By Matt Blickenstaff
Your Medical Office Manager plays a critical role in your practice, acting as the primary interface between you, your staff, and your patients. The importance of making the right hiring decision cannot be overemphasized: Your Office Manager could mean the difference between a thriving practice and one that struggles to survive. Before interviewing candidates, it’s well worth your time to review this list of positive attributes — and to be wary of some negative qualities it might be best to avoid.
Your Office Manager is often the first person a potential patient will encounter. That means, the person you hire will, in effect, serve as the face of your practice. It’s imperative your manager provides patients with an excellent customer service experience — from the initial phone call to in-person contact at the time of the patient’s visit. That goes for returning patients, as well.
Good Communication Skills
Excellent communication skills are important in every job, but especially in management positions. An Office Manager must be able to clearly and effectively communicate with physicians, staff, and patients — as well as insurance, billing, and other third-party companies. In addition to relaying information, communication involves good listening skills and the ability to take appropriate action and devise solutions based on the information that’s provided. Your manager also acts as a repository for feedback, from patients as well as staff. Thus, his or her communication skills can help your practice grow and remain competitive.
Excellent Organizational and Multitasking Abilities
Good Office Managers must be masters of time management, able to juggle and prioritize multiple tasks and responsibilities on a daily basis. In addition to performing an array of tasks on their own, they must be good at the delegation to, and mentoring of, others.
Discretion and Compassion
Medical information must be kept confidential — and protected by HIPAA regulations — so discretion is essential. What’s more, patients who seek medical treatment may be nervous, upset, or not feeling well. Your manager must be able to remain calm and compassionate throughout every patient encounter, no matter how trying. He or she should also be focused on helping patients feel at ease and respected at every point of contact.
Good Interpersonal Skills
Whether it’s a staff issue or a patient concern, your Office Manager will need to be able to interact positively and effectively with all sorts of personalities — on the phone, in person, and via mail or email. Having a courteous, professional demeanor — and a good dose of patience — is essential.
Depending on the size of your practice and the way it’s organized, an Office Manager may also serve as a cheerleader for your practice — helping to motivate staff and keep morale up, even during the busiest times. Good Medical Office Managers put the needs of the practice and its staff ahead of their own. Plus, they must be accessible, consistent, and fair in their dealings with staff and patients.
Even if a manager isn’t familiar with the specific type of computer system or software your office uses, being able to learn and adapt to new technology quickly (sometimes on the fly) is crucial, especially with the push toward EHR technology. That includes all the programs your office uses — from patient scheduling to billing and everything in between. What’s more, if your Office Manager aids in marketing your practice, you might want him or her to know how to update your social accounts and maybe even tweak your website or blog.
While screening applicants for the positive qualities you want in your Medical Office Manager is important, it’s also critical to be on the lookout for qualities that typically aren’t ideal in a management candidate.
Here are three “red flags” of which to be aware:
Beware of candidates who place most or all of the emphasis on the managing aspects of the job. While good management skills are certainly important, a successful manager recognizes and embraces the all-important personal aspects of the role. Many management candidates have a tendency to exercise control unilaterally, based more on their desire to manage others than an interest in assisting staff or patients. Make sure the candidate you hire understands the importance of the human side of the job and knows how to interact well with others.
Poor Listening Skills
Plenty of people are good talkers. To be a good manager, however, you also need to be able to listen. During the interview, assess candidates’ ability to listen and respond to your questions and remarks. Additionally, listen for a lot of “I” statements that might indicate a lack of awareness for other people’s concerns and viewpoints.
Candidates who complain or speak negatively about the people at their last position should raise concerns. First, because it indicates they’re not good at practicing discretion. Second, it could indicate a level of immaturity or lack of professionalism that you do not want to introduce to your practice.
The key to hiring the best candidate for your Medical Office Manager position is to be prepared long before the interview begins. Use this list to develop a series of interview questions aimed at revealing both positive and negative qualities so you can feel confident you’ve hired the best person for the job.
Joining Grant Cooper as Director of Communications in 2015, Matt Blickenstaff has helped to redefine and establish the executive search firm’s presence across online and print media. Before arriving at Grant Cooper, Blickenstaff wrote for a number of print outlets including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Business Journal, St. Louis Journalism Review and Riverfront Times.