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Being a good medico not enough

Posted by Matt Connor on 15 September 2015
Being a good medico not enough

Business skills for doctors a must
If you ask most people what's required to be a good medico, they're likely to say that medical professionals must be highly skilled in their medical specialisation.

It's true that clinical skills must be of the highest standard. But when it comes time to learn the skills required to set up in private practice, business skills are also critical.

Think about it: you've probably spent more than a decade acquiring your clinical skills. It's a strategic investment to spend a little more time acquiring the core business skills that will make you an informed and effective practice owner.

Increase your knowledge, reduce your risk
Yes, you can employ a practice manager for the hands-on, day-to-day operational side of your practice. And yes, you should definitely seek advice from experts on aspects of practice management such as accounting, tax, and business development.

But, as an owner or partner, you need to understand business issues so that you can steer your practice in the direction you want it to go. As an informed practice owner, you'll also be able to ask the right questions of your managers and advisers, and fully understand the answers they give you.

To do this, you need to know about:

  • business systems and processes
  • organisational strategy
  • customer relations and marketing
  • HR and people strategies.

Good business systems and processes are the key to continuous improvement and risk management. In this post, I'd like to talk about two critical business systems: cash control and staff backup.

Cash control is critical
Almost every medical practice will have some patients paying their fees in cash. You need a system to handle cash from when it is received to when it is banked, and a mechanism to trace cash payments.

A procedure document should tell your staff what to do when cash is received (provide receipt, mark off in practice software, get authorisation from a second staff member) and include template forms to be completed when holding cash until it is banked.

When things go wrong
Without a formal cash control procedure in place, you are vulnerable to theft. I know of one practice where a staff member was able to pocket cash received and then delete the related patient consultation from the doctor's calendar, removing evidence that it had taken place. This behaviour was detected fairly quickly, but expensive legal fees were necessary to terminate this staff member's employment.

Backup is not just for computers
Staff backup is also critical in managing risk.

Many small practices feel that they can get by with one practice administrator or manager. It's true that overall labour costs are generally lower when you employ only one person even when they do a lot of overtime.

But being dependent on just one practice manager or administrator is dangerous. If that person gets sick, goes on holidays or, worse, decides to leave, all the intellectual property associated with running your practice is missing. And any disruption to the administration of your practice can have significant financial and reputational costs.

Having a second, part-time manager or administrator, even for just one day each week, is well worth the extra cost. It will give your practice some insurance if your primary staff member is unavailable for whatever reason.

Increase your knowledge, reduce your risk
Every one of my clients has felt more secure and confident once they acquired a better understanding of the business aspects of their practice. Watch our free practice management videos to kickstart your own business training.

Author: Matt Connor
Tags: Budget Staffing

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