By: Tammie Lunceford, CPC with Warren Averett
Leadership in a medical practice has always been an interesting dynamic. A large practice may be led by an effective administrative and clinical team while the physicians focus on growing the clinical services and expanding the business through the addition of mid-level providers and other production goals. A small practice may have been historically led by a single manager and entrepreneurial physicians who want to practice independently or practice in small cohesive groups. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we have seen a great deal of change in practices regardless of size. Some practices have made improvements and moved toward preparations for value-based concepts. Complacency has proved financially devastating for the practice who resisted change or failed to understand the transition was occurring more quickly than anticipated.
So why is there so much difference from one practice to another related to leadership? Are effective administrators leading physicians through a changing environment, or are physicians setting their own path to success? Most progressive practices are led by effective physician/administrator teams. In a large group, the physician president with the administrator manages the day to day practice needs, but major decisions flow through an executive committee, and subsequently, a Board of Directors. The transition to value-based medicine has caused large groups to focus on physician-led committees to prepare effective compliance policies, operating policies, and evaluate data related to cost efficiency and clinical quality. Some practices have business development teams to assess options for growing by acquisition or expanding service. Technical committees may advise practice leaders on applications, software or products that may improve workflow or reduce costs and improve the patient experience.
Expanding the breadth of leadership through collaborative teams will assist physician leaders in tackling projects related to value concepts, and it is essential in meeting transition deadlines. This concept did not happen overnight, it was fostered through a culture of trust and respect and a mission statement focused on vision and accountability. Strategic planning is an effective tool to assure a practice has set goals for the next 3-5 years. This process gives an administrator a GPS to drive his or her team to a destination of success.
Small practices can be successful if the physician owner is a change leader and dedicated to training staff to uphold the mission and culture of the practice. The physician leader must be involved in the details of the business of medicine and seek partnerships with vendors who can supply the best resources for support. These physicians place the bar high for success in management and staff accountability. One physician recently stated, “The value based incentives are reachable and lucrative so I’ll jump through the hoops.” His primary care team has been very successful in achieving the incentives through effective processes and staff accountability.
It is essential for leaders of small and large practices to evaluate the effectiveness of the leadership team and make changes necessary for success. Engaging the staff in practice goals allows the staff to invest in the practice and take pride in the accomplishments. Time is short to execute a plan for success….leadership is the key.