Physicians and dentists are experts in their field, but they need someone to manage the business aspects of their offices. A practice manager, sometimes called a practice administrator, is the person who handles the daily details of office management and financial reimbursement. Practice managers may need specialized knowledge -- managing an orthopedic office, for example, can be very different from working in obstetrics.
Practice managers belong to the group known as medical and health services managers, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Educational requirements vary by organization, but a bachelor’s degree is the most common educational preparation. A master’s degree might be required, especially in a large multi-specialty practice. Although neither a license nor certification are required, some practice managers choose to become certified to increase employment opportunities or salary potential. National certifications are available from the American Academy of Professional Coders and the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management. Some colleges may also offer certificate programs.
Juggling Multiple Balls
A practice manager typically has multiple responsibilities. Staff supervision and scheduling are a major component of her duties. Practice managers are also responsible for hiring, training and firing in many offices. Patient scheduling and overall workflow affect customer satisfaction and income, so the practice manager will direct considerable attention to developing tools and procedures that maximize the physician’s time, decrease patient wait time and ensure quality care. When a patient has a complaint or staff members have a dispute, the practice manager must step in to resolve the issue.
The Business of Medicine
A medical practice is a business. Physicians and dentists earn their income through billing private insurances and government payers such as Medicare and Medicaid, as well as self-pay patients. Each of the major payers has its own specific rules regarding what services are covered and the supporting documentation necessary to meet the payment requirements. Although some medical and dental practices contract with outside billing services, if the practice does its own billing, the practice manager may be responsible for oversight of all billing activities.
Electronics and Other Issues
Practice managers in some organizations might have other responsibilities. Medical and dental offices often use electronic scheduling systems. Many medical practices have implemented electronic medical records, and the practice manager must be knowledgeable about both office software systems. If the office does its own billing, the practice manager may also need to be familiar with the billing software. Risk management and quality improvement are two other areas that may land on the practice manager’s plate.
Money and the Future
Indeed.com reports medical practice managers earned an average annual salary of $66,000 in 2014.The BLS does not single out medical practice managers but includes them with other medical and human services managers in its salary reports. However, members of this group who worked in physicians' offices would be likely to include medical practice managers, with an average annual salary of $99,850. The job outlook for this occupation is excellent. The BLS reports a projected growth rate of 23 percent for medical and health services managers, more than twice the 11 percent average for all occupations.