I was thinking of a visit to the doctor’s office as a nine year old many years ago. This was a Saturday afternoon visit where my parents had reached the physician at home to stitch my lip from a wrestling mishap. We met at the physician’s office and he took care of the office visit from start to finish, including collecting the co-insurance, and signing consent to release forms as well as informed consent forms in an effort to avoid a medical malpractice insurance claim. I was recently at my personal physician’s office and contrasted the experience 35 years later.
Today’s physician medical practice is a complex, technology filled place where a large amount of resource is dedicated to trying to be compensated for doing more for less money. While on one hand, “managed care” has brought affordability and greater access to many that had little or no health care, it has also added an extreme amount of challenge to survival in practice for physicians and surgeons. The role of the practice manager has evolved from a coordinator to a business manager that better know how to negotiate purchasing agreements, managed care compensation, and managing the medical malpractice insurance policy for the physicians, surgeons nurse practitioners, physician assistants and medical staff. Physician medical office managers also have to walk the legal tightrope of human resource challenges all while trying to maximize reimbursement in a system that is ever changing and seemingly trying not to pay the physician, unless the “secret code” of properly billing is cracked.
Medical Malpractice Insurance has Become One of the Most Important Aspects of an Office Managers Duties
Medical malpractice insurance has quickly become one the most important parts of the medical office managers job as litigation constantly surrounds doctor offices and is a legitimate threat to their livelihood. Office managers have had to become fluent in how medical malpractice insurance policies work including understanding important parts of the policies such as consent to settle, premiums, and claim reporting procedures. Office manager’s work with agents and brokers to make sure the doctors are properly covered by their medical malpractice insurance and at the lowest possible premium. Medical malpractice insurance premiums have soared in recent years putting a strain on doctor offices cash flow.
I recently read where just five years ago, approximately 25 percent of practicing physicians were employed by health systems including hospitals. More recent studies have shown that this number has grown to almost 50 percent. This trend is being fueled by ongoing concerns of overhead, technology investments, decreasing reimbursements and take home compensation. Executives running large medical practices and hospitals try to utilize their size to cut costs and use leverage to get lower prices for their medical malpractice insurance, medical supplies etc.
Over the 20 years of being around medical practices in some capacity, I have seen the cycle come full circle several times.
The seemingly “greener grass” can soon turn brown once the system-imposed requirements and restrictions, clinical and otherwise can soon reveal a different scenario than envisioned. To the other side, it may be a long-anticipated improvement in many ways, with the shedding of most administrative hassles, deeper practice investment capital and shorter work days for a guaranteed check. Many of the practices that I assisted in merging into health systems I have also helped to re-emerging in private practice after enduring unmet expectations.
Obama care has put an additional strain on medical practices as doctors and surgeons are anticipating lower reimbursements for Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance companies. In addition Obama care is expected to come with an increased risk to physician’s medical malpractice insurance as a huge influx of low income patients seek medical care. This is one of the reasons why we have seen the current administration put focus on trying to get meaningful tort reform passed so that medical malpractice insurance premiums can continue to be affordable for physicians, surgeons, hospitals, medical spas, ambulatory surgery centers, and urgent care centers.
There are many considerations in today’s medical practice and I would recommend that new graduates take their time and consider all aspects of the decision of by speaking with private practice physicians as well as hospital employed physicians. Consider the aspects of your career that are most important to your lifestyle and personal happiness. A career as a medical office manager is a bright future but also comes with the challenge of managing people, health insurance companies, drug companies and medical malpractice insurance.