skill set on for the future:
- Become a transformer and change advocateThere's a whole new world out there, some of which we can discern and some of which has either yet to appear or is unclear (e.g., healthcare reform). You'll have to possess a dynamic set of investigative and analytical skills to affect the kind of transformation your practice will need in a rapidly changing environment.
Analysis paralysis – where you don't move forward because the sheer quantity of analysis gets in the way of making a decision – won't cut it anymore. You'll have to be able to make those substantive, foundational, structural and compositional changes. If healthcare reform is any indication, things will not be the way they have always been. It'll be up to you to guide the journey. Now is the time to exercise those transformational muscles.
- Tune in even more to business culture As more healthcare organizations affiliate with each another, the differences in their cultures present an opportunity and challenge. Become your own business anthropologist so you can understand cultural gaps and develop your management skills to bridge them.
Your study and understanding of work culture will enable you to apply a holistic approach, including organizational structures, core values and beliefs. You will master the ability to truly observe, listen and analyze your findings.
- Adapt to accountability changesImplicit in the BOK is accountability. I see it moving to a new level in the future. Questions such as "To whom am I accountable?" and "Who is accountable for what?" will take on new meaning with organizational and structural changes in our practices.
If your practice becomes part of an integrated delivery system (IDS), you'll have a different chain of command. In the "traditional" practice setting, the administrator usually reports to the board or executive committee (e.g. physicians). But in the new integrated model, the practice administrator may report to, say, the vice president for practices (or someone with a similar title), who, in many cases, may not understand his new report's former private-practice setting. This may dramatically alter your new job description.
There's also a shift in accountability for physicians. In the private-practice setting, the physician wears several hats – she is the owner, employer and employee. In the integrated model, the physician is an employee and no longer the owner or employer.
- Stay on top of the trendsI'm not talking about reading tea leaves, tarot cards or looking deep into a crystal ball. But I am talking about broadening your awareness, sensitivities, networks and resource base. Take advantage of all MGMA has to offer to stay plugged in: board certification, specialty assemblies, online eGroups, publications, Annual Conference, etc.
Explore other fields in depth and learn from other industries. Read blogs, business books, classics and biographies such as Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success (he's the MGMA Annual Conference keynote speaker this year).
You probably won't be able to predict the future, but the more you know, the broader your base of information and understanding and the more quickly you can identify trends and potential changes. This will enable you to better prepare your practice and yourself for the coming changes.
- Be the ultimate people personAs I've written in my previous blog, people are your greatest asset. But how do we transfer that phrase into action? Simple: Treat people like people.
We do preventive maintenance on our cars, such as getting the oil changed regularly, so they continue to run. Why is it that we expect employees to continue to produce for us day after day without any real care and attention?
Help your employees grow by coaching and mentoring. Develop the technical skills they need to perform better in the office through training, education and constructive feedback. Corporate wellness programs, financial education programs, financial assistance for education and employee assistance programs all help to show you care and value them.
These skills probably won't make it into the BOK anytime soon, but rest assured, they are skills you'll need to take you and your practice into the future of healthcare.
What skills do you think are essential for the future? Leave a comment.