Today however, running a medical practice is increasingly more complex than greeting patients, scheduling appointments and preparing payments.
Although being the first point of contact is significant, increasingly the role of the receptionist is changing and competition for reception staff is fierce.
Aus Doc in July reported a mass exodus of practice receptionists due to wait times blowing out from 70% (2.8 days to 3.8 days on average) along with patient abuse and violent threats.
Practice managers too, are taking on bigger and more complex roles, driving growth and expansion of the practice, undertaking performance reviews, retraining staff and trouble shooting IT.
The average practice manager typically spends about 44% of time on total finance and HR issues, 15% on operational issues, 13% on compliance, 8% on IT, 6% on professional responsibilities, 5% on planning and marketing, 5% on risk management and 4% on governance. The problem here is that doesn’t leave a lot of time for creating growth strategy – increasingly a challenge for larger practices.
One step up from the practice manager is the business manager, who these days is also likely to have formal business qualifications or a Bachelor Degree. Business managers work closely with doctors, admin staff, clients and other health professionals to achieve efficient financial goals and high accreditation standards for the practice. I often describe the receptionist as the person who works IN the business, the Practice Manager as the person who works somewhat IN the business but mostly ON the business. The Business Manager is virtually 100% focused on growth strategies and operational systems for efficiency, and has very little front-facing role.
So who should do what then?
I have created this simple checklist for practice owners, to help them understand the responsibilities, skills and pay levels of the receptionist, practice manager and business manager.
Typical Tasks: The receptionist is the “storefront” of your medical practice, which means they need to have exceptional people and communication skills, a friendly and engaging disposition, excellent presentation, a clear phone voice and be able to proactively and efficiently deal with appointments, scheduling, queries and complaints.
– Greeting clients on the phone and in person, preparing and receiving payments, opening and sorting emails and external mail, banking, ordering of stationery, equipment and medical supplies, assisting with accreditation, requesting and reviewing referrals
Skills, Experience & Education:
– Sound knowledge and experience of three years in a similar medical receptionist environment is ideal. Other industries are OK too if the practice is big enough and/or has the staff to train them.
– Sound knowledge of surgical billing and theatre list scheduling for specialists
– Knowledge of practice software (e.g. Best Practice or Medical Director)
– An understanding of the MBS Item numbers, ECLIPSE claiming, Medicare and DVA claiming
– Computer literate and essential skills in Microsoft Office
– Support diversity in the workplace
– Comply with work health and safety regulations (OH&S)
– Maintain strict patient confidentiality at all times
– Have confidence dealing with different backgrounds/ a second language is highly valued
Pay: Post COVID-19 the going rate for a medical receptionist is about $26.42ph on seek but can go up to $40 ph depending on experience and location.
Because receptionists are increasingly difficult to find, some doctors are choosing to use virtual receptionists for sessional rooms.
Virtual receptionists can range from $40 to $60 per hour, many are based in Australia.
The pros to virtual receptionists are:
– Virtual calls are typically answered within 30 seconds while patients can be left on hold for 10 minutes or more in a traditional practice in a high volume period.
– Many can perform bespoke services that include typing, answering emails and correspondence.
– Virtual is popular with many young doctors starting out in specialist practice who want to test out a location and staff first before making a big investment.
– There are no “hidden” overheads like super and holiday pay as well as office computers, telephone systems etc.
These add about 25% to the hourly rate for a standard receptionist.
Typically, you only have to pay for four hour blocks, while traditional receptionists may want a minimum of 8 hours per day and several days a week.
The downsides to virtual receptionists over traditional is:
– There is no single “face” of the practice – often a different person, or a team of different people.
– There is not always a guarantee the receptionist is based in Australia (always ask!)
Skills, Experience & Education:
Same knowledge and skills as receptionist PLUS
– Knowledge of the software that is used PLUS other software in the market such as MYOB, Genie and Clinic 2 Cloud clinical software; data extraction tools such as CAT4 and Primary Sense is highly valued
– Will oversee more of the billing systems, than “do the billing”
– Develop and coordinate governance processes for the practice and ensure roles, policy and procedures are clearly defined; coordinate rosters and staff
– Develop a meetings schedule to meet the needs of the practice and ensure formal documentation through agendas and minutes
– Ensure all statutory records are kept and maintained eg ASIC, Fair Trading, Medicare, Certificates of Currency for Insurance
– Supervise receptionist’s ordering of stationery and equipment
– Undertake staff performance reviews and ensure staff records are up-to-date; recruit staff
– Foster a caring and supportive environment for patients, staff, employees
– Coordinate timely payments of all services and suppliers’ invoices
– Have an unerring eye for noticing where services can be expanded or improved. For instance, a practice manager should be proactively identifying issues with caseload – are there too many chronic patients booked in close together which causes delays for other patients? Or conversely too many patients that have easy medical issues that are seen quickly and create gaps in the doctors’ diaries?
– Tertiary qualifications or progress towards management or health science
– Healthcare industry experience is highly valued (at least 3 years in a healthcare reception environment is ideal, or in a different industry if there are staff on hand to train).
Pay: A practice manager in a four to six doctor practice can earn $70,000 to $85,000 per year depending on workload and experience.
Note: Using offsite dictation for doctors letters and moving from the older style “clinic systems” to cloud-based solutions such as Employsure and automated time sheets (think HCA Quickbooks Time and PracticeHub) will also streamline billing, finance and HR.
– Similarly, outsourcing the bulk of marketing and bookkeeping to professionals can then allow Practice Managers to do what they do best – which is “grow the business”.
The business manager in the medical practice increasingly has formal business qualifications such as a Certificate III in Administration.
Business manager qualifications also have a stronger focus on business development and growth, rather than solely on day to day operations.
One qualification that I highly value for a medical practice is a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration Specialising in Health.
At the end of the day though, it’s the attitude that matters most.
I have seen many receptionists transition to practice managers, and practice managers to business managers.
Even if you have a practice manager who has very little experience, if there is a willingness to learn, a drive to lead and a passion for the job, a lot of training can be done on the job or studying at night while working during the day.
It is very important too that the business manager has a passion and drive to understand and implement the goals and vision of the principals.
Typical Practice Business Manager Responsibilities include all of the receptionist and Practice Manager skills and experience PLUS
– Ability to drive change in clinical excellence and revenue generation
– 5 years’ experience as a business manager, ideally in a medical setting although other industries can be considered if their is support and training available.
– Works directly with and supports the principals, outside business consultants and marketing consultants in implementing the business, strategy, marketing and financial plan
– Deals with poor staff performance issues
– Coordinates, implements and completes financial data and KPI reports monthly
– Troubleshoots operational issues with software and IT
– Monitors rosters and budgets; oversees the practice software, staff training, management and leadership
– Participates in recruitment of dedicated marketing staff, AHPs, or other staff as requested
– Reviews and monitors each practice earner’s monthly fees against their targets and hour rates
– Ensures OH & S standards are maintained
– Reviews marketing reports and new patient acquisition costs
– Culls down interviewees for AHP, locums, non-medical staff and interviews (first intake)
– Co-ordinates due diligence of these positions, checks references, develops induction program
– Responsible for strategic and tactical decisions of the practice
Pay: Senior business practice managers who have formal qualifications can earn $100,000-$150,000 or more.
Caveat: Please note that every practice is different, skillsets are also different and this is a general guide only.
Do you have a keen desire to be/find a medical receptionist, medical practice manager or a medical business manager? Please email Russell@healthbusinessnetwork.com.au