Medical Practice Staffing Advice

Written by on September 1, 2015 in Features - No comments
Hiring Medical Office Staff

Hiring medical office staff involves filling positions that aren’t part of a typical business environment and determining which positions are mandatory and which ones are optional. Let’s take a look at some of the most important positions in a medical practice.

In a typical small business, hiring requirements are based on the expertise and work capacity that is required to maintain daily operations and achieve strategic business goals. A medical practice works much the same way, but instead of hiring staff to answer the phones or sell your products, you are hiring dedicated specialists who are responsible for providing the best possible care for your patients.

The number and type of staff you hire will depend on your patient load and area of specialization. However, most medical practices demand a select few positions to maintain quality care and smooth office procedures.

Essential Medical Office Staff Positions

Office manager: A good office manager increases efficiency and boosts your practice’s productivity. Office managers are responsible for making sure the practice runs smoothly, and everything from service contracts to marketing falls under their job description. The learning curve is steep, so always look for candidates who have prior office management experience.

Insurance biller: In smaller medical practices, the office manager usually handles insurance billing directly, but in larger practices, insurance billing could be a separate position. Since you’re putting your practice’s revenue in their hands, it’s critical to make sure your insurance biller is familiar with the claims process for insurers in your geographic area.

Front office receptionist: Your receptionist is your patients’ first point of contact with your practice. In addition to competency, it helps to orient your search toward individuals who have demographic compatibility with the majority of your patient base.

Nurse/physician’s assistant: A reliable nurse or physician’s assistant (PA) is worth their weight in gold. You will rely on them to handle routine medical procedures as well as patient callbacks. While medical knowledge and certification are obvious prerequisites, compassion and interpersonal skills are just as important.

Optional Medical Office Staff Positions

These positions are not nearly as common as the medical staffing positions, but can be a valuable asset to any medical practice under the right circumstances.

Records clerk: These individuals maintain patient records or manage a recordkeeping database. EHR experience is a major plus for this position.

Scheduler: High-volume practices often employ people who handle scheduling and other office tasks.

Transcriptionist: If you are averse to the idea of using a transcription service, you will need to hire either a part-time or full-time transcriptionist.

The Interviewing Process

If you are in charge of setting up interviews, make sure to coordinate who will conduct the interviews and how they will be organized. The senior administrator or nurse should be involved in interviews for positions in their areas, and physicians should be included if they’re likely to have significant contact with a particular position. If more than one person will be interviewing each candidate, you’ll have to decide whether to do sequential or group interviews. Although sequential interviews may seem easier, interviewers often obtain more information by interviewing candidates together and observing their responses to all other questions and interpersonal interactions with other interviewers. Either way, the questions to be asked by each interviewer should be coordinated ahead of time.

Choosing the best candidate for your practice depends a lot on selecting the right interview questions. There are two types of interview questions, traditional and behavioral.

Traditional Interview Questions

Traditional interview questions allow the interviewee to share their employment history, abilities, salary history, strengthens and weaknesses, and general questions about themselves. The flaw in asking only traditional interview questions is instead of evaluating applicants on the skills and abilities they need to succeed in your practice, it focuses too much on responses memorized by candidates. As a result, you get canned answers; responses that have been rehearsed over and over again, not getting a true feel for what the applicant is capable of.

Some samples of traditional interview questions are:

General knowledge: “Describe why you’re qualified for this position and explain why you’d fit within our practice doing this job.”

Work ethic: “How do you feel about working extra hours or being given extra responsibilities as needed?”

Computer competence: “We have a program for [registration, billing, lab result retrieval, etc.] called ____. Tell me about your experience with that program or programs similar to it.”

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions will be more focused than traditional interview questions and responds will require specific examples of how the interviewee handled various situations in the workplace. This form of interviewing is more conversational and will allow you to get a deeper insight into the interviewee and how they will fit in your practice’s culture.

Customer service attitude: “Consider the following scenario: An obviously annoyed patient calls to complain that he just waited more than half an hour in the pharmacy only to find out that his refill had not been called in. How would you respond?”

Conflict management: “Describe a conflict you’ve had with other staff members and how you resolved it.”

Respect for patient privacy: “A patient calls in and notes that his wife is there at the office seeing the doctor, and he asks how she is doing. How would you respond?”

Motivation: “Tell me about a time when you saw room for improvement in some area of your work environment or a process that could be more efficient. What did you do to change the status quo?”

Priority management: “Describe an occasion when you had two doctors or bosses ask you to do conflicting tasks. How did you handle this dilemma?”

Problem-solving strategies: “Tell me about a time when your job required you to perform a task that you didn’t know how to do. How did you respond?”

What’s off limits?

A number of personal attributes cannot be legally addressed in an employment interview, including age, religion, national origin, marital status and whether the candidate has children, among others.

After the Interview

You should write down specific answers and general impressions of each candidate immediately after the interview. It is amazing how quickly your memories of three or four candidates can run together.

The last question in any interview should always be “May I contact your previous employers for a reference?” If the candidate says they don’t want a current employer contacted, get their permission to contact two or three previous employers or co-workers, and ask the references about the issues that are difficult to assess in an interview. These may include patient service, work habits, enthusiasm or any potential weaknesses that might hinder that person’s performance. If the references say they cannot share any information, this might be a red flag.  A good follow-up question to this response is, “If you had a position open, would you hire this person?”  Although this task may be time-consuming, it will give you a more complete picture of the candidate and discussions with references are often more beneficial than interviews.

The interview process is a very important navigating tool on your quest to find the perfect staff member. Taking time to define the attributes and skills desired, prepare questions and check references is an excellent long-term investment in the contentment and quality of your entire medical practice.

By Thomas Hibbard,
Creative Director, Med Monthly

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